Hyundai i30 Review

Volkswagen, Toyota and Mazda must be so thrilled, over the moon, don’t you think? All three major players so overjoyed over the new i30. Take a careful look at the new i30 if you're in the market for a Golf, Corolla or Mazda3 - because it's raised the bar for the whole segment.

In fact, in August last year (just a few months ago), Volkswagen Group Australia boss, Michael Bartsch came out swinging. Do you remember that? He said (quote): “I don’t think anyone gets up in the morning and goes, 'I’m aspiring to own a Korean car'”.

Well, I’ll tell you what, the new Hyundai i30 SR Premium (in particular) is a very impressive car. In fact, I could aspire to own the crap out of this, every day, seven days a week and twice on Sunday. 

So I think if you go to Mr Bartsch’s office today and look at the clock up on the wall, it’s word-eating o’clock.

The rest of the range is pretty impressive too.

The Range

The i30 range is so simple, even a politician would get it. You’ve got Active down the bottom and then there’s a fork in the road, and you can elect to go for the comfort models: the Elite and the Premium, on one side, or you could go the sporty route instead, with the SR and the SR Premium above it.

i30 Basic
'Active'

i30 tracking 1.jpg

Hyundai i30 Active models have a lot of very useful standard equipment that competitors costing the same lack.

The base model is very well suited to average singles, couples and young families who want basic transportation without it being too 'poverty'.

Active models come with a 2.0-litre direct injection (the latest injection tech) petrol four and a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed auto transmissions.

i30 Comfort
'Elite' or 'Premium'

i30 front.jpg

i30 Elite and Premium step up in equipment level as you go through the range. Both models get premium inclusions.

There is one engine and one transmission available: a 1.6-litre turbodiesel with seven-speed dual-clutch auto.

The diesel delivers great low and middle rpm power and terrific economy, but you will need a regular highway run to keep the particle filter healthy.

i30 Sport
'SR' or 'SR Premium'

i30 r34 tracking 2.jpg

SR models have a 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine and a choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch auto.

This car really delivers on the 'affordable performance' front. Power delivery blows many competitors out of the water, and there's no need for expensive premium unleaded, either.

Extensive local suspension tuning means the ride and handling more than keeps up with the powertrain.

When you go back to Active, you’ve got a 2.0L GDI petrol engine with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. If you want one of the comfort models, the Elite or the Premium, then you're going to be driving a 1.6-litre turbodiesel, and that comes with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT). 

Over in 'Sportsville', with SR models, you can have a six-speed manual transmission on the basic SR or a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (and SR Premium is seven-speed dual-clutch transmission only).

Don’t panic about the DCT, it’s only Ford, Volkswagen and Audi that can’t get those to live. Hyundai’s DCT has been here for quite a few years now behind this 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine, in particular, and the diesel as well (it was introduced a bit later on) and it’s has proven quite reliable in service so there's no reason to be concerned on that front.

Poverty, Packed?

There’s almost an unwritten law in the car industry that goes, Eleventh Commandment: The bottom of the range must be a nasty little stripped-out dungbox that only an accountant could love because he’s buying them by the score for a rental car company or a government department. 

That leaves the average Aussie family car buyer out in the cold if you want basic transportation, but you don’t want a poverty pack.

But the i30 Active has absolutely broken this mould.

The list of standard inclusions with i30 Active is nothing less than astonishing. You get GPS with a big fat screen as standard and built in to that is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You also get standard Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, LED daytime running lamps, you get a five-star safety rating with seven airbags (more on this in the ANCAP i30 crash-test page >>), automatic headlamps, you get rear parking sensors and a reversing camera all standard plus 16-inch alloys with a full-sized spare tyre and conventional cruise control. 

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had poverty before and that’s not it.

If you're in the market for affordable family transport you really need to pay close attention to the features on offer from the likes of Toyota Corolla, Mazda3 and Volkswagen Golf (and here's the important bit) at the same price point.

Hyundai i30 Active

Hyundai i30 Active has an impressive list of standard features including:

  • GPS navigation
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Tyre pressure monitoring
  • Five-star safety (seven airbags)
  • Auto headlamps
  • Rear parking sensors & reverse camera
  • 16-inch alloys (full-sized spare) 
  • Cruise control

i30 vs Golf

Up the other end of the range, the i30 SR Premium (the car I’m in right now), it absolutely humiliates the Volkswagen Golf that you could buy for the same money which would be $34k plus on-road costs.

That’s the 110 TSI Highline Golf.

