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Car reviews - Hyundai - i30 - SR

Our Opinion

We like
Decent levels of kit, engine is powerful enough to have fun, great ride around town, long five-year warranty
Room for improvement
Disconnected steering even in sport mode, fuel use takes a hit as enthusiasm rises, lacks any aural theatre

Hyundai logo28 Oct 2013

By BARRY PARK

Price and equipment

HYUNDAI will sell you the i30 SR for a modest outlay of $27,990 before on-roads for a version of the car fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox. A six-speed auto costs an extra $2200, but the smile the manual version puts on your face comes for free.

OK, it is just a free-breathing 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine under the bonnet, but it makes a decent 129kW of power and 209Nm of torque.

How’s that compare? Well, Nissan’s warmed-over Pulsar SSS hatch costs from $29,690 and features a turbocharged 1.6-litre engine pumping out 140kW and 240Nm. But it features a hard, utilitarian interior and some rather gruff on-road traits that at times has the driver fighting with the car.

There’s also Holden’s locally made Cruze SRi-V hatchback. It is cracking value at just $26,490, featuring a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-pot churning out 132kW and 230Nm. In terms of bangs for bucks, nothing else matches.

The benchmark of the segment, though, would have to be Volkswagen’s Golf 103TSI, priced from a much more expensive $31,990 and featuring a 103kW/250Nm turbocharged 1.4-litre engine. Crisp, fun to drive and classy inside and out, the only question for buyers is if it is worth the premium VW asks.

But let’s not lose sight that Hyundai is a value-driven brand. That means equipment levels – and fit and finish in some cases – can put rivals to shame.

The i30 SR sits on special 17-inch alloys, which is pretty standard for where it sits in the market. So too are a Bluetooth phone connection, an electric handbrake, a USB port for a smartphone or media player, dual-zone climate control, and a reversing camera that pops up on a dash-mounted seven-inch colour screen that also features satellite navigation with real-time traffic updates.

However, it is more richly equipped than the $26,790 i30 Elite on which it is based. For instance, the leather-trimmed driver’s seat features electric adjustment and lumbar support, drilled aluminium features give the pedal box a visual lift, the rear-view mirror reduces glare automatically at night. There’s also LED tail-lights, and a specially tuned suspension system.

You’ll pick a difference on the road. The i30 SR has xenon headlights, a blacked-out central pillar giving a coupe-like side profile, a fancy rear diffuser hints at a sporty pedigree, and the grille is darker. There’s the “SR” badge, too, if there’s any doubt.

Hyundai’s real drawcard for buyers, though, is that five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty tied in with capped price servicing.

The only option on our test car was metallic paint, which added an extra $495.

A sunroof adds $2000.

Interior

As we’ve stated, you can pay a lot more for a sporty – note we’re not using the word “performance” – hatchback and get a lot less in terms of a sense of quality.

The i30 interior is pretty good to start with. Soft-touch plastics cover most of the surfaces where the hand falls, what hard plastics there are have a nice sheen to them, and the chrome-look highlights aren’t overdone.

The steering adjusts for height and reach, the driver’s seat adjusts nicely, and the rear seats are roomy enough to cart a clutch of broody teenagers comfortably.

The only immediate hint you’re in something different from the more pedestrian i30 are the aluminium inserts on the pedals.

But let’s not dwell on the knowns. Let’s move onto the i30 SR’s reason for being here.

Engine and transmission

Out is the 107kW/175Nm 1.8-litre engine in the i30 Elite, and in its place is the bigger 2.0-litre fuel-injected 2.0-litre out of the larger, heavier i40 sedan and wagon range.

The engine isn’t force-fed, so straight away we know it won’t have the low-down growl of a turbocharged unit. But then again, given what Honda can squeeze out of a 2.0-litre donk for its (discontinued) Civic Type R, they can be fun little units.

Likewise, the i30 SR’s push-button start engine can be fun. It works best with a few revs on board – peak power is delivered right on the 6500rpm redline and maximum torque drops in at 4700rpm. In contrast, the Civic Type R’s 140kW-plus engine didn’t come alive until about 8000rpm.

