2015 Hyundai i30 Active X Review

How does the 2015 update to Hyundai's i30 small car stack up - Tim finds out.

The Hyundai i30 Active X is a new variant in the recently updated small car range, and its South Korean maker thinks it’s going to be a big hit with Australian buyers.

Hyundai predicts the second-tier Active X will make up 50 per cent of total i30 sales, believing it’s the sweet spot in the Series II line-up. Given the i30 is the third most-popular small car in the country, this is a big number.

On paper, the i30 Active X – $22,090 with the six-speed manual transmission and $24,390 with the six-speed automatic (both before on-road costs) – makes a strong value case compared with the entry-level Active.

For just $1100 more than the Active, the 2015 Hyundai i30 Active X adds 16-inch alloy wheels (Active gets steel 16s) and electric-folding mirrors on the outside, as well as ‘leather-appointed’ upholstery (includes some real leather and some man-made materials), premium steering wheel and gearknob material, upgraded trim on the door panels and instrument cluster hood, illuminated sun visors, and front console lighting.

More important is its positioning against its key rivals, among which are the two top-selling cars in the country and another that’s been the class benchmark for much of the past decade.

It’s probably no coincidence that the Hyundai i30 Active X auto is priced identically to the equivalent Mazda 3 Maxx. It’s also placed perfectly between the Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport and the Volkswagen Golf 90TSI, which sit $900 above and below respectively.

The Golf is sparsely equipped compared with the other three despite its premium price tag, missing alloys and even a reverse-view camera and rear sensors. The Corolla is specified almost identically to the i30 for its lower price, though misses out on the Hyundai’s leather seats. The Mazda 3 likewise lacks leather, but packs a better infotainment system with satellite navigation, keyless entry with push-button start, steering wheel-mounted paddleshifters, and engine start-stop technology as a compelling counterpunch.

The Mazda 3’s 2.0-litre engine is also larger, more powerful and more fuel efficient than the base 1.8-litre that’s standard in the i30 Active X.

Behind the i30 Series II’s fresh horizontal-slatted grille sits the carryover four-cylinder petrol engine that produces 107kW at 6500rpm and 175Nm at 4700rpm.

The engine gets the 1372kg Active X off the line well and has enough power to keep pace in traffic and feel comfortable climbing hills and overtaking at highway speeds.

It’s not the sweetest-sounding engine (it can get thrashy towards its redline), but it accelerates smoothly and loves to rev.

Hyundai’s excellent in-house-designed six-speed automatic transmission gets the best out of the engine, celebrating its rev-happy nature by hanging onto gears as it accelerates and cleverly dropping back ratios on inclines and declines.

Its 7.3L/100km combined cycle fuel consumption leaves it languishing well behind its rivals, however. Of those mentioned above, the Golf leads the way at 5.4L/100km, while the 3 drinks 5.8L/100km and the Corolla 6.6L/100km. We recorded a figure above 9.0L/100km over a week dominated by city and suburban driving.

The Hyundai i30 Active X also fails to hit the dynamic highs of the Volkswagen and the Mazda.

The Series II’s revised, locally tuned suspension is firmer than before, though it lacks the control of the similarly firm Mazda 3 and the suppleness of comfort benchmarks, the Golf and the Peugeot 308. Around town it feels heavy-footed, falling loudly into holes and thumping over road joins, while it picks up little bumps and inconsistencies in the coarse surfaces that almost exclusively pave the streets of Sydney’s inner west.

It’s more composed over larger, smoother lumps and speed humps, however, though it has a tendency to nod its head over undulations at higher speeds once you leave the city.

The i30’s steering benefits to a greater extent from the Series II retune. It lacks the directness of the Golf and 308, but it’s more engaging than before, and delivers a decent balance of precision and ease-of-use.

Hyundai’s variable-weight FlexSteer system again features, and again the default Normal is the sweet spot, with Comfort feeling unnaturally light and Sport needlessly heavy.

Where the i30 Active X really hits its stride is on the inside. In addition to the leather-appointed upholstery, quality soft-touch materials line the dashboard, front and rear door sills and liners, and armrests.

Silver and black dash plastics are used to good effect to inject colour and contrast into the cabin, and all the buttons and dials feel good in your fingers.

The Active X’s 5.0-inch infotainment touchscreen lacks the size and sophistication of the best examples in the class. It’s a basic unit with blue tones, but is simple to use, incorporates a clear reverse-view camera display, and features Pandora radio app integration for paired smartphones. In a sign of the times, there’s a USB port, but no CD player.

Cabin storage abounds, with big front and rear door pockets, a large glovebox, a deep centre bin, and handy stash spots beneath the centre stack.

The front seats are comfortable and supportive, and the rears are even better, offering long bases, nicely reclined backrests, decent headroom and plenty of legroom. Unfortunately, second-row passengers are forced to make do without air vents and a centre armrest.

Behind the seats is one of the better boots in the compact hatch class. The 378-litre cavity has a wide opening, a low loading lip and an expansive, flat floor, beneath which lies a full-size alloy spare, which is unique among its rivals.

Cargo capacity can be expanded to 1316L by folding the 60:40 split-fold rear seats forward, and the seatbacks lie flat thanks to clever seat bases that can be flipped up and forward.

Hyundai’s five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty betters most rivals, and a year of free roadside assistance can extend to 10 years if services are completed at a Hyundai dealership.

The brand’s lifetime capped-price servicing program also means owners always know the maximum they will pay for any standard service. Over five years or 75,000km, servicing the i30 Active X at current rates costs an average of $269 per year/15,000km, which makes it among the cheapest to maintain in its competitive set.

The Active X might be the new kid on the block, but for us the jury’s out on whether it’s truly the sweet spot of the Hyundai i30 Series II range.

On paper at least, the next-variant-up SR shows plenty of promise, upgrading to a more powerful 2.0-litre engine that uses only slightly more fuel, and adding features such as bigger alloys, auto headlights, LED daytime running lights, keyless entry and push-button start, a larger touchscreen with sat nav, and dual-zone climate control for a $3500 premium.

We’ll scratch that itch when we get the updated SR through the garage in the coming weeks.

Until then, it’s clear the Active X trails the class benchmarks for performance, economy and dynamics, largely matches them for equipment and spaciousness, and sets the pace for cabin comfort and aftersales protection, and it’s well worth a drive if you priorities lie towards the latter end of that spectrum.

Click the Photos tab for more images by Christian Barbeitos.