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Car reviews - Hyundai - i30 - cw 5-dr wagon

Our Opinion

We like
Handsome styling, spacious and practical cabin, well specified, standard ESC, strong performance, diesel economy and refinement, long warranty, Sportwagon’s improved steering feel
Room for improvement
Road noise intrusion, steering feels a tad ‘nervous’ at speed, Sportswagon’s low-profile tyre ride comfort

16 Mar 2009

IT MAY not end up being the biggest seller, or the most profitable, but the new i30cw has the right stuff to do something a whole lot more vital for Hyundai: lift the Korean brand into big-league respectability.

Ironically, this car’s long-forgotten predecessor – the La Vita wagon from 2001 to 2004 – might have achieved something similar if it were not for its offbeat Pininfarina styling, silly name and invisible marketing.

Thankfully for Hyundai, since then, the Getz, Tiburon and – most impressively – the i30 range have all catapulted the brand from cheapo third-rate buzz boxes to a formidable value proposition with leading quality, warranty and owner-satisfaction virtues.

The i30cw, however, has the potential to do much more.

Arguably Hyundai’s prettiest car sold in Australia, it can help break down brand prejudice and snobbery with its chunky, European styling that is backed up by a solid, satisfying feel to the way the doors open and shut.

Step inside, and the general design and overall ambience is commensurate with mainstream Japanese and European competitors, helped out by a pleasing symmetry to the dashboard’s design, the use of nicely tactile finishes and surfaces to many of the items within eye shot as well as arm’s reach, and the nice weighting to the way which that most switches and controls operate.

Further plus points include a comfortable driving position, and incredibly clear instruments.

Exploring into the rear seat area seals the deal inside, since this small-car wagon has medium-car levels of legroom, plenty of headroom, and comfortable outboard seating positions. However, like most modern cars in this class, that centre-rear position is not much chop.

Further back, the smartly finished cargo area comes with a floor net and a couple of different cargo barrier options to really add to the utility of this wagon, along with a low, flat loading area and large tailgate aperture.

Why most people still prefer compact and mid-sized SUVs – including Hyundai’s own Tucson and Santa Fe wagons – is a question that the i30cw raises time and again.

As a driving experience, the Hyundai wagon continues to tell its hatch sibling’s quietly competent dynamics story, fortified by a strong if coarse at high revs 2.0-litre petrol engine and the outstanding frugality of a flexible and appealingly affordable 1.6-litre CRDi diesel alternative.

The latter is the pick of the powerplants, even when mated to the somewhat stifling four-speed automatic gearbox, since it is relatively smooth and – once you are in the torque range – surprisingly punchy.

However, sharp as the i30cw’s handling is, the somewhat artificial feeling steering begins to seem a little nervous as cornering speeds increase the ride can be adversely affected by road irregularities, and there is just far too much road noise drumming inside at cruising velocities, undermining the car’s hard-won cabin refinement.

We experienced this in the top-spec diesel wagon auto (SLX CRDi) on 16-inch alloy wheels, but the 17-inch wheeled Sportswagon 2.0 flagship – though quieter – pummelled both our ear drums and our backsides with its noisy and unyielding ride quality on the varied country NSW roads we drove along.

Yet we could not believe how much more relaxed and linear the steering felt on those low-profile 17-inch wheels and tyres, that allowed for crisp and responsive handling traits.

Nevertheless, as far as the Sportwagon is concerned, a thorough drive around your usual streets is strongly advised before settling on this otherwise extremely appealingly presented package.

Yes, it is true that the i30cw will out-steer, out-handle, and out-ride many of the SUVs and older vehicles that Hyundai expects people to trade out.

But, while better than a host of rival small cars from Asia and Europe, the i30 is still not in the same driver’s car league as, say, a Ford Focus, Mazda3 or VW Golf.

So it’s a good thing that none are offered in Australia in wagon formats, then.

Hyundai should be congratulated for offering a spacious, affordable and rewarding alternative to wasteful SUVs. Well built, nicely designed and extremely practical, the five-star safety i30cw should sell well beyond the 2400 or so units that Hyundai envisages for its first year on sale.

Indeed, as the best Hyundai ever offered in Australia, it deserves to be the company’s bestseller.

And don’t be too shocked if many i30cw buyers end up being once sceptical converts to the marque.

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