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Improvements across the board mark the new generation of Hyundai’s award-winning i30 hatchback range.
“Reinvented” is the buzz-word Hyundai is using for its third-generation i30. In reality it’s more evolutionary than revolutionary, where the Korean manufacturer has made an already good car better.
The new model, which comes as a five-door hatch only, still has the same appealing character, easy-to-drive nature and value-for-money focus as its predecessor.
By building the i30 on a new platform shared with the current Elantra, employing advanced manufacturing techniques and a greater use of hi-tech materials, this generation is slightly bigger, stronger and lighter.
New body panels create a fresh appearance and the interior looks smarter. Hyundai has also raised the bar with the car’s performance and on-road ability.
A tempting price
Value for money has always been a big part of i30's appeal. Hyundai offers an interesting mix of model grades and engine/transmission combinations. Entry point is the Go model, followed by the Active grade. Both utilise a 2.0-litre petrol engine which is a significant step up from the previous basic 1.8-litre unit and also the 1.6-litre turbo-diesel option.
They are available with a six-speed manual transmission. The automatic option is a conventional six-speed box in the petrol models or a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission with the diesel.
From there Hyundai splits the range, with the Elite and Premium models having a comfort focus, while the SR and SR Premium (which we drove) taking on more of a sporting demeanour, not just in the way they are dressed but also mechanically.
The comfort versions are only available with the 1.6-litre diesel engine/seven-speed dual-clutch transmission combination, while the two SR models employ a more technically advanced, higher-output 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine. SR buyers have the choice of a manual or dual-clutch auto, while the SR Premium is dual-clutch only.
Pricing is from a tempting $19,990 to $33,950 plus on-road costs. Recently introduced as a price leader, the Go has the same design and safety features as the Active but misses out on a few cosmetic and convenience features. It has steel wheels rather than alloys and does not get the rear parking sensors or digital radio found in the other grades. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, displayed on an eight-inch tablet-style screen, is standard across the range.
All variants have a five-star ANCAP safety rating, with the mid and high-spec versions receiving an excellent suite of advance safety technologies, which Hyundai calls SmartSense. Unfortunately, not all the features are available on the manual versions.
While Active, Elite and Premium models all carry a full-size alloy spare wheel, the larger 18-inch alloy wheels on SR versions means they only have a temporary-use space-saver spare.
The new i30 has a little more cabin space and occupants in the front are well catered for. The SR Premium's shapely sports-style seats are supportive and provide good long-term comfort. Seat heating and ventilation in these seats also adds a touch more luxury.
Ergonomically, the i30 layout is right up with the best in class. All the controls and switches are logically placed and easy to use, while both the infotainment screen and instrument display are clear and informative.
In the rear, the extra space is noticeable but the i30 is still not a large car. Accommodating three adults across the back will still be a squeeze and finding enough leg room could depend on front seat positioning. Likewise, the boot space is handy at best.
Hyundai build quality has steadily improved over recent years, and this can be seen in the high-quality trim material and general attention to detail in the fit and finish, now placing it among the best of the mainstream models. Having said that, our test car did have a loose door seal rubber.
An enthusiastic performance
With the 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine producing an enthusiastic 150kW of power, the SR Premium is a mildly hot hatch that’s fun to drive.
Even more impressive, though, is driving ease in traffic, thanks to the performance flexibility provided by a broad spread of strong low to mid-torque and well-matched gearing. Maximum torque of 265Nm is reached at 1500rpm and maintained through to 4500rpm.
Hyundai's drive mode select, in the automatic and dual-clutch models, allows drivers to choose between Normal, Eco and Sports operation.
As well as displaying ample performance, our test car was also relatively economical. In a combination of city and suburban use, plus a lengthy highway run, overall consumption was a pleasing 7.9L/100km.
To match the higher engine output, the SR and SR Premium models also get bigger brakes and a more sophisticated multi-link rear suspension set-up. Having more to work with, local Hyundai engineers have done a superb job in tailoring the ride and handling to suit the sporting character of the car. It has a well-balanced feel for everyday road use with precise, appropriately weighted steering, a surefooted feel and plenty of corning grip.
All this has been achieved without compromising the ride, which is comfortably compliant yet well controlled. Coarse bitumen roads occasionally generate enough tyre noise to become noticeable in what is otherwise a quiet cabin.
In the ultra-competitive small car class, Hyundai’s i30 has always been an excellent value-for-money proposition. Now the third generation ups the ante with a greater level of technical sophistication, advanced safety features and much better driving dynamics, particularly in the sports-focused SR Premium model. It is disappointing, however, that the manual versions miss out on some of the advanced safety features.