2014 Hyundai i30 SR Review

$19,700 $23,430 Dealer
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In a segment where competition is rife, car companies like Hyundai are continuously forced to innovate and excel. Does the i30 still have what it takes to compete?

In a segment where competition is rife, car companies such as Hyundai are continuously forced to innovate to excel. When the i30 burst on to the scene in 2007, it was an immediate hit. It ticked all the right boxes for buyers and came with an impressive five-year warranty.

Fast-forward seven years and the second iteration of the Hyundai i30 continues to sell very well, placing in the top five small cars each month. Since then, and in a bid to further diversify the i30 range, Hyundai launched the performance-oriented i30 SR in mid-2013. We reviewed it then, but figured we'd dust it off and give it another crack with a different driver behind the wheel.

The SR's 2.0-litre four-cylinder GDi engine produces 129kW of power and 209Nm of torque and is available with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Those numbers mean the SR has 20 per cent more power and 19 per cent more torque than the 1.8-litre engine fitted to the rest of the petrol i30 range.

The SR comes packed with features, is priced from $27,990 plus on-road costs and sits just below the i30 Premium in the model range. It has part-leather seats, satellite navigation, HID headlights, dual-zone climate control and a proximity-sensing key with push-button start.

Inside the cabin there’s no doubting the i30 is among the better examples in the class. All surfaces feel soft to the touch and don’t have the nasty feel of small cars from yesteryear.

The rear seats are big enough to comfortably fit two adults abreast, or three at a squeeze. Legroom is good, as is headroom and seat comfort. Three ISOFIX points come standard, allowing for up to three baby seats along the rear bench. The only snag you may have with baby seats is the shallow opening angle of the rear doors.

The driving position is good with exceptional vision out of the front and rear. Parking is made easy with a combination of parking sensors and a high-resolution reverse-view camera. The electric steering helps make parking a breeze, but it would be nice to see an automatic parking feature such as the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus.

While the i30 SR doesn’t pack the turbocharged punch of its performance competitors - the Holden Cruze SRi and Nissan Pulsar SSS come to mind - it’s a noticeable step up from the 1.8-litre i30. The performance advantage can be felt across the rev band, giving the i30 revitalised feel and added zip through traffic.

Both six-speed gearboxes make the most of Hyundai’s 2.0-litre engine, but the six-speed automatic is the most civilised to live with. Featuring slick, intuitive shifts and a manual gear selection option, the six-speed automatic only lacks steering wheel paddle shifters that would improve the package.

The i30 range comes with the aforementioned electric steering with a switchable Flex Steer system. This variable steering speed setting allows the driver to switch the nature of the car's steering on the fly. Comfort, Normal and Sport modes offer differing levels of resistance and can be changed by a button located on the steering wheel. The Comfort mode offers the least resistance, but is devoid of steering feel. Normal mode is a decent middle ground between steering feel and resistance, with Sport mode offering the highest level of artificial resistance.

While sister brand Kia was first to the game, Hyundai now also tests models locally to engineer bespoke suspension and damper configurations prior to launch. Hyundai’s dedication to local engineering was born out of a desire to ensure vehicles engineered abroad were properly suited to some of our substandard roads.

The i30 is no exception and that can be felt while behind the wheel. The suspension response errs on the side of soft, but remains taut during cornering and faster driving. The SR uses a unique suspension tune with re-valved dampers and bespoke front springs.

My parents purchased a Hyundai i30 Premium around two years ago and have travelled almost 40,000km since. I jumped behind the wheel of their car to see how an aged i30 would feel with some genuine kilometres under its belt.

In terms of the mechanical performance, they have had no issues with reliability, fuel consumption or the drivetrain. The steering still feels communicative, as do the brakes and chassis. Acceleration is still perky and it feels as nimble as the last i30 I drove.

Since purchasing the car, they have only had two notable issues. The first issue was the leather wrap on the steering wheel cracking and showing excessive signs of wear, while the second issue was the satellite navigation constantly freezing. The dealer fixed both problems under warranty promptly and easily.

In performance and economy terms, the new Mazda3 now rivals the i30 SR in standard form, let alone in SP25 trim, which offers 7 per cent more power and 16 percent more torque for $1990 less.

But despite stiff competition from Volkswagen and Mazda, the Hyundai i30 SR remains a competitive choice in this segment, and the extra pep of the SR makes it more engaging than its siblings to boot.