The i30 will sprint from 0-100km/h in a respectable 7.7 seconds – about the same as a 1990s-era Ford EB Falcon V8.

The engine will pull willingly, never feeling especially quick, but thankfully at low revs it is devoid of the turbocharged bugbears of torque steer and axle tramp, where the rush of power from low revs makes it difficult for a small hatchback to maintain the front wheels’ traction.

Other warmed-over hatches include sound chambers and even synthetic noise to make the driver feel like they’re in a bigger car than the exterior dimension suggest. There’s none of that in the SR. Driven lightly or with a heavy right foot, the 2.0-litre four-pot gets on with the job smoothly and quietly. It’s a little boring.

The six-speed manual is a fun part of the package. Light, with a nice throw action, it is a good complement to the engine, spoilt only slightly by a light clutch pedal with an almost invisible take-up point.

Fuel use is officially rated at 7.2L/100km, but the reality is more like 9.5-10.0L/100km if you’re going to tap its high-revving performance and drive it like it was stolen at every opportunity.

Ride and handling

Hyundai’s chief suspension tuner is a bloke who cut his teeth tricking up rally and race cars.

In the i30 SR, he has turned out the best-handling Hyundai yet. In fact, it is so good it should stand as the benchmark for all the Korean car-maker’s vehicles.

The final set-up is one of 43 that were evaluated by Hyundai Australia’s team of engineers.

Shout them a beer. Even at speed over chopped-up surfaces, the i30 SR remains poised and comfortable, soaking up all the lumps and bumps with aplomb. Its as comfortable tooling around town as it is pitching around a corner on a twisty back road.

Once ambition exceeds ability, and the i30 SR’s Hankook rubber starts to lose grip and let the nose run wide around a corner, the Hyundai understeers predictably under the safety net of the electronic stability control.

The only downer – indeed, the only blight on the whole i30 SR package – is the electronically assisted steering. It adds weight on the fly via three dialled-up settings ranging through comfort, normal and sport.

Comfort is car-park light, normal is light, and the sport setting adds weight without allowing the driver to read the road in detail. The 2.0-litre engine adds 27kg in weight over the front wheels, but it does little to make things more communicative.

Safety and servicing

The i30 range has a big seven airbag count, including a driver’s knee airbag.

That’s enough to earn it a top five-star safety rating.

Servicing is capped at $219 a year for three years, the warranty runs for five years unless you’re in breach of the fine print, the sat-nav map comes with three years of free updates, and you get a year of roadside assistance thrown in.

Verdict

The Hyundai i30 SR is a good effort from a car-maker that has struggled to offer a package that delivers an acceptable level of handling while keeping things cheap.

However, while performance and ride and handling take a step forward, the steering hasn’t.

Still, two out of three ain’t bad.

Rivals

Holden Cruze SRi-V (From $26,490 before on-roads).

Price cuts have brought great value to the top-spec turbo Cruze, and a change to Bridgestone rubber steps up grip and performance. Heavy on fuel when tapped, though, and electric steering leaves a bit to be desired.

Toyota Corolla Levin ZR auto (From $30,490 before on-roads).

Expensive in this class, although spacious and there is Toyota’s bulletproof reliability to factor in. Decent drive dynamics, but dull continuously variable transmission, drab interior and lifeless steering mar the experience.

Mazda3 SP20 (From $27,990 before on-roads).

A strong combination of efficiency and performance from first-generation Skyactiv fuel-sipping technology. However, still struggles with road noise and soft steering. Also up for replacement early next year.

Specs

MAKE/MODEL: Hyundai i30 SR
ENGINE: 2.0-litre 4-cyl
LAYOUT: Front-engined, front-wheel-drive
POWER: 129kW@6500rpm
TORQUE: 209Nm@4700rpm
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual
0-100km/h: 7.7secs
TOP SPEED: N/A
FUEL: 7.2L/100km, unleaded
EMISSIONS: 172g/km CO2
WEIGHT: 1356kg
SUSPENSION: Macpherson (f)/trailing arm (r)
STEERING: ELectrically assisted rack-and-pinion
BRAKES: Ventilated discs (f)/discs (r)
PRICE: From $27,990 before on-roads

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