In the same way the eldest sibling bears the weight of responsibility for all those siblings to follow, the new Hyundai i30 arguably shares a similar load of delivering value-for-money to its eager Australian small-hatch fans who fondly remember its predecessor as a multi-year award-winner in Australia’s Best Cars.
I can confidently say that this new five-model range left a promising first impression on me. The entry-level i30 Active is a very competitive option, offering value that's hard to pass up. For those interested in what's under the bonnet, there is a 2.0L direct-injection petrol engine, coupled to either a six-speed manual or auto transmission, that starts the range. The series also features a mid-spec Elite and top-end Premium, both currently only available with a 1.6L diesel engine mated to a seven-speed double-clutch auto (DCT). For those looking at the sporty end you have SR and SR-Premium with a 1.6L turbo petrol with manual and DCT auto option. We'll have to wait a bit to see petrol engines in the Elite and Premium due to some delays in the development of Hyundai's SmartSense advanced safety features with the 2.0L six speed auto drivetrain.
While on the subject of the SmartSense safety package, I found the Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) to be particularly when reversing out of a park with poor visibility. Other features include Autonomous Emergency Braking, Forward Collision warning, Driver Attention Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Detection, Lane-keep Assist and Smart Cruise Control. The system is currently only offered with auto transmission variants of Elite, SR and Premium models. The new i30 also gets the ANCAP tick of approval, achieving a five-star rating.
From the outside, the new shape of the 'PD' i30 series is closer to that of a compact wagon, with elongated lines and a more streamlined physique that is reminiscent of the latest VW Golf. The bubbliness has gone and a simplified and refined feel has replaced bulges. Don't mistake this for plain though – the back of the i30 has adopted an expansive horizontal design with lighting that is sleek and slanted and features a panoramic window-feel. The front showcases a new-look, statement-piece chrome grille, which gives the i30 an identifiable stylish finish and step-up in presence.
Inside the cabin the clean lines continue with an uncluttered centre console and infotainment system. Button grouping is intuitive and is not excessive, instead just limited to the key functions. A definite stand-out feature engineered into the new model is the inclusion of an 8" 'floating' touchscreen multimedia system that comes standard with satellite navigation in every spec. Positioned at eye level with a clean user-interface and responsive driving guidance, it provides both driver and passenger assistance with minimal effort. Connectivity is available with Apple CarPlay and Android- Auto plus wireless charging for Android phones, along with voice control phone operation.
For those of you like myself that appreciate comfort, of particular mention and exclusive to the premium variants is the soft quality feel of the steering wheel and up-market materials across both hard and soft surfaces. The doors also have enough weight providing a reassuring 'thunk' and exude that quality feel that is not always apparent in other small vehicles that sit in this price range.
Despite similar dimensions to the previous model, all passengers will feel a little extra space along with a sizeable cargo space of 395L. Unfortunately seat adjustment is still limited to a manual forward/back function in the entry-level i30 Active, but premium variants get multi-electric adjustments along with heating and cooling. Overall, Hyundai has managed to create an interior environment that as a driver was welcoming and inviting.
The SR spec showcased the predictable red trim and highlights on black leather, but also included are red seatbelts, a novel addition in my view. While I don't see myself as the primary target for this spec I was pleasantly surprised that what are usually quite vibrant and borderline-garish reds were pleasantly toned down, offering the right amount of subtlety while still sparking interest.
The drive route through Albury saw a considered mix of highway and winding roads with tight corners to put to test the capabilities of the new i30. The local tuning team, under the guidance of European based suspension guru David Potter, weaved its magic over the i30, which was clearly evident from the short-drive program. I was rewarded with a reassuring driving experience with good responsiveness and ample power on the hillier sections of road. The way the Active and Elite handled through the corners really offered me a sense of security that was pleasantly surprising for this price bracket.
The SR provides that next step up in driving experience with more power, larger brakes, sport-honed suspension and paddle shifters. Seat side bolsters in the SR could be slightly larger to minimise sideways movement.
Make no mistake, this is a critical car for Hyundai, so they've spent the time getting it right, included all the things that made it their most popular car in the past and added a more premium feel and driver experience. With the Active starting at $20,950, it will certainly capture the attention it deserves. The SR starts at $25,950, Elite is $28,950 with the range topping out with the Premium models at $33,950 (all plus on-road costs).
Personally, if I was in the market, I would be holding out for the late-release of a predicted petrol auto drivetrain in the Elite spec. This, in my opinion, would be the 'sweet spot'.
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