Ask anyone at Hyundai what the ‘SR’ badge actually stands for on the new Hyundai i30 SR and they’ll struggle to give you a straight answer.
While we were able to ascertain it doesn’t stand for ‘Street Racing’, the fact that the Hyundai now boasts a level of performance over and above the standard i30 range should warm the hearts of boy racers everywhere.
It’s also not the first time the Korean carmaker has used the badge on an i30, although the previous generation SR’s ‘go-fast’ credentials amounted to nothing more than a colour-coded body kit and a fancy set of wheels.
This year’s GD-generation of the SR is an entirely different proposition.
It gains a brand new engine and its own suspension tune - elevating the i30 SR to proper ‘warm hatch’ status.
Under the bonnet, there’s the latest 2.0-litre GDI naturally aspirated four-cylinder unit, lifted from the i40 range.
The result is a modest lift in power and torque to 129kW/ 209Nm (from 110kW/178Nm), though still short of its turbocharged rivals, the Nissan Pulsar SSS (140kW/240Nm) and Holden Cruze SRi-V (132kW/230Nm).
Despite the shortfall, this is a noticeably more willing unit than the standard 1.8-litre petrol.
But without the advantage of a turbo it’s not until about 4300rpm when you’ve got at least 200Nm under your right foot, that the i30 SR really starts to deliver.
Kept on-song, this is a car that rewards spirited driving with a satisfying level of mid-range poke.
That’s not to say it disappoints out of the blocks, as the SR offers a relatively short-shift transmission that allows for quick shifting.
Hyundai claims 7.7 seconds for the 0-100km/h dash for the manual i30 SR (tested) on a full tank of fuel, or 8.6 seconds for the six-speed auto, which disappointingly misses out on paddle shifters.
Our experience was that if brisk acceleration is to be maintained, it’s best to wind up the revs in second before shifting up, given that third is a predictably tall gear ratio.
Sadly, despite the additional engine displacement and subsequent lift in performance there isn’t much in the way of engine note – regardless of where you are in the rev range.
Combined fuel economy for the i30 SR manual is 7.2L/100km, while the automatic’s figure is 7.5L/100km.
Apart from the upgraded engine, Hyundai has thrown considerable resources and expertise at the SR’s suspension tune, which is unique to this model.
In an effort get it right, Hyundai’s engineers employed four test cars, evaluated 43 separate suspension combinations on road and track and 13 front and 23 rear damper builds before settling on what it believes is the ideal setup for Australian conditions.
The upshot is a production model i30 SR that has four per cent stiffer front springs and modified Sachs front and rear damper rates.
While it might not sound like a significant overhaul, the net result is a vastly improved ride and handling over the standard i30 range.
We found the SR a tad less supple over the proving ground-style bumps on our northern NSW hinterland test route, but still able to deliver a thoroughly pleasant ride (for driver and passenger).
It’s equally at home in the tight, twisty bends, with solid composure and good balance even when pushed. There’s also loads of grip at the front end on turn-in, though there’s a tendency for the SR to lighten-up in the rear as a result of mid-corner lift-off.
The i30 SR’s bespoke suspension tune has also paid dividends in the steering department. There’s significantly more feedback through the steering wheel along with greater feel and sharper response rates on the straight-ahead position.
The SR’s electric power steering also loads up nicely in the bends, (at least in the comfort mode) though Hyundai’s adjustable flex steer system dials in too much weight in the Sport setting to feel useful.
Priced from $27,990 (excluding on-roads), the i30 SR slots itself between the top-shelf $30,190 Premium model and the $24,490 mid-spec Elite variant, which the car is based on.
By way of comparison with rival hatches, the SR is considerably less than the $29,690 SSS, but more than the $26,490 SRi-V – though offsets its higher price tag with class-leading specification levels.
Reversing sensors, cruise control, reversing camera electric folding mirrors, seven-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation, auto-sensing headlamps and wipers and Bluetooth phone and music streaming are standard on the Elite.
The i30 SR adds 17-inch machined-face alloy wheels, Xenon headlamps, heated front seats with powered driver’s seat, leather/leatherette upholstery, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, alloy-faced sports pedals, LED rear lamps, a rear diffuser, and a unique SR-grille with a glossy black insert.
The only additional option is a panoramic sunroof for $2000, which is expected to have a high take-up rate based on forward orders from the dealers.
Along with its long list of features, the i30 SR easily outshines its supped-up rivals when it comes to cabin comfort.
Almost all the visible surfaces are soft-touch plastics with a premium look and feel to them, and the general ergonomics are excellent.
Passenger comfort is also impressive, with efficiently bolstered seating, though head and legroom falls short of that offered in the extraordinarily generous Pulsar SSS.
Nevertheless, the i30 SR is an entirely accomplished package; offering a noticeable boost in performance and improved ride and handling in a quality hatch bundle at a reasonable price.