Not long ago the 2017 Hyundai i30 Active would have been a middle-tier model.
The entry-level Active might carry over from the previous i30 that launched in 2012, but given that it now includes 16-inch alloy wheels, a larger touchscreen with digital radio and sat-nav, Hyundai has certainly been ‘active’ in boosting its base model.
No longer is this a $19,990 driveaway special, however, with this petrol automatic priced from $23,250 plus circa-$2500 for on-road costs. It all means a buyer’s bank teller is likewise going to be more ‘active’ in dishing out the dollar bills than before.
Hyundai believes it has not only created a better base for its i30, though, but a five-door hatchback lineup in which buyers will be willing to spend more for.
Vehicle Style: Small Hatchback
Price: $23,250 (plus on-road costs)
Engine/trans: 120kW/203Nm 2.0 four-cylinder petrol | six-speed automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 7.3 l/100km | Tested: 7.9 l/100km
Gone is the i30’s old 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine. In another nod to a former middle-tier model, it has been replaced by a 2.0-litre previously reserved for the semi-sporty i30 SR. The manual costs $20,950 (plus orc), with this six-speed auto $2300 extra.
Along with the alloys and touchscreen, the i30 Active also gets cruise control, power windows and mirrors, remote keyless entry and cruise control. The only glaring item missing is autonomous emergency braking (AEB), which is standard on all Mazda3s.
If an auto buyer wants AEB, in addition to active cruise control, lane-keep assistance and blind-spot monitor, it’s for now a sizeable $5700 extra spend to the i30 SR or i30 Elite with a more powerful or fuel-efficient 1.6-litre turbo petrol or diesel respectively.
Later this year Hyundai will add the safety package as an option to the i30 Active, but as it stands a buyer must still make the leap to $28,950 (plus orc) if other luxury kit items such as keyless auto-entry or a leather-wrapped steering wheel are wanted.
- Standard Equipment: Keyless entry, power windows and mirrors, multi-function trip computer, manual air-conditioning, cloth trim, cruise control and automatic on/off headlights and wipers.
- Infotainment: 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, digital radio, twin USB inputs, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring, satellite navigation with live traffic, and six speakers.
- Options Fitted: None.
- Cargo Volume: 395 litres.
The sweeping dashboard design of the new i30 Active is more avant-garde than the previous, upright design, but there’s no question that plastics quality has taken a slight step back. Door trims now lack cloth inserts, and the previously textured-grain soft-touch dashboard materials have been replaced by shiny, rubbery plastic.
Fit and finish remains very good, however, and the 8.0-inch touchscreen takes an impressive centre-stage position. In terms of high-resolution clarity, features and usability, this is the best base-model infotainment system in the small car segment.
A driver can slide a finger up and down the digital radio channels and, for example, the touchscreen will discern the difference between a slow and quick sweep upwards or downwards, and alter the sliding speed of the list – just like a smartphone can.
There’s also the option of using Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring via the USB port, or the integrated satellite navigation, both of which work well.
Plentiful storage space – including a large centre console bin, console cupholders, door bottle holders – are a good match for the generous (almost sporty) bolstering of the firmly comfortable front seats, endowing the Active with a big-car feel up front.
Inexplicably, auto up/down power windows and rear air-vents are reserved for higher auto-only i30 model grades, however. That sort of minor cost-cutting would be fine if this particular Hyundai remained a bargain-basement model grade, but it isn’t cheap.
Add $495 for metallic paint and the i30 Active suddenly totals $23,745 (plus orc).
Hyundai has indicated that AEB will cost around $1000 to the price when it is added to the options list later this year, which now throws it in contention with the mid-spec Mazda3 Maxx at $24,490 (plus orc).
That contender gets not only AEB, nav and digital radio, but further adds foglights, a leather steering wheel, blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert and auto-dimming rear-view mirror still missing here.
Rear legroom isn’t the most generous in the segment, either, though that’s partially due to the generous length of the back-seat base, which as with the fronts (and rear backrest) is firmly comfortable.