Apart from the i30 being a heap more potent in the powertrain department, you also get an armada of standard features that is simply not there in the Golf.

Things like adaptive cruise control, and the big fat panoramic roof.

The value proposition and the performance proposition of the i30 at the same price point as the Golf is absolutely staggering.

VW Golf 110 TSI Highline

VW Golf.jpg

$33,340 + on-roads

1.4-litre turbo petrol
110 kW @ 6000 rpm
250 Nm @ 1500-3500 rpm
7-speed dual-clutch
Premium unleaded

Hyundai i30
SR Premium

2017 Hyundai i30 SR Premium V Golf.jpg

$33,950 + on-roads

1.6-litre turbo petrol
150kW @ 6000 rpm
265 Nm @ 1500-4500 rpm
7-speed dual-clutch
Standard unleaded

i30 vs Mazda3 SP25

Of course it’s not just Volkswagen feeling the pinch here, Mazda is really not liking the new i30 SR Premium either. SR Premium is good enough to humiliate the SP25 Astina. They're almost equivalent on spec. The powertrain in this car, the 1.6 GDI Turbo, is so much more potent in absolute terms. It makes handful more kilowatts and a handful more newton metres

But what’s really going here, because of the turbocharger, is the delivery of peak torque. Peak torque comes on in this car at 1500 rpm and it keeps coming on until 4500. So you get your 265 Nm of torque all the way between those extremes. 

In the SP25 GT and Astina, what you're getting is a little bit less torque but it’s not coming on song until 3250 rpm and that just makes this car, the SR Premium, incredibly potent at low and middle revs. A little hand, invisibly, just reaches out behind you and gives you a nice big push at all of those revs.

This 1.6-litre turbo petrol powertrain absolutely eclipses the delivery from the SP25 GT at all revs from 1500 rpm all the way up to 6000.

Mazda3
SP25 Astina

Mazda3 SP25 Astina 2.jpg

$35,490 + on-roads

2.5-litre atmo petrol
138kW @ 5700 rpm
250 Nm @ 3250 rpm
6-speed auto
Standard unleaded

Hyundai i30
SR Premium

2017 Hyundai i30 SR Premium V Golf.jpg

$33,950 + on-roads

1.6-litre turbo petrol
150kW @ 6000 rpm
265 Nm @ 1500-4500 rpm
7-speed dual-clutch
Standard unleaded

i30 vs Benz & Audi

Of course, should you wish to scale the lofty summit of Mt Humiliation, you’ll need to do that in the entry level Mercedes-Benz A-Class, the ‘Gay 180’. This is a car that will cost you $5k more than the i30 SR Premium. It comes with hardly any standard equipment and of course in the Mercedes you get 60 fewer kilowatts and 65 fewer newton metres from the same displacement turbocharged engine. It would not pull a sailor off your sister.

(But, of course, given the calibre of sailor who would be seen, conventionally, in a Mercedes-Benz A-Class, sis would be quite safe...)

The premium German carmakers have turned de-specifying their entry level models into an art form. The real trick here is to convince you that they are still premium.

And everything I just wrote about the ‘Gay 180’ is, of course, applicable to the entry level Audi A3 auto. In all it’s 1.0L 3 cylinder glory. What were they thinking? (Probably: ‘Did we cheat the emissions on that one too?’)

Mercedes-Benz A 180

2017 Mercedes-Benz A250.jpg

$38,400 + on-roads

1.6-litre turbo petrol
90kW @ 5000 rpm
200 Nm @ 1250-4000 rpm
7-speed dual-clutch
Premium unleaded

STANDARD:
-
-
Basic cruise control
-
GPS
-
17-inch alloys
Halogen headlamps

Audi A3 Auto

2017 Audi A3.jpg

$35,900 + on-roads

1.0-litre 3cyl turbo petrol
85kW @ 5500 rpm
200 Nm @ 2000-3500 rpm
7-speed dual-clutch
Premium unleaded

STANDARD:
-
-
Basic cruise control
-
GPS
-
16-inch alloys
Bi-xenon headlamps

Hyundai i30 SR Premium

2017 Hyundai i30 SR Premium 3.jpg

$33,950 + on-roads

1.6-litre turbo petrol
150kW @ 6000 rpm
265 Nm @ 1500-4500 rpm
7-speed dual-clutch
Standard unleaded

STANDARD:
Panorama sunroof
Electric seats
Adaptive cruise control
Proximity key
GPS
Apple CarPlay + Android Auto
18-inch alloys
LED headlamps

Ride & Handling

Here in Australia, Hyundai spends quite a bit of time and money calibrating suspension settings uniquely for our crap roads and they do a great job.

