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Car reviews - Hyundai - i30 - Premium CRDi

Our Opinion

We like
Styling, features, strong engine and responsive gearbox
Room for improvement
Expensive purchase cost, hard rear seats

Hyundai logo4 Jun 2015

By NEIL DOWLING

Price and equipment

IT’S still an ingrained perception that Hyundai makes inexpensive cars. The fact is, that perception is based on an early history of the car-maker and like history in general, is unlikely to repeat itself.

Hyundai now competes fairly on value with a host of rivals throughout its range, evident by the seven-variant i30 hatchback line-up that starts at $20,990, plus on-road costs and tops out with the $34,490 diesel Premium tested here.

That’s no longer a cheap hatchback. It’s only $800 cheaper than the equivalent Volkswagen Golf, for example, which has strong buyer interest as a German-built contender.

On the plus side, the small-car segment has scant diesel offerings. Inherently expensive turbocharged diesel engines are suited more to mid-sized and larger passenger cars and SUVs. The miserly fuel consumption of a small diesel engine also may not make economical sense compared with some equally as thrifty petrol engines.

But a small-car diesel has certain attributes for certain buyers. It’s just a matter of doing the sums to see if they suit you.

The i30 upgrade for 2015 starts with external changes highlighted by the new corporate grille, itself a flow-down from the Genesis and Sonata and extending its look into the upcoming Tucson (nee ix35) SUV.

Outwardly, that’s the major change to the body, although the Premium badge includes Xenon headlights with washers, LED daytime running lights and LED tail-lights.

Cabin changes are also minimal, but an upgraded audio and connectivity unit allows the integration of a reversing camera, making it available on all variants.

The audio has six speakers and its five-inch touchscreen unit gives Bluetooth and internet connections with USB and iPod access.

The reversing camera is complemented by rear parking sensors with additional safety equipment including seven airbags, a five-star ANCAP crash saftey rating, heated mirrors, full-size spare tyre on an alloy wheel and electronic stability and traction controls.

The Premium badge entitles it to virtually everything on Hyundai’s top shelf, pointing this variant directly at motorists who are downsizing from a feature-rich mid-size or large car. Alternatively, it’s the one for the couple on their way up the small-car ladder who want the extras without the extra dimensions.

Hyundai includes a sunroof, sat-nav and heated and ventilated front seats as standard.

As a compact, rewarding package it’s hard to beat for buyers curtailed by purchase price, physical parking restraints or traffic congestion.

Interior

Few complaints stick to the i30, which has won numerous awards in various countries in its previous generation because of its sensible design and simplicity of use.

Except for the new audio and communications head unit, the cabin is near identical to its predecessor.

Again, no complaints. The cabin and the cockpit are workable, neat and even attractive. It’s an intuitive space for the driver, too.

There’s soft-touch plastic for the dash fascia, a strong use of alloy-look trim to define the centre console and support the central touchscreen, two main dials hooded by its cowling, and a small-diameter four-spoke steering wheel inlaid with audio and cruise controls.

There’s a lot going on here and the alloy-look – which extends to the foot pedals – sounds a bit of an overkill but manages to pleasantly lift what could easily be a sombre outlook for the driver and front passenger.

The personal storage is also commendable, bettering some mid-size cars thanks to its design and the use of a small electric park brake button.

The bottle holders within the front doors, two cupholders in the console, a forward cubby hole for the mobile phone and a decent glovebox make life a bit easier for owners, particularly those with small children.

The Premium adds leather upholstery with seats that boast electric adjustment and heating and ventilated units.

The new audio unit includes clever and easy connectivity to internet music warehouse Pandora via the owner’s smartphone.

Like all rivals, the rear seat splits and folds almost flat, increasing the luggage space from 378 litres – which on the rival scale is pretty good – to 1316 litres.

That’s made all the more appealing given the Hyundai has a full-size spare wheel.

The Golf, for example, has 380 litres with the rear seats in situ and 1270 litres when collapsed while the Focus is a relatively diminutive 316 litres and 1215 litres respectively. Both have space-saver spares.

Engine and transmission

Hyundai’s first in-house seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is paired with the diesel engine as the transmission starts its trickle-down to other Hyundai models.

The twin-clutch dry-plate box is similar to the six-speed unit in the Veloster, but, oddly, not the Veloster Turbo.

The new box replaces the six-speed torque-converter automatic that remains linked to the i30 petrol versions. Hyundai is likely to expand the dual-clutch into petrol models in the near future.

It’s not the only mechanical component to debut in the 2015 i30. The diesel engine has been revamped, now compliant to Euro-5 emission standards and picking up a bit more oomph.

The 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel cranks 100kW at 4000rpm – a rise of 6kW on its predecessor – and 300Nm of torque from 1750-2500rpm.

Thanks to the strength of the dual-clutch transmission, the engine is uprated to 300Nm while the manual transmission model is clipped at 260Nm. Further, the manual’s torque delivery is flatter and longer, starting at 1500rpm and remaining flat until 3500rpm.

The new gearbox and the tweaked diesel engine have sliced fuel consumption on the diesel, now claimed to average 4.9 litres per 100 kilometres compared with the previous model’s 5.6L/100km.

