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Car reviews - Hyundai - i30 - SR Premium

Our Opinion

We like
Cabin quality and ambience, top-notch infotainment, impressive driver assist and safety tech, roomy front and rear, big boot, great handling, didn’t annoy us at all
Room for improvement
Hyundai should do this drivetrain and spec but without the firm ride and sporty feel, engine a bit coarse when driven hard, audio system upgrade would be nice

Hyundai logo31 Jul 2017

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

Overview

HYUNDAI isn’t messing about. Its latest-generation products are among the most desirable of each segment in which they compete, all things considered.

The new i30 is no exception. With this small hatch Hyundai has moved its game forward significantly – and the model it replaces remained a pretty good thing through to the end of its five-year lifecycle.

Here we delve into the SR Premium, a sporty ‘warm’ hatch that is $2750 more expensive than the model it replaces.

After a week living with it we reckon Hyundai could have set the price even higher and still achieved cracking good value.

Price and equipment

The third-generation Hyundai i30 is well-specified right from the base Active variant that opens the range at $20,950 plus on-road costs.

For that money, buyers get an 8.0-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration and DAB+ digital radio.

It also has automatic headlights, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors and a tyre pressure monitoring system.

Pretty good for something that will end up in airport rental fleets, finished in washing machine white paintwork.

It is therefore safe to say that a further $13,000 upstream, life in the SR Premium tested here is positively luxurious.

Hi-tech, certainly. There is adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and forward collision warning.

The AEB is of note as it works from as low as 10km/h, can stop the car completely from up to 80km/h to avoid other vehicles and detect and avoid pedestrians at up to 64km/h. At speeds of up to 180km/h it will also slam on the anchors to reduce the severity of an inevitable impact.

SR Premium buyers are also treated to leather upholstery with heated and ventilated front seats, 10-way electric driver’s seat adjustment, dual-zone climate control with rear air vents, a panoramic sunroof, wireless smartphone charging, keyless entry with push-button start, LED headlights, front parking sensors and an electric park brake.

The sporty SR variants have 18-inch alloy wheels with space-saver spare, unique independent rear suspension, sporty interior highlights including red contrast stitching and piping on the seats and armrest, metallic red surrounds for the air vents and climate control panel and matching trim on the leather-bound multi-function steering wheel.

Metallic paint is a $495 option, with eight of the available colours fitting this description. Our test vehicle was finished in Phoenix Orange mica.

Interior

When images of the latest i30 interior emerged from the Paris motor show last spring, the ‘floating’ central touchscreen caused controversy as it looked awkward and out of place. We needn’t have worried, it looks fine in real life and the system itself is excellent in operation, as we will discuss later.

Based on interior look, feel and appointment, the SR Premium certainly deserves that over-used ‘p’ word.

Ensconced in its plush, perfectly sculpted, heated and ventilated, endlessly adjustable sports seats while the steering gently and autonomously guided the car along its lane and the adaptive cruise control kept us a safe distance from the vehicle in front, we wondered why anyone would buy something like a Mercedes-Benz A-Class instead of this, let alone some of its more obvious competitors.

This Hyundai, and all its most recently released models make a mockery of brand snobs. To anyone who still turns their nose up at the oval H badge but wouldn’t think twice before buying the equivalent Toyota, Holden or Ford: It is your loss, seriously.

Everything in the cabin looks and feels high quality, the technology works brilliantly, it is comfortable and the SR-specific red stitching, piping and red anodised metal-look trims are utterly convincing.

The i30 interior is super spacious and challenges some mid-size SUVs in this regard. Six-footers can comfortably sit in tandem and even the rear-central position is usable by taller folk. Not bad considering the presence of a sunroof, which are often the enemy of headroom.

Even better, a rear-facing infant seat can be installed without the occupant in front being forced to adopt a crunched seating position at best, or unable to use the front seat at worst. We’d normally be looking at a mid-size sedan to achieve this.

