Don’t be fooled by the Hyundai i30 Elite’s unassuming appearance. While it may be sedate on the outside that’s no indication of any dulled ambition from the brand.
A more mature styling direction inside and out sets the tone for where Hyundai wants to position itself - sales volumes are obviously still a consideration, but a Euro-inspired look and feel suggests Hyundai wants buyers to enjoy a more premium experience without having to break the budget.
That’s a good thing for buyers. Better still, the i30 presents the power of choice - with petrol and diesel engines on offer (depending on specification) presenting a breadth of choice that competitors from Holden, Ford, and Mazda have all turned their backs on.
Vehicle Style: Small hatch
Price: $28,950 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 100kW/300Nm 1.6-litre turbo diesel | 7sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 4.7 l/100km | Tested: 7.1 l/100km
The new-generation Hyundai i30 has had a small change of approach compared with the previous generation. At the entry level it’s less price focussed, and more value oriented, with a positive flow-on effect for the rest of the range.
As a result the mid-spec Elite tested here scores a healthy level of standard equipment, but unlike the base model Active or sporty SR range, the Elite stands out thanks to exclusively diesel-power (for the time being at least).
Pricing is sharp too. Wwith a diesel engine, automatic transmission, and a rich list of standard features the i30 Elite still sneaks in under $30k and in the process undercuts the shrinking pool of diesel small hatch rivals from the likes of Volkswagen and Peugeot.
- Standard Equipment: Leather interior, dual-zone climate control, electric park brake, auto headlights, wireless device charging, keyless entry and start, cruise control, 17-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 8.0-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, USB and AUX inputs, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility six-speaker audio
- Cargo Volume: 395 litres, expandable via 60:40 folding rear seat
Restraint and maturity define the interior styling of the new i30 range. Gone are the large swathes of shiny plastics that defined the previous model car, and in their place Hyundai has settled upon a more contemporary and subtle design.
The i30’s new 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system sits high in the dash for at-a-glance ease of use, putting it on the same plane as the instrument cluster - both of which are clear, legible and easy to read.
The Elite lives up to its name thanks to standard features including leather-appointed seat trim, dual-zone climate control, wireless phone charging, satellite navigation, keyless entry and start, plus rear seat face level air vents - something that’s missing from the base-model Active.
With all of that as standard, the i30 Elite out-specs some more expensive competitors, but buyers seeking even more equipment can look to the even-plusher i30 Premium.
Materials used throughout the interior appear to be of excellent quality with plenty of soft-touch finishes on key tactile surfaces, and quality plastics used throughout the cabin. Buttons and knobs have a tactility that feel more solid than previous i30s and the whole thing is put together with tight panels gaps and no rattles
Passenger space is generous for front seat occupants, and still roomy in the rear, though taller adults might find rear knee room a little short. As a family car the i30 will pack in young families with ease.
Interior storage is well served thanks to a deep bin under the centre stack where the wireless charge pad is housed, centre console cup holders live under a sliding cover, and the combined space in the centre console, glovebox, and door bins should take care of any must have items.
At the rear the boot holds 395 litres - 17 litres larger than the last generation i30 - with a dual-level boot floor and an included luggage net to help secure smaller items.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel, 100kW @4000rpm, 300Nm @1750-2500rpm
- Transmission: Seven-speed dual clutch automatic, front wheel drive
- Suspension: macPherson strut front, torsion beam rear
- Brakes: 280mm ventilated front discs, 284mm solid rear discs
- Steering: Electric power steering, 10.6m turning circle
- Towing Capacity: 1300kg braked, 600kg unbraked, 75kg towball load
At the moment the Hyundai i30 Elite is only available with a 1.6-litre turbo diesel engine good for a moderate 100kW of power, backed up by a willing 300Nm of torque - a slightly unusual step given the declining sales of diesel in Australia’s passenger car market - but with turbo petrol variants available in the SR range Hyundai seems unlikely to lose many customers.
The engine itself provides a small 4kW gain compared to the previous i30 diesel, with a more substantial 40Nm boost for improved rolling acceleration. The standard seven-speed dual-clutch automatic works willingly with the transmission and utilises the solid torque curve to the best of its ability by minimising unnecessary shifts.
