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Car reviews - Hyundai - i30 - Active

Our Opinion

We like
Excellent cabin quality and comfort, peppy 1.8-litre engine, intelligent automatic, value for money
Room for improvement
Lumpy ride quality, steering lacks precision, can be thirsty

Hyundai logo13 Jul 2016

By DANIEL DEGASPERI

Price and equipment

IT IS little wonder Hyundai needed to cull pricing because the i30 Active auto is not overflowing with standard equipment. For example, a $22,490 (plus on-road costs) Mazda3 Neo gets 16-inch alloy wheels versus the steel wheels with hubcaps featured here.

An upgraded 7.0-inch colour touchscreen with Apple CarPlay connectivity is a highlight of the equipment list, and the i30 Active includes both rear parking sensors and a rear camera as standard – typically rivals offer one or the other.

Power windows and mirrors, remote keyless entry, cruise control, manual air-conditioning and cloth trim are other basics it delivers on.

Typically targeted at private buyers, the ($1100-pricier RRP) i30 Active X adds alloy wheels, electrically folding door mirrors and leather-appointed seats and steering wheel, but at the time of writing the automatic was promoted at $22,490 driveaway (extending the pricing gap to $2500).

Interior

The current i30 may be four years old, but it does not feel elderly inside. In fact, the design and materials used in this European-market hatchback’s cabin are generally of a higher grade than the newer Elantra sedan aimed at the budget-conscious US market.

Hyundai’s fit and finish is also exceptional. The soft-touch upper door trims match that of the dashboard, and even the lower plastics are not of the scratchy and nasty variety. The controls for the air-conditioning, trip computer and audio system press and rotate with tight precision.

The touchscreen is easy to use and the ability to ‘mirror’ your Apple iPhone to the monitor via a USB cable remains a rarity in this class. Importantly for a car lacking satellite navigation, it allows drivers to view the smartphone’s map and nav on the centre display.

The warm cloth of this Active feels more cosseting than the vinyl-like leather used in the Active X and the high-quality trim wraps around a supportive driver’s seat that helps – along with a tilt and reach adjustable steering column – provide an ideal driving position.

The i30’s rear bench is a match for its front chairs, offering excellent under-thigh support and a great balance between softness and firmness. While the inclusion of a rear overhead light is impressive, rear air-vents are unfortunately reserved for the expensive i30 SR Premium.

Luggage volume of 378 litres is among the largest in the small car class, and Hyundai fits a full-size spare wheel underfloor. The boot is well shaped in addition to being sizeable, and 60:40 split-fold rear backrest capability extends practicality as well as volume to 1316 litres.

Engine and transmission

In a small-car world that has turned to 2.0-litre engine capacity (or larger) the i30’s 1.8-litre petrol four-cylinder pulls well above its weight.

With an average 107kW of power at 6500rpm and 175Nm of torque at a high 4700rpm needing to push along a heavier-than-average 1270kg hatchback, it appears unappealing on paper. However, Hyundai’s twin-cam 16-valve unit is one of the keenest and sweetest engines in the class, so zingy and flexible that extending it to redline is no chore.

The intuitive six-speed automatic transmission brilliantly disguises the engine’s paucity of low-rev torque, immediately and imperceptibly picking up then holding onto lower gears. While the auto hides the 1.8-litre’s highly strung nature from the undemanding driver, it can also allow the four-cylinder to work up a thirst.

While the official combined cycle fuel consumption claim for the i30 Active automatic is 7.3 litres per 100 kilometres, it took a long freeway and country road drive to come within 0.5L/100km of this figure after hovering around 11.0L/100km around town.

This is generally high for a small hatchback with average performance – enjoyable nature of the engine aside – and merely decent refinement.

Ride and handling

Hyundai Australia employs a talented team of local engineers to fine-tune its product range, and the results in new models such as the Sonata, Tucson and Elantra – in that order – have been impressive. The i30, however, is based on an older chassis and it shows.

Despite riding on modest 55-aspect 16-inch tyres, which should typically help blot bumps better than lower-profile rubber, the Active’s ride quality is jiggly and occasionally abrupt. Around town this Hyundai tackles speed humps and scarred surfaces with aplomb, always feeling tight and controlled yet never harsh.

However, on seemingly smooth arterial roads the i30 rarely feels settled and on more than one occasion the suspension jolted occupants enough to warrant mention.

Clearly a fix is on the way because the newer, similarly priced Elantra sedan offers very good ride quality in all conditions.

Likewise, that Hyundai sedan offers an impressive single-setting steering system, where the i30 hatchback includes three modes – Comfort, Normal, Sport – that do not achieve the same standard. Sport is the only setting that feels tight enough for the open road, but it is heavy around town.

The i30 Active handles competently and safely, backed by an adept electronic stability control (ESC) system, but it fails to offer the verve of a Mazda3 or Ford Focus in particular. Keeping in mind its modest limits, however, and thanks to its revvy engine and tight suspension control, it can be an enjoyable car to drive either when zipping around town or tackling rough roads.

Safety and servicing

Seven airbags (including dual front, front-side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee protection), ABS and switchable electronic stability control (ESC) are standard.

ANCAP has awarded the i30 a five-star rating with a score of 35.69 out of a maximum 37 points.

A lifetime capped-price servicing program includes $249 checks for each of the first three annual or 15,000km checks, followed by services totalling $349, $249, $350 and $250 until seven years of 105,000km. In terms of frequency and affordability, the i30 Active is among the best in the class.

Verdict

In terms of its interior finish and comfort, the Hyundai i30 Active feels thoroughly modern and convincing. Its steering and suspension package feels dated compared with newer rivals and the company’s own Elantra sedan, with the rev-happy but thirsty engine falling somewhere in between.

For its previous $19,990 driveaway deal the i30 Active was convincing simply because it feels like such a roomy and quality product for a pricetag more in line with smaller hatchbacks. There are more competitive products available for the Active’s RRP or the latest $22,990 driveaway offer, but few combine a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty with affordable servicing.

The tip would certainly be to a bargain hard on this decent small hatchback.

Rivals

Mazda3 from $22,490 plus on-road costs
Ride and handling king of the class lacks spaceToyota Corolla from $21,790 plus on-road costs
Not as roomy or pleasant to drive, but a quality hatchback

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