How about a big boot as well? 398 litres in here, not far off the class-leading Honda Civic hatch and again putting some mid-size SUVs to shame. The presence of a space-saver spare wheel under the boot floor is a retrograde step over the previous-generation i30 SR, though.

At the base of the dashboard’s centre stack is a large tray for storing phones – with wireless inductive charging for compatible devices – plus the obligatory USB port, auxiliary audio input and cigarette lighter type 12V power outlet. A further 12V outlet is situated in the large bin beneath the front central armrest and another in the boot.

Where the handbrake would be on lesser variants is a usefully deep, long recess that we could fit a glasses case into to supplement the actual sunglasses holder in the ceiling. The glovebox it sizeable, too, and there are a couple of iPad-sized net type map pockets on the front-seat backrests.

All door bins will hold decent-sized drinks bottles and have extra space besides, while the door-pulls are like miniature bins that can double as extra storage.

The two-tier boot floor design provides a flat load space when the rear seats are folded and reduces what is otherwise a significant drop over the boot lip that can make loading and unloading heavy items a bit tricky.

We found the pair of deep wells behind the wheel arches were both big enough to slot a supermarket bag into and prevent them moving about. An elasticated cargo net secured to the boot floor also provides the ability to quickly secure smaller items as well.

All these factors make the i30 much more usable and versatile than the majority of its competitors.

Hyundai has clearly worked hard to minimise the i30’s dashboard button-clutter without relegating heaps of functions to the touchscreen. Where competitors are succumbing to the temptation of putting climate control adjustment in the infotainment system at the expense of usability, Hyundai has maintained a modern but traditionally laid-out rotary-controlled ventilation adjustment panel.

What buttons do exist are large, chunky and well placed. A few are to the right of the steering wheel, some others around the gear selector. Audio, phone, cruise control and trip computer buttons on the steering wheel are sensibly laid-out.

All the touchscreen functions are easy to use, with a set of proper shortcut buttons along each flank that work infinitely better than the irritating touch-sensitive soft-buttons that are being adopted left, right and centre.

Respect to Hyundai for not jumping on that bandwagon.

The big 8.0-inch touchscreen is not only one of the segment’s biggest but also among the best. Like a Toyota there is a split home screen with the sat-nav map on one side and other functions opposite. Unlike the Toyota system, it actually works really well and the Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring – still missing from all Toyotas – can occupy the non-map portion.

Programming the native sat-nav is a breeze, it displays the current speed limit and chimes subtly when a speed camera is nearby. Pairing a phone on Bluetooth is simple and navigating playlists through the wireless audio streaming or USB input also works well for those not using the smartphone mirroring function.

All other adjustments are logical, with clear icons, fonts and menus to navigate around. Even better, the system is responsive and never feels laggy.

We wanted for very little other than, perhaps, a rocking premium audio system as output from the standard speakers is a little flat and the sound quality can get muddy at higher volumes.

Just as well, for the cabin noise rarely needs drowning out, as even with the SR’s fat 18-inch tyres being assaulted by coarse-chip country road bitumen there is never too much of a din. Most of the road noise comes from the rear wheel-arches and the engine gets a bit boomy at higher revs, but overall we found this car acceptably quiet for its size and pretty refined.

Engine and transmission

Amazingly, the 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine that powered the previous-generation i30 SR now sits under the bonnet of the current-generation base model.

Now, the SR gets a 1.6-litre turbo-petrol punching out 150kW of power at 6000rpm and 265Nm of torque between 1500 and 4500rpm. It’s a familiar unit that debuted in the Veloster coupe and has since made its way into the Tucson medium SUV and SR variants of the i30’s sedan sibling, the Elantra.

As with those vehicles it delivers punchy and linear acceleration but starts to sound and feel a bit boomy, thrashy, coarse and ragged under load at high revs.

See Volkswagen for engines that remain polished right to the redline.

Some more character from the exhaust note would be appreciated, too.

