Model tested: i30cw SX CRDi with five-speed manual transmission - $23,390
To understand how and why the i30 is such an outstanding drive, you have to understand just how far Hyundaui have come in the past few years, and where they're at now. Just five minutes at the Hyundai stand, at the world’s largest motor show in Frankfurt, Germany this year, was enough for me to realise that this is the next automotive super brand, and they’re growing stronger by the week.
On show, was the superb looking ix35 compact SUV, which is the replacement for their successful, but hardly inspiring, Tucson.
Mark my words; this thing will sell like hot cakes, with its ultra modern styling, six-speed automatic gearbox and a sprint time of 0-100km/h in just 7.8 seconds, as well as loads of electronic goodies.
Next to the ix35 was the luxury seven-seat SUV, the ix55, which looked to be of Lexus quality, with proper suede seats and plenty of gadgetry.
Although listed as a concept, the cool looking i10 Electric, a zero emissions urban commuter vehicle, will go into limited production in 2010 in the Korean market. This concept is sure to be a winner in the world’s most congested cities.
Using advanced LiPoly (Lithium Ion Polymer) battery power, the i10 Electric can recharge in five hours using standard 220V household current, or if using an industrial 413V current, will charge to 85-percent capacity in just 15 minutes.
Moreover driving range will be around 160km and top speed using the High Efficiency Electric Motor, is 130/km/h.
And what about Hyundai’s Blue-Will, a plug-in Hybrid, powered by an 113kW direct injection petrol engine, coupled with a 100kW electric motor.
Fuel consumption is said to be an astonishing 2.2L/100km (106 mpg) on the Plug-in HEV Mode) providing a range of 1050km.
If that wasn’t enough, there were some futuristic concepts by Hyundai designers from around the world, such as the Formula Electric – a fully electric Formula One car that could be built today from a ready available chassis used by TESLA, combined with a carbon fibre body. Total weight of the vehicle is 650 kilograms and with plenty of downforce, this racecar can be an effective track weapon.
The car and motorcycle hybrid called the Lane Splitting was another of these futuristic designs and is unique in its ability to travel on a freeway as a comfortably wide passenger car, but when the driver enters the city, the car shrinks to the width of a motorcycle.
To say Hyundai Motor is on a fast track to the top of the automotive world is no blue sky statement, and just like the iPod has been key to the recent fortunes of Apple, so to will the i30 and the other ‘i’ cars for Hyundai.
In 2008, Hyundai sold close to 2.8 million cars, which was up seven percent from 2007, and many of those were i30’s.
There are five overseas plants in the United States, China, India, Turkey and the Czech Republic, with other plants approved in Russia and Brazil, as production grows.
Australia is another growth market for this fast moving Korean car company, with sales for September hitting 5,484 vehicles and another record for the brand.
In fact, in a market that decreased by 13.1 percent in that same month, Hyundai was the only top ten brand to post a sales increase, after nine consecutive months of year-on-year growth.
It’s a remarkable effort for sure, but less remarkable to anyone who owns an i30, or has at least driven the car.
If you don’t see at least ten of these cars on the road each day, then you must surely have your eyes shut; they are literally multiplying day-by-day.
The reason for this success is simple enough; the i30 is a high quality build, with class leading levels of standard kit, and is a joy to drive.
The i30cw CRDi - the 'cw' stands for ‘crossover wagon’ and CRDi denotes ‘Common Rail Diesel injection’ is the latest addition to the i30 family, and is my current daily drive as part of CarAdvices’ long-term test fleet.
It’s pretty much the same specifications as its five-door hatch sibling, just more of a good thing, is one way to describe the wagon version.
If anything, the rear styling looks more European than the hatch, with its top-to-bottom taillight assembly, raked rear window, and various chrome-look highlights rounding out the quality finish.
Believe it or not, this is actually the base model i30 CRDi wagon, with a five-speed manual transmission, but inside, you would never guess it.
The seats may not be leather, but as we found out on our recent ‘real world’ fuel consumption run from Sydney to Brisbane, these standard kit fabric seats are comfortable, back friendly, and surprisingly supportive with excellent side bolster.
They’re also easy to clean as I found out when a can of Red Bull toppled over, while taking a sharp corner near Terranora, in NSW. A wet rag was all that was required to remove the sticky residue.
