In the price-sensitive end of Australia’s small car market the Hyundai i30's sales have soared each time the sticker drops below the $20,000 driveaway mark.
That low-price sale success has lead Hyundai to question if it needs to target mass sales, or lift the i30’s fortunes and become a best-in-class offering, which means adding engineering and equipment (both potentially driving the price up) in an attempt to match premium variants of the Mazda3 and Volkswagen Golf
Or can Hyundai keep a finger in both pies with a low-priced, entry-level offering, and a more premium upscale model, including more sophisticated independent rear suspension? TMR travelled to South Korea to take an early peek at the new i30 before its Australian arrival later this year.
Vehicle Style: Small hatch
Engine/trans: 120kW/203Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl | 6sp manual, 6sp automatic
A full range of Australian features and specifications for the new i30 will be revealed closer to the new five-door’s April arrival, but until that happens it would be safe to assume that the new model will stick relatively closely to the product range of the current i30.
Before the finer detail emerge this first look at the new model, driven on its home turf in South Korea, provides a wide-eyed glimpse of what to expect when Hyundai’s top-selling nameplate come in for its third-generation overhaul.
The new i30 - codenamed PD - is 40mm longer and 15mm wider than the 2012-era generation dubbed GD. But it's also 15mm lower. Hyundai says the rear-seat position has dropped by the same figure, and the fronts 12mm, in an attempt to lower the centre of gravity while maintaining similar levels of interior space.
Despite a stretched physique, headroom and legroom are virtually unchanged front and rear, and in all measurements align with the Golf, Ford Focus, Holden Astra and Peugeot 308 the company lists as rivals. Interestingly, it did not mention the hugely popular Mazda3 or Corolla.
Boot space gets the biggest increase, meanwhile, leaping to 395 litres in volume compared with 378L previously.
Even in the twilight years of its life, the i30's cabin remained one of the best in its class, and here the i30 slightly shuffles backwards. The fresh design replaces vertical elements with a horizontal sweep from driver to passenger, and it certainly appears more modern. However, the climate control's knurled-silver knobs have been flicked for smooth plastic units while soft-touch door trims with cloth inserts make way for unyielding hard materials.
Hyundai is clearly playing a cost trade-off game inside, because the i30 takes not baby steps, but Armstrong-like leaps, in terms of available technology.
A high-resolution 8.0-inch touchscreen 'floats' above the dashboard, and will include Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring technology and a new wireless charging pad.
ON THE ROAD
Engine: 102kW/203Nm 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol, 150kW/265Nm, 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol, 100kW/300Nm 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
Transmission: Six-speed manual, six-speed automatic or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, front wheel drive
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear (entry level) or multi-link independent rear (SR)
Brakes: Four-wheel disc brakes
Steering: Electrically assisted power steering
Australia won’t see the high-tech 1.4-litre turbo four-cylinder engine available in Europe, which delivers increased efficiency, with our base i30 instead fitted with a 2.0-litre non-turbo engine that has been slightly revised over the version that powers the current i30 SR.
Now producing 120kW and 203Nm, the entry engine offers an extra 13kW and 28Nm compared with the 1.8-litre it replaces. Thanks to the inclusion of direct injection, it even steps 8kW and 11Nm beyond the same-capacity engine in its sedan sibling, the Elantra.
The engine can be paired with either a six-speed manual or conventional six-speed automatic, but neither were available to test at the new i30's international launch held in Seoul, with the seven-speed dual-clutch auto of overseas markets on offer instead.
Before the manual-only i30 N hot hatch arrives late this year. the i30 SR will fill the position of flagship model with the previous 2.0 litre naturally aspirated engine replaced by a 1.6-litre turbo unit.
With 150kW and 265Nm, its outputs are 40kW and 15Nm higher than the most powerful non-GTI Golf, and only slightly behind that of a decade-old Golf GTI.
The SR also scores independent rear suspension which will arrive locally with an Australian tuned suspension setup and electronic stability control (ESC) calibration.
Torsional body rigidity for the new i30 improves by 17.5 per cent, owing to high-tensile steel increased from 29.5 per cent to 53 per cent. Remodeled steering and chassis geometry targets tighter turning response and improved control of body movement respectively.
Over hundreds of kilometres of South Korean roads, from Seoul to the far north, the i30 SR made good on those promises. This is a nimble, fun chassis with sure-footed response through successive bends and frisky, almost-very-fast performance between them.
Where the old SR could lull lazily onto its front-end, increasing understeer and curbing enthusiasm, the 17-inch Hankook Ventus Evo2 tyres proved surprisingly grippy and no doubt were aided by the inherent sharpness of the upgraded chassis.
Only the ESC calibration proved (albeit only once) lazy to respond during higher-speed changes of direction, but was more consistently overzealous in cutting power when full throttle is applied on corner exits. Aussie engineers hopefully have such issues pasted on post-it notes back home.
If it seems like this is a tale of two i30s - entry-level versus sophisticated and sporty - then locally there will also continue to be a halfway-house model in between. Although it represents just five per cent of sales, a 1.6-litre turbo-diesel will still be offered with 100kW and a lusty 300Nm.
It teams the torsion bar rear suspension with the SR's dual-clutch auto and is expected to cost thousands less than the $36K diesel Golf that offers only 10kW and 40Nm more. With combined cycle fuel consumption of under 5.0 litres per 100 kilometres, the i30 diesel is designed to hunt the $26K Corolla Hybrid, executives whisper. Toyota claims 4.1L/100km.
The available safety suite will include adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitor and lane-departure warning with active steering lane assistance also all new.
LED headlights with auto high-beam can detect forward or oncoming traffic, and block only the strand of light blinding those vehicles, a segment first.
Compared with the previous model, the new i30 SR is a revelation in almost every way.
In our country the strongest selling point for any new i30 is its styling and bodystyle. Where South Koreans and Americans overwhelmingly prefer small sedans - like Elantra - both Europe and Australia demand hatchbacks, preferably with in-vogue styling.
Hyundai describes the previous i30 as showy in its design. The new model is deft and restrained, with cleaner side detailing and smaller, sharper headlights lending focus to the diamond-studded 'waterfall' grille.
Ultimately, the i30's degree of success in Australia will come down to its pricing when it arrives in April. It would be terrific to see Hyundai offer enticing technology and little details such as rear air-vents across the range. But everything comes at a cost.
You don't have to be sitting up late with executives to feel the dilemma they faced with the new i30. But with a basic entry-hatch duelling with Corolla and Lancer, and a high-end turbo SR sparring with Astra and Golf, the South Koreans may have figured out a way to balance the abacus at both ends.
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