Car reviews - Hyundai - i30 - SR
Willing and able 2.0-litre engine, intelligent automatic, roomy cabin with great seats, moderately entertaining handling
Room for improvement
Suspension can stutter on country roads, flawed three-mode electric steering, SR Premium starts to get expensive
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14 Jul 2016
THIS i30 SR continues to utilise a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine and torsion bar rear suspension set-up. In two months, however, Hyundai will launch an Elantra SR sedan based on a new chassis, with a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine and superior independent rear suspension (IRS), so the hatchback will soon have a rival from within its own ranks.
Beyond a new Phoenix Orange hue, the i30 SR – which now starts at $26,550 with six-speed manual and $28,550 for the six-speed automatic – gets graphite coloured alloy wheels to match its new dashboard fascia, black roof lining, leather-trimmed sports buckets and the addition of steering wheel-mounted paddleshifters for automatic versions.
In isolation – and without yet knowing what the new Elantra SR will be like – the i30 SR has stood the test of time well. Both its exterior and interior still appear modern, and the new black/red leather seats inject the models with greater showroom appeal compared with the cloth-trimmed Active.
The 7.0-inch colour touchscreen works well, although the SR gets Apple CarPlay connectivity – which mirrors the apps on your smartphone when plugged in via USB – whereas the SR Premium includes integrated satellite navigation. It isn’t possible to get both, which is not ideal.
True to its name the SR Premium commands a $4700 premium over the SR – $31,250 manual, $33,550 auto – but its extra goodies are tasty. The addition of not only heated but also ventilated front seats are rare in this segment regardless of the price. Likewise the standard panoramic sunroof and to a lesser degree the electrically adjustable driver’s seat.
The SR Premium also uniquely gets rear air-vents and a fold-down armrest to boost passenger amenities within the otherwise very spacious and comfortable rear quarters, in addition to a luggage net and split floor inside the capacious 378-litre boot.
HMCA’s national media launch included urban, freeway, winding country roads with both smooth and ragged surfacing, and time on a private racetrack. To drive, the standard SR feels like the best buy because the i30 is ageing in terms of road noise and suspension refinement while remaining honest fun.
Although it doesn’t sound premium to the ear, the 2.0-litre direct-injection four-cylinder boasts healthy outputs of 124kW at 6500rpm and 201Nm at 4700rpm.
The former power figure significantly closes in on the 138kW of the 2.5-litre Mazda3 SP25 rival, although the latter torque quota is 49Nm off.
The i30 SR’s torque is produced quite high in the rev range, a low-down deficit of which is most noticeable with the slick-shifting six-speed manual on hills.
Opting to stay in fifth or sixth gear on the freeway results in inclines being signposted by the speedometer needle’s descent.
The $2300-optional six-speed automatic is a gem, subtly and imperceptibly kicking back gears before the driver needs to feed in greater throttle. The paddleshifters work well – although the gearbox auto-upshifts at redline – with an engine that is sweetest when revving.
Hyundai’s locally tuned suspension feels firm around town, which is suited to the semi-sporting character of the i30 SR more than the entry-level i30 Active tested a few weeks earlier. On the freeway it can feel jiggly, however, and on rough roads it takes sizeable impacts in its stride without quite managing to filter out smaller imperfections.
The upside to this control-focused suspension tune is impressive handling that blends well with the amount of available power. Nexen tyres replace the Hankook rubber previously used on the i30 SR and they deliver surprising grip – at least in dry conditions – to match the gripper, snug front seats.
The steering is only tight enough when switching from the lightest Comfort and Normal settings to the firmer Sport mode, but even then it lacks the sharpness of the best systems in the segment.
On the private racetrack the i30 SR provided reasonable front-end sharpness and a rear-end willing to roll to a greater degree to help balance initial turn-in understeer. In fact the i30 SR proved better balanced than the Veloster Turbo Street – a 200-unit limited edition – sampled on-track only.
Where the Veloster Turbo Street four-door ‘coupe’ displayed sharper turn-in and reduced bodyroll compared with the i30 SR, its extra power (with 150kW/265Nm) and lack of a limited-slip differential meant extreme patience was required when using the throttle on corner exit. The rear end of the Veloster also felt more inert.
It further highlighted the i30 SR’s impressive balance between usability and sportiness. It isn’t spicy, but it is tangy and tasty enough for buyers wanting a blend of five-door hatchback practicality and features, teamed with above average performance and dynamics.
Together with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and capped-price servicing program, the Hyundai i30 SR remains a solid buy … at least until the Elantra SR mounts an insider challenge.
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