In the SR Premium the turbo engine is exclusively tied to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with paddle-shifters. After a false start or two with this technology, Hyundai has pretty much cracked the code with its latest unit, even though its shifts are not quite so crisp as, you guessed it, a Golf.

A work schedule requiring lots of motorway miles interspersed with general local errand-running resulted in fuel consumption of 6.7 litres per 100 kilometres after a week – not bad considering the official highway figure is 6.3 L/100km – but we saw it use 10.2L/100km during the sustained back-road thrashing of our dynamic test.

We reckon the official combined cycle figure of 7.5 l/100km would be pretty achievable provided your journeys are relatively free-flowing. The official city-cycle figure of 9.4 L/100km speaks volumes about how well it copes in heavy traffic.

Ride and handling

The previous i30 SR had a relaxed, long-legged nature due in part to the more tied-down suspension tune that soaked up long journeys with the kind of big car maturity usually achieved by only the segment’s very best. It also satisfied the brief of being the most fun i30 to punt along a twisty road, but the older platform and simple torsion beam rear suspension setup meant it lacked the dynamic sophistication of titans such as the Mazda3, Ford Focus and that pesky Golf.

For this latest i30 iteration, dynamic sophistication and competence have skyrocketed but there is now more of an edge to the ride comfort, particularly at urban and suburban speeds. We suspect this is also related to the big 18-inch alloy wheels fitted to SR variants. In any case, there is much more sporting intent on display from the moment it turns a wheel.

Don’t get us wrong, this is by no means a bone-shaker and we could live with it because this minor compromise comes with many, many rewards.

But for those who might find it off-putting, the only alternative in the range is the diesel-powered i30 Premium that has smaller 17-inch wheels and a more comfort-oriented ride calibration, not to mention inferior torsion-beam rear suspension. We’d like to see an i30 Premium with the SR Premium turbo-petrol driveline and independent rear suspension but smaller alloys and a softer ride.

Anyway, the SR Premium is one impressive package. Hyundai Australia has tweaked and tuned the chassis for Australian roads and tastes. Rather than just replicating the impressive setup it applied to the closely related Elantra SR sedan, it went even further to optimise the i30 SR into a warm hatch with handling to trouble a hot hatch.

One aspect of the i30 SR’s dynamic repertoire that really impressed was its abilities on tight, technical stretches of road where the front-end dug deep, and the interactive, adjustable side to its personality could be discovered, exploited and enjoyed without fear of understeering into the undergrowth.

Faster, sweeping bends can be taken at a hell of a lick, with absolute confidence.

The steering is also Hyundai’s best yet, feeling entirely natural regardless of which drive mode setting we selected. In fact, all the control weights are superbly judged and consistent, particularly the excellent brake pedal action and its delightfully satisfying feel. Deceleration is appropriately assertive, too, without being grabby.

The dynamic part of our road test route comprises some prime examples of the local road maintenance authority’s indifference to duty, with corner surfaces variously corrupted by tree roots, patchwork repairs, protruding drain covers, ripples, ridges and dips.

But the i30 SR kept its wheels firmly on the ground throughout and was untroubled by whatever these bad roads threw at them. Much more expensive cars have clattered all over the place in this environment.

Conditions during our test were largely dry, with a few damp patches of dew as we passed through densely forested areas. Even on slightly greasy sections, the SR’s Hankook Ventus tyres had plenty more to give well past the point where they started to screech in protest at our exuberance.

The more we pushed, the more the SR delivered, inspiring confidence at every step. We could really get under the skin of this car, experiment with cornering lines, mid-bend adjustments, different steering or throttle inputs and it would respond beautifully and nimbly with no nasty surprises – just engagement and enjoyment.

Of course this all translates to a nippy and fun car to slice through traffic in as well, so all is not lost if your daily commute goes nowhere near a challenging bit of mountain pass. Just think of it as one more thing to look forward to at the weekend.

