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Car reviews - Hyundai - i30 - SR

Our Opinion

We like
Notably improved ride and handling, high specification levels, willing engine, slick manual gearshift, long warranty and cheap ownership costs
Room for improvement
Normally aspirated engine lacks low-down grunt and a sporty soundtrack, uncomfortable front-passenger seating position, ‘flex-steer’ system still needs work


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20 Aug 2013

THE sharply corrugated, narrow and undulating ribbons of blacktop that proliferate along the southernmost tip of Queensland always sort smartly-tuned wheat from harsh or squishy chaff.

The stretch that confronts us now is a mixed bag - a sequence of narrow potholes here, some steep camber there, with a patch of coarse chip as the cherry on top. A balanced car will coast, but others will bounce or jar.

Four test cars, 43 prospective suspension combinations, closed circuit tests, and 13 front and 23 rear damper rebuilds later, Hyundai thinks it has just the car to tackle this terrain.

The final SR we’re driving has four per cent stiffer front springs and re-calibrated Sachs damper rates with faster rebound. We won’t bore you with the line graphs.

It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s enough. It’s also a good story, a plucky local team and a well-paid international consultant making a warm hatch: the Australian market leading a global charge.

The SR we drove soaked over the potholes with scarcely a bother without feeling underdamped and soft. Where the Veloster SR is harsh, the i30 is balanced.

It’s up there with the well-regarded ‘localised’ Holden Cruze SRi-V turbo when it comes to ride, and while the SR’s electric steering - with three modes that add or subtract resistance or weight - lacks feedback, it has a more linear (less lumpy) arc than the car with the Lion badge.

We still think this so-called ‘flex steer’ adjustable steering system dials in too much weight in Sport mode and not enough in Comfort mode, though. Select Normal and be done with it, we say.

Yes, it will understeer like any front-driver if you arrive too hot, but the SR also has a playful streak, willing to get light at the rear if you lift-off from the loud pedal. The stability control also gives you more than enough slack.

Mr Potter quietly suggested your correspondent give the car a push towards its limits to see it really come alive. It seems he’s right.

The 2.0-litre under the bonnet, pilfered from the i40, is a willing unit, and its 129kW of power/209Nm of torque are respectable on paper, albeit short of the SRi-V (132kW/230Nm) and Nissan Pulsar SSS (140kW/240Nm).

Because it lacks a blower, it lacks the former pair’s low-down huff, and doesn’t really chime into life until about 3000rpm - something you notice particularly when confronting an incline on corner-exit.

The engine redlines at 6500rpm and doesn’t develop 200Nm until 4000rpm.

Luckily, working the six cogs like a rowboat is scarcely a chore, with a nice mechanical feel matched, albeit, to a springy clutch. We didn’t get a crack at the $2200 six-speed auto option, but we can say its lack of paddle shifters is a disappointment.

Speaking of disappointment, we’d have liked the SR to give of a throatier soundtrack, some show to match to go - such as it is. Oh well.

Hyundai claims a respectable 0-100km/h dash of 7.7 seconds (manual) or 8.6 seconds (auto) with a full fuel tank. Combined fuel economy for the i30 SR manual is 7.2L/100km, while the six-speed automatic’s combined figure is 7.5L/100km.

The rest of the package is familiar i30. The SR is basically a re-worked Elite variant, meaning a lost list of features make their way under bonnet.

These include a seven-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation and SUNA live traffic updates (that got us lost for a brief moment, it should be mentioned), a rear-view camera, automatic headlights, dual-zone climate control, one-touch function of the power windows, rain-sensing wipers and push button start with a proximity key.

For the $2400 premium, the $27,990 SR adds the punchier engine - up 19kW and 31Nm on the regular car’s 1.8-litre unit - larger 17-inch alloy wheels, a unique grille with glossy black inserts, new rear diffuser, HID xenon headlights, LED rear combination lights, alloy-faced pedals, partial-leather seats (electric powered for the driver) and a self-dimming rear-view mirror.

Note, the starting price is more than the similarly equipped Cruze SRi-V ($26,490), but the i30’s cabin design is miles ahead. It’s cheaper than the $29,690 Pulsar SSS which, aside from its peach of a turbo engine, comes up short.

The fascia itself is clear, logical and well-made, with plenty of soft-touch plastics on the dash and door cards. Rear seat space is, as with the regular i30, about on a par for the segment, though in our experience the $2000 optional panoramic sunroof eats into headroom.

We also found the lack of height adjustability on the front passenger seat, combined with a seatbelt column that doesn’t move high enough, combined to make the belt cross over our chest rather than the top of our shoulder. A small but irritating detail.

Hyundai swears black and blue there’s no fabled i30 ‘R-Spec’ in the can, featuring, perhaps, the Veloster SR’s 150kW/265Nm 1.6 turbo engine or an even more fiery 2.0-litre. Its two factories in Korea and the Czech Republic can’t churn enough of these powertrains out to even satisfy existing demand, let alone another model, apparently.

Furthermore, the company sees what it calls ‘Tier 2’ hatches as its niche for now. It probably lacks the brand clout to produce a Golf R-rivalling beast just yet. But don’t think, if the company changes its mind, that the i30’s chassis and suspension tune couldn’t handle the extra poke.

Still, let’s not needlessly detract, because as a slick rather than outright quick warm hatch, the SR is a commendable effort that will reward the driver keen for a thrash but is quite capable of simply coddling the city slicker just after some fancier alloys and a new badge.

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