HYUNDAI has delivered its best offering in terms of value and performance with the new i30.
Ahead of the company's most active period of new car offerings in its Australian history, the i30 is the most important as brand's the largest seller.
The base i30 Active kicks off at $20,950 (RRP) and the i30 tops out at $33,950 for the Premium and SR Premium. Hyundai claims to have $2000-$5000 of added value, depending on the version. Premium paint costs $495.
All i30s now have an eight-inch tablet-styled infotainment display with digital radio, satnav, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity. The Active is the only one to miss out on a suite of active driving aids and they'll soon be available as a $1500 option. Rear sensors, a reversing camera and cruise are standard.
Compared to the old variants, the Active picks up the 2.0-litre engine that previously powered the SR, while SR models now use a 1.6-litre turbo engine. The Elite and Premium variants use the 1.6-litre turbo diesel found in the old model but Hyundai says it will consider fitting the 2.0-litre engine to those cars if there's enough customer demand.
Local suspension tweaks ensure the cars are well mannered on most surfaces. The SR versions use multi-link rear suspension and the rest rely on a torsion beam - it does well enough, so most people won't know or care what they're suspended on.
When it comes to design, the longer and lower look translates to a much more mature i30. The car has a wagon-esque appearance side-on, similar to the Audi A3 Sportback and the cabin feels contemporary. Hard plastics can still be found but they are generally out of sight and aren't nearly as flimsy as the plastics on some rivals.
When it comes to driving, experience has shown South Korean cars aren't ideally set up for our roads, which is why Hyundai and Kia tune their cars to suit our environment.
The last i30 was a benign thing to drive; this one is as entertaining as anything you can find in the class.
Even models with the basic suspension didn't have an issue traversing some gnarly roads around Albury and only the occasional secondary bounce as the car settled over a big obstacle - like a drop from bridge to road - betrayed any lack of sophistication. Around town no one will tell. Tyres that are fitted to aid efficiency rather than grip will typically give up before the suspension or chassis starts to complain.
The diesel variants are expected to account for only a handful of i30 sales and are the least satisfying of the new i30 crop. The diesel is thrifty, with the lazy torque expected from an oilburner, but it lacks the fun factor that can be had with the petrol-powered cars.
Those who prioritise driving enjoyment should gravitate to the SR. It is quick, composed and capable of being flicked through tight turns without unsettling the car or occupants.
Hyundai head office quotes a 0-100km/h time of 7.8 seconds for the SR and by the seat of the pants it feels as if it could go quicker.
The local outfit also tuned the steering and electronic stability control. Respectively, the results can be felt and not felt.
Feedback through the wheel increases as the steering angle is wound on. The intent is to minimise thumps when driving around town or on a freeway but to engage some feel on winding roads.
The stability control intervenes later than it does on the regular models and, senior product planner Andrew Tuitahi says, it will permit light wheelspin on corner exit.
"The new i30's chassis addresses many of the weaknesses we identified in tuning the previous generation Elantra and i30,” he says.
"The multi-link rear suspension gives us a whole new level of control which helps take our development work on the car a step further.”
The i30 lays the foundation to a busy year ahead.
Get set for a face-lifted Sonata during August, the new Kona compact SUV to be launched in September, and possibly the Ionic soon after before the all-new Veloster and Santa Fe early in 2018.
From October the standalone Genesis luxury arm will launch with the new G70.
Then Christmas will come early, as the 'N' performance brand arrives courtesy of the i30N. Given the chassis and overall performance of the basic i30, this has keen drivers salivating at what's ahead.
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