Though the manual gets a flatter torque band, its fuel consumption has actually increased slightly. It’s now 4.6L/100km.

Ride and handling

Anyone who’s avoided driving a modern small-bore diesel engine has missed a real treat.

The liveliness of the engine’s response, the solid hit of torque barely off idle and the neck-straining push of acceleration at about 3000rpm are all unexpected delights. These features overturn common misapprehensions about a diesel’s ability to mix fun with frugal fuel use.

The i30 is no exception. Few would think it’s only a 1.6-litre capacity engine.

But its 300Nm of torque says it all.

Hyundai claims 4.9L/100km and on test, predominantly suburban but with some freeway and CBD work thrown in, resulted in 5.8L/100km. Not bad for an automatic running air-conditioning.

Hyundai and sister company Kia persist with the three-mode steering system that artificially changes the steering wheel’s electric-assistance weight.

Comfort for a light steering wheel feel, through to normal and then to sport.

Seriously, the normal setting is fine. The rest are for procrastinators.

It’s good to see four-wheel disc brakes on a small car and pleasing to feel the strength and appreciate the potential for minimal fade when braking hard.

Cabin room is excellent, making the journey easy for the driver in a relatively spacious and well laid out cockpit. The seats are supportive but a bit firm, even firmer in the back, but on the upside there’s room for two adults.

Ride comfort is good and noise suppression is better than some in the small-car class. The Premium gets low-profile 225/45R17 tyres on alloy wheels but while potentially delivering a harsher ride than, say, a 50 or 55 profile tyre, the standard rubber was quiet.

Handling is predictable and in accordance with the purpose of this hatchback.

The front has good grip but when pushed hard, will tuck to attempt understeer while the short-travel rear suspension hasn’t enough travel to keep the wheels firmly on the bitumen. As implied, it’s not a sportscar and shouldn’t be driven like one.

Safety and servicing

Being similar to the outgoing model, the i30 retains its five-star crash rating. The safety equipment level is adequate, only excelling with the full-size spare wheel, heated mirrors and Xenon headlights with washers.

Standard kit covers the bases with seven airbags, electronic stability control, rear park sensors, a reversing camera and automatic wipers and headlights.

Primary safety is very good. The i30 is nimble, predictable and has good all-round vision.

It has three child seat restraint anchors along the rear seat and two Isofix anchors outboard on the rear seat.

Hyundai has a five-year warranty over an unlimited distance and includes a 12-month roadside assistance program that can be extended up to 10 years by consistently returning the car to an authorized Hyundai dealer.

The capped-price service program, which lasts the life of the vehicle, costs $289 a year. Service intervals are annual.

The resale value of the car, according to Glass’s Guide, is a strong 58 per cent after three years. This compares equally with the Volkswagen Golf and is slightly ahead of the Ford Focus at 53 per cent.

Verdict

The endearing ownership attractions of the i30 remain. The package is better and upgrades are welcome.

The diesel engine is a delight and the new dual-clutch transmission improves the driveability and fuel economy so much that it deserves to find homes in other Hyundai variants.

But the i30 isn’t a big leap on the predecessor. It is also, at least in the Premium guise, not as inexpensive as many people would have assumed.

Is it as good as the equivalent Golf? In terms of ride, handling and ergonomics, no. In terms of ownership costs and reliability issues, the i30 is a better car.

It comes down to which one you want in your driveway.

Rivals

Ford Focus Titanium, from $36,490, plus on-road costs
The Focus is the biggest of this bunch with a roomy cabin yet the boot is the smallest at 316 litres. Titanium gets high safety and equipment levels including leather seats, sat-nav, a nine-speaker audio and a reverse camera with park sensors. The 120kW/340Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine is rated at 5.4L/100km. It tows a modest maximum of 950kg. Ford’s capped-price service costs $1080 for three years. It’s a seven-year program and includes roadside assistance and a free loan car when servicing. Three-year resale is 53 per cent.

Peugeot 308 Allure BlueHDi, from $33,686, plus on-road costs
The recently-launched 308 turbo-diesel is a big step up from the previous model. A neater style, more equipment and more space – including the 435 litre boot, the biggest here – combine with a frugal 2.0-litre 110kW/370Nm engine claiming only 4.1L/100km. It can tow up to 1500kg. Features include six airbags, LED headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels, cloth upholstery but no reverse camera.

Capped-price servicing costs $1615 for three years. The warranty is three-years or 100,000km. Its three-year resale is 50 per cent.

Volkswagen Golf 110TDI Highline, from $35,290, plus on-road costs
Golf continues its reputation with style, room and perceived quality. It comes hard up against the Peugeot in price and specs but can’t match the 308’s tiny fuel thirst. The 110kW/320Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel is rated at 4.9L/100km and uses a six-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Features include seven airbags, cloth/alcantara upholstery, sat-nav and 17-inch alloys. It has a 380 litre boot and tows up to 1600kg. Capped-price servicing is $1220 for three years. The warranty is three years, unlimited distance and the resale is a generous 58 per cent after three years.

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