They’ve got a wizard who’s primarily in charge of the technicalities. His name is David Potter. (You know Harry Potter, right? Same thing, different wand.) A couple of other guys of note as well on the team there: Andrew Tuitahi and Hee Loong Wong.

Together, they have gone through more than 200 different calibration permutations of the dampers, (springs, bushes, whatever), for this car. More than 200 permutations. Can you imagine the complexity of just keeping track of the feedback on all of those different settings and arriving at, ultimately, the best one. It’s so much data. Anyway, they’ve done a great job. What is essentially the case here is, you’ve got three distinctly different characters.

The base model Active is quite relaxed to drive. It’s just does what you tell it to. It’s your typical family car, it does a good job in that context.

When you step up into the i30 SR range, you get a more advanced rear suspension set up and that car has a really lively sort of character. The ride is not excessively harsh but it’s certainly not soft either. This is a hot hatch. It’s not warm, it’s not lukewarm, it’s not tepid… it’s hot. You can get from A to B very quickly if you press on in the SR. 

Then on the comfort side of things with the diesel engine, if you're looking at the Elite or the Premium, that’s kind of relaxed as well but a little bit taut I think than the base model Active set up so you're kind of progressing through those different characters and you can actually pick and choose the one that’s right for you and there’s a substantial difference between them.

Ergonomics

Across the board, i30 is very comfortable. I spent several hours over two days cycling myself through all the different models: the base model, Elite and Premium, plus the SR range. After several hours: no chiropractor required. The other thing, of course, is the ergonomic integration… very good. That central screen is extremely clear. You can split screen it to get sat nav on one side and AV Information on the others. You’ve got good phone integration with the Apple and Android integration systems. So that’s all really good news.

Powertrains

One of the other things is I really like about this range is there are no unknown quantities. The powertrains, we’ve seen them all before. The 2.0-litre GDI petrol engine in Active, it’s already in Tucson; we saw it before in the previous i30 SR (the outgoing one). The 1.6-litre turbo GDI petrol: that’s been around for donkey’s years, in one form or another, as well. So there’s no nasty little surprises in the petrol range, nor is there with the diesel, the 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine has been around for ages.

The dual-clutch transmission (DCT) is not something you need to worry about either. It’s been around for a long time and apparently it is quite robust in service as well.

Comparative fuel economy and emissions data at the Federal Government's Green Vehicle Guide >>

Criticisms

There’s no such thing as the perfect car so before you get that big fat slab of hard earned cash and slap it down on the counter of your local Hyundai dealer, you might want to think about this.

The diesel engine: Since late last year (2016) all diesel engines had to comply with Euro 5 emissions laws in Australia, and that means they have a particle filter (DPF). The particle filter needs to be driven regularly on the highway - and that would mean driving at free-flowing highway speeds at least once a week for more than about half an hour. If you do not do this, the required regeneration of that filter will not occur and you’ll open the door to it clogging up, which is a very expensive problem in the service department.

So, if you can’t use that car like that, if you're one of our increasingly urbanised Australian drivers, the i30 Elite or Premium diesel may not be the right car for you. 

There’s plenty of petrol options though, you get 2.0-litre GDI engine in the Active or the 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine in SR and SR Premium. 

If you have got a young driver in your life and the state that you live in, like here in NSW, has power-to-weight pre-requisites for young drivers with P1 and P2 licences, thankfully, with the SR and SR Premium, the 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine is well within the wheelhouse of that 130kW per tonne limit for P1 and P2 drivers. 

This means if you buy the SR or the SR Premium, it’s not going to be a problem for teaching a young person to drive or letting them borrow your car. (Although, not sure I’d lend my brand new i30 SR or SR Premium to any old P1 or P2 driver. Mainly because I know what I use to do to my parent’s car when they lent it to me...)

Saving Space?

If you buy an i30 Active, Elite or Premium, you will get a full-sized spare wheel and tyre. That’s something we’ve come to expect from the vast majority of new Hyundais that have been launched since the year dot in Australia.

However, if you go down the sports track and you buy an SR or SR Premium, those cars will come with a space-saver spare.

If you live in the bush or if you just drive on freeways regularly, that might be seen as a bit of a disadvantage and I certainly am not a fan of the space-saver spare tyre. The only evidence in mitigation I can give you there is that the construction of the floor above the spare wheel enclosure at the rear, is more than compatible with a full-sized spare wheel and, in fact, the floor can even be slotted in at two different levels.