This new-generation small car at least provides one of the biggest boots in the class. Rated at 395 litres, and impressively complete with a full-size spare tyre underfloor, it’s a right-sized and practical space even before the 60:40 split-fold backrest is used.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 120kW/203Nm 2.0 4cyl petrol
- Transmission: six-speed automatic, FWD
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front and torsion bar rear
- Brake: ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes
- Steering: electrically assisted mechanical steering
Refining the formula, rather than being especially revolutionary, is the i30 Active’s continuing mantra on the road. The new engine is smoother and punchier than before, the suspension is more cosseting, while the steering is more direct.
A kerb weight of 1276kg is all-but-identical to the previous i30, but torsional rigidity of the handsome new body has been raised, delivering greater refinement and poise.
With 120kW of power at 6200rpm, and 203Nm of torque at 4700rpm, outputs from the likeable 2.0-litre four-cylinder are about average for the class. This is a willing and sweet-spinning engine, however, and it mates with a nicely calibrated six-speed automatic that holds lower gears on hills, and shifts fluently through its ratio set.
Without stop-start technology or a brilliant Sport automatic mode, both of which are found in a Mazda3, the i30 Active lacks the efficiency and sportiness of that model, as well as other class benchmarks such as the Holden Astra and Volkswagen Golf. Those latter European rivals, which use a small capacity turbocharged engine, also each provide a smoother, more refined driving experience.
Despite this, Hyundai’s larger capacity non-turbo engine is certainly superior to the similar units used in the Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla.
As with turbo power, ruled out on all i30s except the sport SR versions is independent rear suspension (IRS). While more sophisticated IRS features on all Mazda3 and Golf models, a simpler torsion beam arrangement isn’t necessarily inferior – the Astra gets the latter and it delivers excellent ride quality.
The i30 Active generally rides well, and it’s a big improvement on the jittery previous model. However, the Hyundai can still be tripped up by bigger bumps, while it never feels as plush as the also-Australian-tuned suspension found in its larger Sonata sedan and Tucson medium SUV siblings.
The suspension of our test car also transmitted a hollow boom into the cabin over such larger road irregularities at medium-to-high speeds, though it is otherwise decently quiet in terms of coarse-chip road noise.
With nicely linear and mid-weighted steering and a keen chassis, the Hyundai is also surprising fun on twisty roads, which is especially surprising for a base model. It lacks a bit of sophistication dealing with mid-corner irregularities, but there’s a simple liveliness here that makes it enjoyable to drive at a brisk pace on country roads.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars – the Hyundai i30 scored 35.01 out of 37 possible points when tested by ANCAP in 2017.
Safety Features: Dual front, front-side and full-length curtain airbags, ABS and ESC, rear parking sensors, and rear-view camera.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years/unlimited kilometres.
Servicing: Annual or 15,000km intervals with a capped-price cost of just $777 over three years or 45,000km.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Cerato S auto is the new $19,990 driveaway superstar – it’s cheap and dated, but has a long warranty.
Meanwhile the Focus matches the infotainment of the i30 Active, though it’s also cheap inside, and the Mazda3 Neo misses the value equation of the Maxx, though given this Hyundai sits between them on price it really is the diverse all-rounder.
For subtle sportiness, though, the Astra R is the best in the segment; and for overall cohesion, the pricier Golf 110TSI remains number one.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Consistency is often a valued virtue, and the i30 Active absolutely nails that point.
With the exception of the brilliant infotainment system, this entry-level five-door Hyundai hatch doesn’t hit any newfound highs, especially for the price.
Equally, however, it treads an unswerving path in all disciplines, trending above average in almost every way.
Together with a five-year warranty and affordable servicing, this new model mostly shines with its comfortable cabin, punchy powertrain and decent dynamics.
It ultimately still feels like a simple and honest, rather than sophisticated, offering. But find a good deal and the i30 Active still makes good sense – just make sure there’s a decent clip saved over its superb Astra and Golf rivals, in particular.
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