You might not know that the Datsun 1600 never managed a ?Wheels Car of the Year? award in its years on the Australian market from 1967. No, the Morris 1100, the VE Valiant and XP Falcon ? they were the COTY stuff of champions then!
Funny thing is, nearly everyone else who drove the 1600 recognised it immediately as a very special car. And it, and the Toyota Corona, moved Australians in their droves from English cars and Australia?s own bulky, underdone sixes of the time, into Japanese brands.
Which brings us to Hyundai?s appealing i30 series.
Available in petrol and diesel variants, the i30 is a landmark car for Hyundai. It is the quantum leap forward in design, in driving dynamics and in accommodation that signals a car-maker on the move.
Like that earlier Datsun 1600, it is such a damn good drive, it is irresistible. And word is out.
We were lucky enough to get our hands on a CRDi automatic. The auto having been released some months earlier at the Melbourne Motor Show. It now rounds out the i30 range, supplementing the petrol ? in manual and auto ? and the previous manual-only diesel.
Airy, quality feel interior
Open the door and the first thing you?ll notice is that this Hyundai has a more European feel to the interior than Hyundais past. If anything, it brings some German models to mind. The materials appear to be of good quality and these eyes could not fault the trim and fit on the two cars we had in our care.
Styling inside is restrained, though black and grey abounds (it is perhaps a little too sombre), but it?s a nice enough place to be. You won?t be disappointed with this interior. You can?t help but think it would be at home on a more expensive modern small car.
The driving position too ?feels right? with plenty of adjustment on the steering wheel and driver?s pew. And speaking of pews, the i30?s seats are better than expected for a car of this price; they?re supportive, quite comfortable on a long drive and nicely trimmed. The rears also split fold.
When behind the wheel and on the job, view all round is good, helped certainly by the huge side mirrors.
The information on the central display could be sharper, it can be a bit hard to read in some light, but the blue-lit instruments (hmm, VW-style) are large and clear.
There are also nice touches like a cool, air-conditioned glovebox and iPod/USB-compatible audio as standard. (And, oh yes, for those who care, there are drink-holders spread about the place, a sunglasses holder and even a place in the doors for a bottle of plonk ? what more do you need?)
Where the Elantra looks odd, the Sonata overly-conservative and the Grandeur ponderous, the i30 looks sharp. There is a lot of space tucked under that long (relatively) roofline and the overall lines are clean and uncluttered.
There is more than a dollop of Euro-style to the i30. Perhaps being designed in Germany may explain it. (And will certainly explain the large A-class style rear-light clusters.)
Anyone would be proud to have this car in the drive. While not the style leader in its class, there is an ageless understatement and overall balance to its smooth curved nose, neat sides and truncated rear.
On the road
So what?s it like to drive? Prepare for another surprise because Hyundai has more than closed the gap on its opposition with the i30. If anything, it?s one of the best drives in the class.
On the road, in all models, the i30 is commendably quiet, soaks up the rough and smooth with European aplomb (and actually feels more compliant and better-suited to Australian roads than some), and will happily press on all day.
Aside from a week of city driving, we took ?our? i30 CRDi auto on a long looping run through South Gippsland and along the Ninety Mile Beach.
With 85kW at 4000rpm and 255Nm from 1900-2750rpm, that little 1.6 litre diesel up front can shuffle things along nicely under normal driving.
Of course, it?s no fire-breather, nor is it slow; it is in fact just right. It is quick enough away from the line to run easily at the head of traffic, and, thanks to the torque on tap, will cruise effortlessly and even swallow quite a bit of load without complaint (and without noticeable effect on the performance).
The adaptive four speed auto does a bit of poking around between the gears - like when on a winding uphill climb (which can be a bit irritating) - but when pressed, kicks down decisively and safely.
Another ratio would be handy here though.
Overtaking also needs a bit of judgement in the i30 as it does in any small car built for everyday use and economy at the bowser.
And, like all cars sensibly set-up for a compromise between handling at the extreme and ride comfort, it will produce a little understeer when pushed enthusiastically, but a quick lift off will tighten the line.
It leans hard on the outside wheel when pressing on, but remains predictable and, yes, can be enjoyed at the wheel.
So, don?t think you can?t give it a bit of curry; you can, and you will then discover that Hyundai has done more than a half-reasonable job on the suspension set-up and dynamic balance.
Whether in city driving, or on a country run, the longer you drive it, the more you?ll like it, and the more sense it makes.
Hyundai has pulled a good one out of the hat with the i30. It deserves to succeed. The frugal diesel returning a claimed 6.0 l/100km (auto) and 4.7 l/100km (manual), will ensure that it does.
It?s fun, well-built, well-appointed, good value buying and light on the eye. If Hyundai has more like the i30 CRDi up its sleeve, it?s ?game-on? in the market.
The Insider?s Big Statement
?Had a look at the Hyundai model range lately? And noticed, have you, the new models coming this way (like the Genesis Coupe Concept unveiled at the Melbourne Motor Show)? This is a company on the move. The very competent i30 is symptomatic of the giant strides Hyundai is making in driving dynamics and vehicle style. Watch out world ? the Koreans are coming to get you.?
The Insider likes:
- The strength of the i30 package
- Frugal fuel consumption
- Exterior and interior style and quality
- Nicely balanced DOHC diesel engine
- On road comfort, overall balance and refinement
- Good value buying
The Insider doesn?t like:
- Another ratio would be useful on the auto box
- Sombre interior
- Vague at the wheel at ?dead ahead?
- Better tyres would help
|Engine:||1.6 litre (1582cc) diesel|
|Type:||Variable geometry turbo (intercooled)|
|Valve system:||DOHC 4 valves per cylinder|
|Fuel system:||Common rail direct diesel injection|
|Consumption:||6.0 l/100km (claimed combined average - auto) |
4.7 l/100km (manual)
|Output:||85kW @ 4000rpm|
|Torque:||255Nm @ 1900rpm ? 2750rpm|
|Performance:||Ample quick enough (un-timed)|
|Bore and Stroke:||77.2 mm ? 84.5 mm|
|Transmission:||Four-speed adaptive auto|
|Brakes:||Front: 280mm ventilated discs |
Rear: 260mm solid discs (with ABS)
|Suspension:||Front: MacPherson strut, coils and 23mm anti-roll bar |
Rear: Multi-link with coils and 14mm anti-roll bar
|Wheels and tyres:||SX:15 inch steel wheels with 195/65 tyres |
SLX: 16 inch alloy wheels with 205/55 tyres
|Price:||SX: $21,490 RRP plus $2000 auto |
SLX: $25,990 RRP plus $2000 auto