And that slightly firm ride feels all the more forgivable once you’ve experienced a back-road blast in this car.

Safety and servicing

Hyundai provides a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, 12-month roadside assistance package and a capped-price servicing program that cost $269 per visit at the time of writing.

Because it has the turbo-petrol engine, the i30 SR models have 12-month/10,000 kilometre service intervals (5000km shorter than other available engines in the range).

For some reason, crash-test safety authority ANCAP copied and pasted the Elantra sedan’s five-star rating onto the i30 hatch before actually crash-testing the latter. The two cars are very similar under the skin, but this is not unusual in today’s world of widespread platform sharing and differences do exist that could affect the outcome. ANCAP are the experts at this, so for now we will have to trust their judgement and to their credit they did put an i30 through a frontal offset test, where it scored 14.80 out of 16, better than the Elantra.

The overall safety score of 35.01 came from the original 14.01 out of 16 achieved by the Elantra in the frontal offset test, along with its 16 out of 16 in the side impact test and a maximum 2 out of 2 in the pole test. Whiplash and pedestrian protection were respectively deemed ‘good’ and ‘acceptable’.

Standard i30 safety equipment includes dual frontal, side, full-length curtain and drivers knee airbags, tyre pressure monitoring, hill-start assist, an anti-theft alarm, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, electronic stability control, traction control, and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist and hazard light activation under hard braking.

Base Active and all manual i30s do not have autonomous emergency braking, but Hyundai plans to make this an option across the range by the end of 2017.

Verdict

The i30 in SR Premium trim tested here barely put a foot wrong.

Working in a profession that involves driving so many different cars means that when one doesn’t annoy us in any major or minor way, we know the manufacturer has pretty much nailed it. That is not to say we admire a soulless car, because some shine so brightly in one or two important areas that we are willing to forgive a couple of flaws.

Somehow Hyundai has managed to design and engineer a car that is spacious, comfortable, practical, luxurious, hi-tech and dynamically highly competent without producing something that is cold, clinical or lacking a sense of fun.

There is a sense of warmth about this car. It is very welcoming and accessible.

And it’s affordable. Considering the i30 SR Premium’s many talents, usefulness and massive equipment list, it’s an absolute bargain. If only Hyundai stopped messing about with diesel and put the turbo-petrol SR driveline in the more comfort-oriented Premium.

The elephant in the room is Volkswagen’s impeccably polished Golf and while the new i30 threatens rather than redefines the status quo of who sets the benchmark in Australia’s small car segment, we’d not hesitate for a moment before heading toward the Hyundai dealership if our own hard-earned cash were on the line.

Respect to Hyundai for coming up with such a consistent, cohesive and comprehensive package.

Rivals

Volkswagen Golf 110 TSI Highline from $34,490 plus on-road costs
Recent 7.5 update maintains all the Golf qualities of big car refinement and a deft blend of ride and handling that few can match, while moving the technology game forward and packing an excellent drivetrain. Buy it costs more than the Hyundai and needs options to come close to Hyundai equipment levels.

Honda Civic RS from $32,290 plus on-road costs
We went for the RS rather than the VTi-LX that comes closer – but misses – to matching the Hyundai’s massive spec. It’s good and bad, the latest Civic and cannot really stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the complete and cohesive package that is the i30.

Mazda3 SP25 GT from $31,990 plus on-road costs
Sporty feel, a great interior and plenty of standard equipment put the Mazda3 into close contention with the i30 for best Golf alternative but its small boot and cramped, noisy interior count against it.

Ford Focus Titanium EcoBoost from $32,690 plus on-road costs
Ageing but still a charmer, the Focus has much of the Golf’s slickness but without the classy cabin or understated looks. Lovely drivetrain and engaging dynamics.

Holden Astra RS-V from $31,740 plus on-road costs
Like the Civic, the Astra gets close but misses. It’s not really up to the standard of the Golf and i30 but GM has given it a red-hot go and turned out a decent car in the process.

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