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Driven: Hyundai refuses to give up i30 sales

Fresh start: Hyundai says the new-gen i30 will continue to be a top seller, but the incoming Kona crossover could eat into some of its sales.

More buyers to push upmarket with third-generation Hyundai i30

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Hyundai logo2 May 2017

By DANIEL DEGASPERI

HYUNDAI Motor Company Australia (HMCA) has refused to give up sales ground to rivals with its third-generation i30, despite acknowledging it will no longer offer $19,990 driveaway with free automatic deals that saw a 90 per cent take-up of the base Active model grade for the outgoing model.

The South Korean car-maker confirmed that although the i30 Active – now $20,450 plus on-road costs with six-speed manual, $23,250 with six-speed auto – will continue to be the most popular model grade with the arrival of the third-generation version this week, it believes more buyers will now move upmarket.

“The previous model at times was 90 per cent entry model,” HMCA chief operating officer Scott Grant said at the national media launch of the i30 in southern New South Wales this week.

“We don’t expect we’ll get these numbers for this model, but maybe two-thirds.

“The higher-end cars are very well priced and very highly specified versus any competitor in the segment, and we would expect to be able to sell more cars north of $25,000 than we have previously.”

Asked whether the i30 can become the overall number-one selling passenger car in 2017 – a feat it held for several months in 2016 – Mr Scott replied: “In pure volume terms, no, I don’t think it can happen this year.

“(But the) volume doesn’t go backwards. It’s not our intention to go backwards.”

This indicates HMCA is planning to at least match this year the record 37,776 sales previously achieved by its Korean-built small hatchback.

However, Mr Scott admitted that where the Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla are available in both hatch and sedan body styles, Hyundai’s equivalents are badged i30 and Elantra respectively, making such competitors all but impossible to beat for a single nameplate.

“The interesting thing is if you look at the competitor products there is a sedan (with competitors),” he offered, before confirming that HMCA will not chase what is typically seen as lucrative fleet business to a greater degree than previously.

“We certainly don’t have any plan to change or dramatically increase our fleet business. Fleet is an interesting question because rental cars is a very different thing to novated leasing and other sub-segments of fleet. So there are a lot of ways to expand in a positive way.”

Last year the i30 snared 18 per cent of HMCA’s total sales in Australia, and it is this figure that Mr Grant expected could be challenging to match, particularly when the brand’s Kona small SUV arrives later this year in the same $20,000-35,000 price bracket as the i30.

“We would expect to grow (overall volume) with other products and continue to grow, and naturally those products will add to our total sales and that will affect (i30) percentage growth,” he said.

“It (Kona) may have some cannibalisation, that has been the experience.”

Only the i30 Active gets a ‘Nu’ 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with 120kW and 203Nm, up on the previous 107kW/175Nm 1.8-litre unit.

Standard is an 8.0-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation, digital radio, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and rearview camera, as well as rear parking sensors, 16-inch alloy wheels, auto on/off headlights, LED daytime running lights and seven airbags.

Mr Scott confirmed that the inclusion of sat-nav at the base level is “a significant point of difference” to key competitors, and in marketing terms “we won’t let that spec item pass”.

HMCA senior product planning manager Andrew Tuitahi also defended the company’s decision to include sat-nav as standard but omit autonomous emergency braking (AEB) which is featured in the entry-level Mazda3.

“That is definitely something we researched,” he said.

“I think we would have had around 250 people see the car in person. The 8.0-inch satellite navigation system was seen as something which was extremely appealing. Something like rearview camera was seen as mandatory. And the autonomous emergency braking (AEB) things that are incorporated into the SmartSense system were seen as a very nice to have.

“(But) the 8.0-inch satellite navigation in terms of the material cost to us probably gives the best bang for buck and ticks the most customer boxes.”

Hyundai’s SmartSense active safety suite is its most comprehensive ever, incorporating AEB that works above 10km/h and can halt the car to attempt to completely avoid pedestrians at up to 64km/h and vehicles at up to 80km/h. It will slow the vehicle to reduce the severity of the impact at up to 180km/h.

