Car reviews - Hyundai - i30 - Sedan N Line
Striking design, spirited new-generation engine, abundant space, rewarding dynamics
Room for improvement
Coarse-surface road noise, limited front seat adjustment on base car, detail cost-cutting, manual deserves switchable drive modes
Turbocharged N-Line transforms new i30 Sedan, with full-fat i30 Sedan N to follow in Q3
5 Mar 2021
IF THE difference between a decent name and a dud one can make or break your reputation, then maybe Hyundai is onto something by calling the seventh-generation Elantra the ‘i30 Sedan’ in Australia.
It’s an ironic twist on what the Americans do (they call the i30 hatch the ‘Elantra GT’) and it’s also ironic that the two i30s don’t share all that much in overall make-up. The hatch (launched here in May 2017) rides on an older platform whereas the i30 Sedan debuts next-generation architecture underneath its folded-paper styling.
As for this N-Line version, its sharp pricing and extensive equipment was revealed at the launch of the i30 Sedan last October but it didn’t reach showrooms until late December and has only now been handed to the press.
Given that one of the criticisms of the standard i30 Sedan has been the lack of grunt from its 117kW/191Nm 2.0-litre direct-injected four – certainly compared to the capability of its chassis – then the N-Line’s reinvigorated mechanical package could well be the solution.
First drive impressions
Headlining the difference between the i30 Sedan Active and Elite, and the sporty new N-Line and N-Line Premium variants is what lies under the Sedan’s heavily straked bonnet.
Those boosted outputs of 150kW at 6000rpm and 265Nm from 1500-4500rpm might seem weirdly familiar – they haven’t changed in nearly a decade – but the direct-injection, turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine producing them has.
Now dubbed ‘SmartStream G’, this isn’t just a marketing rebrand – it’s a completely new engine. Even the bore and stroke are different – previously 77.0mm x 85.44mm (for 1591cc), now 75.6mm x 89.0mm (for 1598cc) – and while the outputs haven’t changed, the engine’s personality certainly has.
There’s a more instantaneous build in muscle from the bottom end, an edgier and more satisfying induction note, and a sweeter, more free-revving top-end that’s head and shoulders over the previous 1.6 turbo for refinement and elasticity.
Tied to a neatly gated six-speed manual, there’s decent performance on tap (0-100km/h in a claimed 7.9 seconds), though you often find yourself giving it plenty of right pedal to channel that grunt.
That’s less of a problem in the seven-speed dual-clutch version (the sole transmission available in Premium spec) because it offers four Drive Modes (Eco, Normal, Sport and Smart) and can deliver much crisper throttle response.
Combine that liveliness with an extra gear ratio, steering-wheel paddles and impressive shift quality and, dare I say it, the manual feels somewhat redundant. Whether it be fast pedalling or urban tootling, the DCT N-Line wins every time. It’s also quicker (0-100km/h in 7.6 seconds) and significantly more economical (6.8L/100km versus 7.5).
The other big reason to ignore the regular i30 Sedan and go for an N-Line is the suspension. At the front, it’s situation normal with both drivetrain variants sharing the Sedan’s re-engineered strut suspension with new lower control arms, greater structural stiffness and re-located steering gear for improved response and feel.
But at the rear the N-Line bins the base car’s torsion-beam axle for a multi-link independent set-up that harmonises beautifully with the upgraded front end. Featuring a dedicated Australian suspension tune, the i30 Sedan N-Line feels dynamically a substantial generation ahead of the Elantra SR/Sport version it supersedes.
The steering in particular feels much crisper, with lovely response either side of straight ahead, a measured keenness when turning in and plenty of feel. Blend this with an encouraging, sweetly balanced chassis and you have yourself an amusing and rewarding warm sedan at your fingertips.
Even the N-Line’s ride is pleasant – proving supple and comfortable on reasonably well-surfaced roads – though it tends to transmit the force of larger bumps and potholes on scarred country roads. There’s also loads of tyre noise on coarse surfaces from the German-made 235/40R18 Goodyear Eagle F1s, however this does subside dramatically on higher-quality roads.
We’re not entirely sure whether the N-Line’s braking package – 305mm ventilated discs up front, 284mm solid discs rear (or 262mm solid rears on the manual) – would be up for a track-day thrashing but on road, unless mercilessly punished, they complement the i30 Sedan’s performance comfortably.
The other reason why someone might be drawn to the i30 Sedan N-Line over its naturally aspirated siblings is how it looks. Its striking 18-inch alloys are an inch larger than the Active/Elite’s and you also get full-LED headlights, a subtly integrated bodykit, darkened tail-light lenses and a much sportier cabin.
While the N-Line loses the Elite’s two-tone luxury and cloth-covered door tops, the N-Line compensates with a nifty three-spoke wheel, padded door inserts and loads of red stitching, some of it double-stitched. And while the dashboard materials aren’t exactly plush, the design and textures are so interesting that you can forgive Hyundai for keeping costs down.
The Premium is the one to go for, however. For an additional $5000 you get a full electric driver’s seat, which builds on the 20-25mm lower hip point in this new Sedan to allow the driver to find a truly comfortable position (with two memory settings).
You also get a larger 10.25-inch centre touchscreen with eight Bose speakers (instead of six), a full-LCD 10.25-inch instrument cluster display that’s easier to read than the busy analogue/digital mix of the regular N-Line, heated/ventilated front seats, an extra USB port in the centre-front armrest and front parking sensors, among other accoutrements.
So while the regular N-Line is still comfortable up front and easy to live with, the Premium is clearly better.
In the rear seat they’re pretty much identical, meaning loads of legroom, decent seat comfort, generous vision and rear air vents. But door storage is meagre, there are no door grab handles, and the fast rear roofline will be brushing against the hair (or scalps) of six-footers.
And while the 474-litre boot is vast, there’s nothing to grab onto to close the boot (unlike in a Mazda 3 sedan, for example) which means a dusty bootlid will always show fingerprints.
There’s some noticeable cost-cutting going on here but the i30 Sedan N-Line is easily good enough to overcome any less-than-premium details. Given that it’s virtually a medium-sized car (4675mm long, 1825mm wide, riding on a 2720mm wheelbase) you get lots of strikingly angular metal for your money, combined with class-leading space.
Indeed, this handsome, swift and spacious sedan was just voted the 2021 North American Car of the Year (if that means anything) so Hyundai must be doing something right. If you consider the fact that a fully-fledged Sedan N variant will arrive here in the third quarter of 2021, then we’d say there’s even better things to come.
If the Elantra had received this much engineering attention, its nameplate might have been worth preserving. But we’d reckon Hyundai dealers couldn’t care less because never in the history of the i30 – or Korean small cars in general – has a range this comprehensive proved to be this good.
The Road to Recovery podcast series
All car reviews
Click to share