So you could, hypothetically, use that as a sticking point for negotiation with your local Hyundai dealer.

You could say: ‘Mate, I know a full-size spare goes in there and I know the floor can be adjusted easily to compensate for that, so I will slap my cash down on your counter right now as long as you ante up with a full-size spare tyre.’

Sound like a plan?

Dual Clutch

Many new Hyundai i30 buyers are going to be purchasing a car with a dual clutch transmission DCT) and many of those will be owning a DCT for the first time. It’s easy to assume that you're buying another automatic because, you reach down, you take it out of ‘park’, you put it in ‘drive’. It feels like an automatic and it smells like an automatic, but you better not step in it. 

By ‘step in it’, I mean, if you drive it like an automatic, that would be a mistake. Sometimes a very expensive one. It’s a mistake to inch forward under load in traffic because, unlike an automatic which has a torque converter, a dual clutch transmission relies on a centrifugal clutch mechanism, of sorts, in between the engine and the transmission. That allows disengagement when you're stopped at the lights, the engine doesn’t stall. Always good.

The biggest mistake you can make with a DCT, is to inch forward under load at very low speed. So if you're reversing routinely up a very steep complex driveway, if you’ve got a trailer on the back and you're trying to do that, or even if you're in traffic all the time and you're use to an automatic which will inch forward all day long up hill, don’t do that in the DCT. That clutch will not be receptive to that mode of use and the repair bill for having it replaced is quite high so, you’ve got to understand, to some extent, what’s 'down there' under the hood and adjust your driving style accordingly.

There’s no problem, intrinsically, with this dual clutch transmission but I’d be driving it like a dual clutch and not a standard automatic. 

Wheel Life

My final gripe with i30 is a bit of a minor one. It’s the steering wheel in the Active. I know I’m being a bit of a bitch now, because that car is staggeringly well-equipped and you can’t have everything, right? (Where would you put it?)

It would be nice if they could have just walked out in product-planning land and found themselves a steering wheel that had the cheapest, cheap fake leather, or whatever, and just put that on instead because that would have been the glacé cherry of the icing on the cake of that astonishing equipment list in that variant.

Verdict

After a few brief days driving the different variants if i30, I’ve come away very impressed with the totality of the range and its broad-based appeal. Obviously, it’s not the right car for everybody but it is so right for so many potential buyers in this segment.

So if you had Volkswagen Golf on your shopping list or Mazda3 or Toyota Corolla, some of the most popular cars in the market, I’d be strongly suggesting you drive this car at exactly the same price-point and weigh it up objectively because i30 makes real sense. It’s a killer (of sorts).

CONCLUSION

Remember that dual-clutch transmissions are not as refined at low-speed manoeuvering as conventional auto transmissions. They are, however. Better at spirited, engaging driving. They’re designed to handle stop-start traffic - just be mindful of what gnomey-boy said earlier about inching forward under load. Don’t do that.

Diesel particle filters aren’t that hard to keep healthy, either. Take a drive every weekend for 30 minutes up the freeway. Have coffee with next to the ocean someone you’d like to see naked. (As long as you don’t need to gaffer tape them into the boot to get them there. Good safety tip.) Drive home. That’s all it takes.

Just so you know, I pushed the video report above live about a nanosecond after the media embargo lifted - which means midnight on May 4, 2017 in Australia.

If you watched that report shortly afterwards, remember my standard advice about being an early adopter:

Wait, if you can, about eight to 12 weeks after launch before buying any new car. I really don’t think we have to worry about powertrain teething problems with i30 - the powertrains have been sufficiently in service on other models, so that’s good, but pent-up demand in the market often means supply at dealerships is insufficient to meet that demand.

And that’s bad.

High demand levels mean no - or (at best) greatly reduced - discounting, early on. If you can wait, you’ll almost certainly get a better price.

Finally, I’d like to thank Hyundai for generously cycling me through the range ahead of the official debut, but at the same time I want to assure you no money changed hands, and I’m free to report what I want about the new i30.

Hyundai can like or hate what I say in this report - that’s a matter for them. You’re getting my honest opinion, and that’s what really matters - I just happen to like the new i30, a lot. It makes a lot of sense for many potential owners.

I hope this report helps you decide whether or not the new i30 is the right new car for you.

Make sure you check out Hyundai's i30 resources >> for regular updates and offers too.

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