There’s full iPod integration with the audio head unit, which means, I can shuffle through my 960 songs, with a touch of a button. Only problem is, at least on this base model, there isn’t any steering wheel mounted audio buttons, which is a bit of pain.
But even through my budget priced iPod nano, the audio clarity and depth of sound through the bog standard 4 speaker audio system, is considerably better than I expected.
There’s also separate USB and auxiliary ports, but if you want to control your iPod through the head unit, then you will need to purchase the optional ‘Direct Connect’ lead for $75, which is worth every dollar.
After driving the car for several weeks, I have only just discovered that the i30 wagon has electrically folding side mirrors – and they’re heated too. That’s another practical gadget you won’t find on base model cars these days.
Unlike some makes, the switchgear in the i30 range is not only uncluttered and simple to use, but it's also well positioned and within easy reach of the driver.
While I have no problems loading both a mountain bike and six-foot, six-inch surfboard into the i30 hatch, it's just easier and less fiddly in the slightly longer and taller wagon.
Inside, there’s more head and legroom, and the load space grows by another 12 percent on top of its hatch sister, when the rear seats are folded.
But despite the extra dimensions, the i30cw never feels like a wagon to drive and parallel parking on a tight street, seems no more difficult than with the hatch.
Another thing you’re unlikely to find on economy-spec cars, is soft touch material on the dashboard and top half of the door trim.
There’s also a tonne of storage space inside, from the wide door pockets with bottle holders in all four doors to more trinket spaces than you are ever likely to need.
Not only that, there's also a glove box cooling system to keep drinks or other groceries chilled and again, this is the base model diesel.
Look under the rear cargo floor, and you’ll find a full size spare wheel and tyre, and even more storage space for those wet cosies and sandy beach towels.
But as well specified as this car is, the i30cw CRDi like any other i30 diesel rewards with so much more, when it comes to daily driveability.
The 1.6-litre Common Rail Diesel engine is a gem, and quite possibly, best in class. There is loads or torque available from very early in the rev range, which is the reason this thing climbs hills like there was no tomorrow.
Not only that, there is little if any turbo lag due to its advanced Variable Geometry Turbo (VGT) which spools up with the slightest punch of the throttle.
It’s not a noisy engine either. There’s some diesel clatter at idle, but that dissipates to a rather sporty note, the moment you nudge 2000 rpm. There is so much mid range torque in third gear, that the rest of the traffic will be a long way behind you.
The five-speed manual gearbox allows for easy shifts although, slightly notchy when engaging first and second gear ratios.
The glaring omission is the absence of a sixth gear, especially for those all important highway kilometres. You can feel the need for an overdrive gear, even at 110km/h, which would only serve to better the car’s already outstanding fuel economy.
You might recall our recent economy run in this car, from Sydney to Brisbane, and back to Tweed Heads (1012 kms) on less than 53 litres of diesel, in real world driving conditions.
Even with the stock standard 15-inch steel wheels, shod with skinny 195/65 R series tyres, the i30 wagon handles commendably, with limited body roll at speed.
The suspension set up is well sorted too for the typically poor Australian road surface. You can roll over some decent size potholes and shabby road surfaces, and not once will the chassis send any jarring through the body.
Its the same with the steering, plenty of feel from dead-centre and more sporty than causal, from the Electro-hydraulic rack and pinion system.
The steering wheel is also both tilt and reach adjustable, which means you should have no difficulty in finding the perfect driving position.
I’ve got a wife, two girls, and a Sydney Silky, so it’s comforting to know there is the full compliment of airbags aboard this particular i30 wagon, including front and rear passenger curtain SRS airbags. However, that does mean you will need to purchase the 'Protectz pack' ($700), otherwise on the base model, you get only driver and passenger front airbags. Again, an option worth having.
That said the all-important Electronic Stability Control (ESP), Traction Control System (TCS) and Anti-skid Brake System (ABS) with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) is standard fitment across the entire i30 range.
Hyundai haven’t just built a great small car in the i30cw, but they have also paid close attention to the smaller detail, which separates the i30 family from any other car in the class.
Note: Buy any colour but this colour, shine red, as it looks so much better in Steel Grey, Continental Silver, Vivid Blue or even Crystal White looks a treat.
Hyundai i30cw SX CRDi Specifications
*Pricing is a guide as recommended to us by the manufacturer.