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First drive: Hyundai i30 steps up

Engine room: Hyundai’s new i30 range will be headlined by a new 1.6-litre turbo that replaces the 2.0-litre atmo donk, but a spicy i30 N is on the way as a pivotal flagship with 2.0-litres of turbo torque.

Third-gen Hyundai i30 gets premium makeover – at a price


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24 Feb 2017


AUSTRALIA’S favourite Hyundai, the i30 hatchback, has been treated to a significant quality, equipment and performance makeover for its third generation that is due on local turf in April this year.

However, customers can expect a price premium over the outgoing version.

Packed with more safety gear, a revised chassis, new engines and a fresh Euro-inspired look, the new i30 five-door hatchback – codenamed PD – breaks into new territory by stepping away from the sub-$20,000 pricing strategy that helped build its popularity.

When asked if the next-gen i30 price would remain unchanged, Hyundai Motor Company of Australia (HMCA) chief operating officer Scott Grant answered: “I would doubt it”, adding that the model’s improved overall package would be reflected in the bottom line.

“There’s value in the new car,” he said. “Preface all of this with the fact that the specification and line-up hasn’t been set, but we believe this car is a step-changer, even at the entry level, and that needs to be recovered to some extent in pricing.” While many existing i30 customers have been drawn to the model by its compelling price proposition, which currently starts at $21,450 before on-road costs, Hyundai is expecting more of its volume for the new version to come from mid-range variants.

Mr Grant said that while greater numbers of customers are expected to choose more generously-equipped i30s, overall sales would not differ greatly from the current model – between 2000 and 6000 units a month.

“Ours has been disproportionately at the entry level,” he said. “The others (competitors) are perhaps more balanced, and there’s opportunity to compete a bit more in those areas, but I don’t think we will lose volume, though.

“I think our mix will richen, so I think we will sell less at the entry level, and that may mean that the segment itself changes in terms of its volume at that price.

“But I think there is a lot of opportunity in the mid and higher grades that have been flowing into some of the competitor’s products.

“We would imagine that we would sell about the same number of cars as we did last year – somewhere around that 36,000 to 37,000.” Final Australian specification and pricing is just days away, according to Mr Grant.

The local i30 variant spread is not expected to differ greatly to the current line-up, which consists of Active, Active X, Premium, SR and SR Premium options.

“The walk-up through the grades is probably going to remain pretty consistent,” Mr Grant said.

“Like any market segment it has a price point and a certain range and customers in that segment have a certain expectation. We need to meet that customer’s requirements.” Three initial variants will be on offer from the i30 arrival in April, starting with a 120kW/203Nm 2.0-litre GDI petrol version that will replace the existing 1.8-litre i30.

This new entry-level i30 will be offered with a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions, while torsion-beam rear suspension will be standard.

The warmer SR exchanges the current 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated petrol engine for a 1.6-litre turbo that takes power and torque from 124kW and 201Nm to 150kW and 265Nm.

While a manual SR will be offered for purists, the new version will also be available with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. A selection of performance-focused features are expected, including independent rear suspension.

The diesel i30 CRDi will be offered from launch with unchanged power output of 100kW, but torque increases from 260Nm to 280Nm in the manual version or a beefy 300Nm when paired with the seven-speed DCT.

Equipment is also still being finalised for Australia, but navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will be on offer and, like all Hyundai models sold Down Under, the new i30 has undergone a bespoke suspension tune to suit Australia’s roads and driver preferences.

In addition to the local chassis honing, a prototype PD also spent time in the gruelling Australian outback during mid-summer to prepare it for one of the world’s hottest and most unforgiving climates.

When we drove the new i30, in South Korean, it was under significantly different climatic conditions, with South Korea’s winter throwing zero-degree temperatures, salt and snow at the small hatchback.

It is not yet confirmed if the heated seats and steering wheel will be offered for Australian customers, but they were certainly welcome for our drive.

In addition to the snug contact points, the new-look interior is also welcoming with a complete redesign that flips the previous vertical centre console by 90-degrees for a more pleasant appearance and better ergonomics.

The i30’s new interior represents a big step up in design and style while maintaining the decent fit and finish of the previous model. The excellent navigation system is a highlight, and we hope the large screen, detailed maps and helpful spoken instructions carry over to Australian cars.

Our first test car was powered by the improved 1.6-litre diesel engine paired with the new dual-clutch transmission. We found the hearty 300Nm of torque welcome in combination with the smooth-slipping DCT, making driving in traffic a breeze.

When up to speed, the diesel is less happy being revved, but the noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels that Hyundai says it has worked hard to improve certainly seem to have made significant progress.

Over some poorly maintained Korean roads, the ride quality and cabin comfort was top-notch, providing no distraction as we did our best to concentrate on an unusual driving culture, shall we say.

But it was only after taking the keys to the petrol 1.6 turbo SR that we fully appreciated the improvements to the third-generation i30.

While the engine is effectively the same as the 1.6-litre that powers the new Elantra SR (also a top bit of kit in our minds), the lighter i30 feels notably more nimble and nippy.

The chunky but comfortable leather steering wheel provides a connection to the road that is sophisticated, sharp and hard to beat in this segment. We revelled at pouring the i30 into corners and feeling the cracking chassis pick a stable path irrespective of road quality and speed.

With sport mode selected, the DCT holds higher engine revs and switches the stability control into a wildly tail-happy setting, but the independent rear suspension and composed chassis instilled confidence at all times.

Hyundai still has some work to do making its engine notes match the performance of other warmer models, but it is getting there.

When we had calmed down and found more sedate roads, the Hyundai revealed its refined cruising comfort with a quiet cabin that offers a comfortable place for four, or for one more during shorter journeys.

Until we get a chance to test the new entry 2.0-litre, the jury is still out on the full i30 range, but the initial signs are overwhelmingly positive. The combination of likeable looks, sharp design and a chassis that is up there with the best in the warm hatch segment sets a high bar for the Australian market.

Even more excitingly, the solid i30 SR also offers a first glimpse at just how good the imminent 130 N has the potential to be when it launches an all-new performance era for Hyundai.

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