Off the line, the diesel i30 takes a moment to hit its stride, but once under way the robust engine feels strong. Noise levels are hushed at idle, with trademark diesel noise accompanying low-speed acceleration, before fading back into smooth and quiet cruising.
In city driving, the diesel engine lopes along with enough pace to keep at the head of fast-paced traffic, but ultimately this relaxed cruiser feels most at home on the open road, strong enough to dispatch hilly roads with a full load, and making the most of its frugal consumption.
As with the rest of the Hyundai range, the i30 has been given a locally-developed suspension tune designed for Australian conditions but like the entry-level Active, the Elite utilises a torsion beam rear suspension in place of the more sophisticated multi-link rear of SR models.
Is that likely to be a problem? Not at all, with a focus on ride comfort over handling the Elite’s suspension tune sits well with the available performance, and makes traversing poorly maintained rural highways a less tiring experience - helped in part by a 17-inch wheel and tyre package with generous sidewalls to help diffuse surface imperfections.
Multiple drive modes spanning Eco, Normal and Sport modes can be used to adjust throttle response, gearshift points, and steering weight as a package, though Hyundai’s Normal setting feels most at-home in most conditions, particularly steering assistance which becomes nervously over-assisted in Eco mode and leaden in Sport mode.
ANCAP Rating: 5 Stars - the Hyundai i30 range scored 35.01 out of 37 possible points when tested in 2017. Crash testing was conducted by ANCAP on the structurally similar Hyundai Elantra, with technical data supplied to ANCAP confirming the same level of crashworthiness for the i30.
Safety Features: All i30 models come with seven airbags (dual front, front seat side, full-length curtain, and driver’s knee), electronic traction and stability control, ABS brakes with brake assist, tyre pressure monitoring, rear view camera and rear park assist.
The i30 Elite adds features including autonomous emergency braking, blind spot detection with lane change assist, driver attention alert, lane keeping assist, rear cross traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years/unlimited kilometres
Servicing: Hyundai offers lifetime service plans with capped price offers. The i30 diesel features 12 month/15,000km service intervals. The first three services are priced at $299 each, up to $409 for the 48 month/60,000km service with the most expensive scheduled service at 96 months/120,000km priced at $500. Your Hyundai dealer can advise of full terms, conditions, and exclusions of the program.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Diesel small cars are a relative rarity in Australia now, despite a surge of popularity (or at least availability) just a few years ago. Volkswagen offers a diesel in its Golf hatch, and after a recent facelift the Golf 110TDI offers fresh styling and high levels of standard and available technology, but diesel power only comes with Highline trim meaning a big step-up in price.
With a typically French determination to do things differently, the Peugeot 308 could be one of the most chic hatches in the segment, particularly its almost entirely buttonless interior. Super-strong torque makes it a willing drive, and a smooth torque converter auto calms its on-road manners. But like the Golf, Peugeot will only drop a diesel into the upmarket Allure trim, driving the price up without particularly going overboard on standard features compared to the well-stocked i30 Elite.
If you’re more likely to stay within the confines of the city, but don’t want to go without lower fuel bills, perhaps the Corolla Hybrid is the right answer? Although it’s not as plushly trimmed as the Elite, the petrol electric hybrid setup is better suited to short stop-start trips. And, unlike the conspicuous Prius hybrid, the mechanically similar Corolla is a less obvious eco-choice.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Often-neglected rural buyers appear to be the target for the i30 Elite, with its combination of big-mile diesel frugality, calm and quiet comfort, and high levels of specification making it ideal for criss-crossing Australia’s network of rural towns.
There’s no doubt the i30 Elite (and even more up-spec Premium) would sell in higher numbers with a petrol engine, but for the diesel averse there’s the turbocharged petrol SR range with similar specification and identical pricing.
There’s still a place for cars like the i30 diesel in Australia, and as other automakers retreat from diesel-powered small hatches, Hyundai is presented with a prime opportunity for sales growth in a segment where it is already well represented.
Plus, a comfortable and well-featured interior, tidy dynamics, and handsome (if conservative) styling will all work in the i30’s favour, making it a prime candidate for buyers seeking calm and comfy transport.
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