It also features blind-spot and lane-departure warnings, lane-keep assistance, rear cross-traffic and driver attention alert, and active cruise control.

SmartSense is standard in both the diesel-powered ‘comfort’ and turbo petrol-driven ‘sport’ lines above the Active, and later this year will become available on that entry grade as an option. But the tech is not available on manual models.

“I think if we could have looked at a way to bring in SmartSense option pack from launch we would have, but we couldn’t,” Mr Tuitahi said.

“(It is) not finalised yet, but our target price is about $1500. At the moment, the manual SR features blind-spot detection but doesn’t have the other two sensors being the radar and sensors, but that’s something we’re investigating at the moment.”

In addition to not being available on the i30 Active manual, SmartSense will also not be available with the optional 1.6-litre turbo-diesel i30 Active manual.

Commanding a $2500 premium, the 100kW/280Nm unit – at $23,450 – can be further raised with a seven-speed automatic dual-clutch transmission (DCT), when it produces 300Nm and is priced at $25,950.

With consumption of 4.7 litres per 100 kilometres for the DCT, however, the diesel is also considerably more fuel efficient than the 7.4L/100km base petrol.

The diesel with DCT is the only drivetrain available in the $28,950 i30 Elite and $33,950 i30 Premium grades, however Mr Tuitahi confirmed that later this year “we’ll make available the 2.0-litre (petrol) option on the Elite and Premium”.

Turbo-petrol only with a six-speed manual, the i30 SR is priced from $25,950 while the seven-speed DCT costs $28,950, the same price as the i30 Elite. An i30 SR Premium similarly matches the $33,950 i30 Premium on price.

The 1.6-litre turbo-petrol produces 150kW/265Nm and almost matches the base petrol with 7.5L/100km consumption. The i30 SR is also the only model in the range to get independent rear suspension and 18-inch alloy wheels. The i30 Active gets 16s, the i30 Elite and i30 Premium 17s with a torsion-beam rear end.

Both SR and Elite add a leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather trim, keyless auto-entry with push-button start, wireless phone charging and rear air vents and electric park brake (the latter duo for DCT only).

Both SR Premium and the regular Premium include LED headlights, panoramic sunroof, powered driver’s seat, heated and ventilated front seats and front parking sensors.

The third-generation i30, dubbed PD, shares its crash structure – and five-star ANCAP crash rating – with the Elantra sedan also made in South Korea.

Hyundai said it boasts the latest iteration of the brand’s ‘fluidic sculpture’ styling theme, with a ‘cascading’ front grille mimicking “the flow of molten steel”, with chrome-plated dots on all model grades above the entry Active.

High-strength steel has been increased in the body, from 27.2 to 53.5 per cent of the structure resulting in an 28kg body-in-white weight reduction. Use of aeronautical-style adhesives increases from 20 metres to 112m, while a one-piece side panel and reduced joins increase body rigidity by 18 per cent.

HMCA’s local engineers, meanwhile, completed 168 test drive runs with 208 different damper configurations to complete Australian tuning of the latest i30.

The i30 SR uses a better rear spring and thicker rear anti-roll bar than its Elantra SR cousin, to further enhance handling.

Beyond HMCA’s five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty and 12-month roadside assistance package, a capped-price servicing program costs $259 for each of the first three checks for the 2.0-litre, $299 for the diesel and $269 for the turbo-petrol – though the latter requires 10,000km annual intervals, down from 15,000km annually for the other engines.

2017 Hyundai i30 pricing*
Active 2.0 GDi$20,950
Active 2.0 GDi (a)$23,250
Active 1.6 CRDi$23,450
Active 1.6 CRDi (a)$25,950
SR 1.6 T-GDi$25,950
SR 1.6 T-GDi (a)$28,950
Elite 1.6 CRDi (a)$28,950
Premium 1.6 CRDi (a)$33,950
SR Premium 1.6 T-GDi (a)$33,950
*Excludes on-road costs

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