The constant and steady improvement of each generation of Hyundai’s range is hardly surprising in a modern context, to the point where it’s almost easy to forget that the Korean brand first rose to the attention of Aussie buyers on the back of cut-price deals.
In 2017, the third generation i30 continues that steady upward trajectory. Improved interiors, better engines, refined handling - all the usual new-mode things you would safely expect in any new car - but now it’s the finer details and a touch of premiumness that should have rivals like Volkswagen and Mazda worried.
Vehicle Style: Small hatch
Price: $33,950 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans:150kW/265Nm 1.6-litre 4cyl turbo petrol | 7sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 7.5 l/100km | Tested: 7.4 l/100km
As the flagship of the i30 range the SR Premium blends together a plump list of comfort and convenience features with a gutsy turbocharged engine that gives the SR variants a performance leg-up compared to the rest of the range.
It’s not quite a hot hatch, but the i30 SR Premium can make a genuine claim to the growing ‘warm hatch’ sub class that seems to have emerged, providing sporty style and improved dynamics in a package that’s not so overbearingly focused that it becomes hard to live with.
As a result, the SR Premium only comes with an automatic transmission - no manual option - but with 150kW of turbocharged performance, an interior lined in leather and highlighted with sporty touches, and a new-found sense of sophistication for less than $35,000, the i30 SR Premium becomes a just-right premium small car.
- Standard Equipment: Leather seat trim, heated and cooled front sports seats, dual-zone climate control with rear air vents, alloy pedals, black headlining, LED tail lights, wireless mobile charging, self-dimming rearview mirror, LED headlights, solar-reducing glass, panoramic sunroof 18-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
Take a seat inside the i30 SR Premium and it’s hard not to be impressed by the quality fitout. The design is a little more conservative than the previous generation but also more cohesive, and the absence of large chunks of shiny silver plastics improve the quality perception.
Looking like it might have been borrowed from the interior of a Mercedes-Benz or Audi, the free-standing 8.0-inch touchscreen takes centre stage in the dash design, flanked by soft-touch plastics on the dash face that don’t quite match those of the benchmark Volkswagen Golf, but aren’t far off it.
To amplify its sporty nature, the interior also features slick looking anodised red highlights around the climate controls and on the steering wheel, a black roof lining, front sports seats with heating and cooling, and takes a leaf from the Mercedes-AMG style-guide thanks to red seatbelts.
Also part of the standard package are features like dual-zone climate control, panoramic sunroof, powered driver’s seat, distance-keeping cruise control, keyless entry and start, LED headlights, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, LED headlights, and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Passenger space is ideal up front, and just a little tighter in the rear, with the panoramic roof dipping into rear seat head room slightly. Rear passengers get a good view out, but taller adults may find knee and foot space on the small side.
Swing open the tailgate and the i30 packs in a dual-level boot floor with 395 litres worth of space and a large, flat floor that makes squeezing even bulky items in a breeze.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol, 150kW @6000rpm, 265Nm @1500-4500rpm
- Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, front wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link independent rear
- Brakes: 305mm vented front discs, 284mm solid rear discs
- Steering: Electric ppwer steerin, 10.6m turning circle
- Towing Capacity: 1300kg braked, 600kg unbraked, 75kg towball download
The engine in the i30 SR twins isn’t a new one as it’s the same 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo used in the related Elantra SR and Veloster SR. The 150kW and 265Nm outputs aren’t scorching, but they are good enough to give the i30 some real poke.
Because it’s only a little bit sporting, the i30 SR Premium also does without hot hatch standards, like an exhaust that belches on upshifts, or a rousing induction note - all of which makes it a more livable commuter choice.
Hyundai's local division has again turned its attention to the suspension tune, giving Australian cars a dynamic character that’s been tailored to match the conditions and preferences of Aussie buyers.
The result is excellent body control on winding roads, sensible rear end composure - particularly over mid-corner ruts - the ability to ride out speed humps and spoon drains without dipping its nose into the bitumen, and no issue settling over patchy surfaces.
With ride this good it’s a genuine shame that road noise is so lousy. Where Mazda once held the title for most road noise, it seems the mantle has been passed onto Hyundai. It’s a genuine heartbreaker to have to raise your voice at speeds above 80 km/h to talk to back seat passengers, particularly when the rest of the car is so good.
It’s also a downer to find that the extra zing of the 1.6-litre turbo engine turns into rampant axle tramp if you try to make a spirited getaway. Lean on the throttle when rolling and the i30 will build speed without a problem, do it from a standstill and the front wheels buck so hard you’d think they were trying to force themselves into the cabin - something nearly all the i30’s competitors manage to avoid successfully.
Hyundai gives drivers a choice of three driving modes, which change the steering, transmission, and throttle response. For almost 99 percent of driving Normal mode seems to get things just right whiel Eco mode doesn’t make any significant dent in performance, but Sport mode tends to hold the engine a touch too long in each gear, and isn’t smart enough to work out when the driver might like to give less than ten tenths.
Keen drivers will find paddle shifters of the steering wheel if you’d like to shift gears by yourself, but as fun (and responsive) as the system is the transmission does its own thing pretty well without assistance.
Being a dual-clutch transmission means there can be some low-speed jitters, but more often than not the i30 slips smoothly away from standstill and isn’t too trying on your patience when attempting parking or three-point-turn manoeuvres on unlevel surfaces the way some transmission of its type can be.
ANCAP Rating: 5 Stars - the Hyundai i30 scored 35.01 out of 37 possible points when tested in 2017 using technical data obtained by ANCAP for the structurally similar Hyundai Elantra.
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, and ABS brakes with brake assist.
The i30 Elite, Premium SR and SR Premium also come with spot detection with lane change assist, driver attention alert, lane keeping assist, rear cross traffic alert, and tyre pressure monitoring. Autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist are also included on automatic variants.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years/unlimited kilometres
Servicing: Hyundai offers capped price servicing with 12 month/10,000km intervals. Service pricing varies between $269 and $309 for the first five services. Some later intervals may be more expensive, and pre-paid servicing is also available. Contact your Hyundai dealer for full terms and conditions.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The slick Peugeot 308 combines an almost futuristic interior with a more flexible engine on GT-Line trim. Consider it the finely tailored suit of the small car class and typically engaging French dynamics make it a hoot on the right roads too.
Aussies love the Mazda3 and although the SP25 range doesn’t quite match the i30’s performance, it’s interior polish and features list make it a strong option for buyers that would like a dash of class in their small car.
Holden just can’t seem to get the message across about its Euro-styled and sourced Astra hatch which is a real shame because it’s such a decent little car. Maybe it's the anonymous styling or perhaps Holden’s dangerous obsession with the next-generation Commodore that means marketing efforts for this car have allowed it to fall of the buyer radar. But pick the RS-V and there’s no shortage of equipment in an affordable and well-sorted hatch.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Although the exterior styling may not be as dramatic as the model that preceded it, the new i30 takes the finish and finesse of the model to a new plane - right down to natty little details, like the precise way the grille, headlights, and front bumper fit together uniformly and free from gaps.
The interior is also as nice a place to be as you’ll find. While it can’t quite match the tech-fest that is the latest generation Volkswagen Golf, it offers plenty of features, excellent materials quality and a cabin that fits the bill for spaciousness and functionality.
To cap it off the i30 SR Premium is a great deal of fun on the open road, but still sensible enough to punt to and from work in. It’s a crushing shame then that the abundance of tyre noise spoils the experience, otherwise Hyundai would have a certified hit on its hands.
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VISIT THE SHOWROOM: Hyundai i30 - Prices, Features, and Specifications