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It's the car that has become ubiquitous on Australian roads. Drive anywhere for more than two or three minutes and you are almost guaranteed to share the road with one. And that's really not surprising, as the Hyundai i30 is topping the new car sales charts so far this year. In fact, more i30s are sold in Oz than anywhere else in the world. We are the Korean carmaker's biggest market.
So far in 2016, the Hyundai i30 has been the top-selling passenger car for March, April, May and June. As the financial year drew to a close, the Hyundai also knocked the Toyota Hi-Lux from its place as the highest selling vehicle year-to-date. The Toyota Corolla and Mazda 3 are the i30's closest competitors and the trio dominates the small car segment.
This success can be largely attributed to a long-running, drive-away pricing campaign that saw the small hatch running off the lot from just $19,990 for the base model Active with free auto and even a bonus $500 worth of accessories at times.
This sub-$20,000 (just) driveaway deal is now over so it will be interesting to see if these strong sales figures hold in the coming months – though the Active is currently priced at $20,990 drive-away with a manual transmission while its Korean cousin, the Kia Cerato, is currently available for $19,990 drive-away with free auto...
Some 22,857 i30s have been sold so far in 2016 and our test car is the most popular in the range – the Active specification with a 1.8-litre four cylinder petrol engine and an automatic transmission. The Active makes up 63 percent of total i30 sales in Australia. Of those, an overwhelming 95 per cent of buyers chose the automatic transmission over the manual, and the vast majority are also petrol powered.
There are three engine options, the Active and next step up Active X get the 1.8-litre four cylinder petrol engine with a choice of either a six-speed manual transmission of a six-speed automatic transmission.
The sporty SR and SR Premium have a 2.0-litre four cylinder petrol engine again with either the manual or automatic transmission, and there is also a 1.6-litre diesel engine available in either Active, Active X or Premium specification with the six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual clutch transmission (DCT).
The list prices range from $20,990 for the Active with a manual transmission and a petrol engine, through to $34,490 for the Premium with the DCT and diesel engine.
For a base model, the Active is impressively kitted out. Since January this year, the i30 Active, as well as the Active X and SR, have had Apple CarPlay and Android Auto included as standard – as well as competitive pricing, the list of features would have to be a massive drawcard for buyers. The little base model hatch doesn't miss out on much.
It's got 16-inch steel wheels, body coloured bumpers, halogen headlights and fog lamps, and a little rear spoiler that gives it a bit of a cutesy yet sporty look. Something many cars in this segment lack.
Inside, it's quite nice for an entry-level specification with nice materials and finishes around the cabin. The top of the dash is finished in soft-touch plastic and the brushed silver finishes on the centre stack and doors are a classy touch that make this cabin seem less low-rent than some of its competitors.
The layout is neat, tidy, clever and functional. For a small car there is a lot of space inside, even when it comes to catering for your phone, wallet, keys and other paraphernalia that make up our daily lives. The storage nook in front of the gearshift is large, and easily accommodates all of these things while the centre console bin is square-shaped and deep, and there's even a sunglasses holder above the rear-vision mirror.
The seats and materials used are considerably nice, black with light contrast stitching and chequered contrast fabric. Overall the driver and front passenger seats are quite comfortable with a bit of bolstering.
The Active has a 7.0-inch touchscreen and earlier this year Apple CarPlay and Android Auto were added as standard to provide access to Apple Maps and Google Maps for navigation purposes, as well as music apps like Pandora and Spotify and voice activated messaging and telephone functionality via Siri. Playing music through the apps will use your data, so if you prefer, there's also Bluetooth connectivity plus USB and AUX outlets.
A rear-view camera is standard, as is rear park assist and even though this is a small car, they come in very handy because rear visibility can be a bit challenging at times. Though the shape of the little i30 is arguably stylish, the rear three-quarter visibility is hampered by the large C-pillars, the slant of the rear windows and the small, narrow and high rear window.
There are mounted controls on the steering wheel, including for phone, volume and cruise control. Interestingly, the steering wheel feels small in hand, but doesn't look small in the cabin... sort of an optical illusion. However, little time was spent pondering that conundrum.
The air-conditioning system is the basic manual set-up, with dials and buttons mounted on the centre stack. No climate control or dual-zone, in fact there are no air-vents in the rear either.
Rear seat passengers are essentially left to fend for themselves, with no USB or 12V points, no cupholders and no centre armrest. Minimalist interior design may work for high-end real estate, but it's the opposite for cars and typically where manufacturers will cut down on included features to keep costs down.
There is however an impressive amount of room in the second row. Generous headroom, even with the sloping roofline, lots of knee room and foot room too. The main bone of contention here is the angle of the outboard seat-back. They feel like they slope inwards a little at the outside shoulder, so you aren't quite facing the front square-on.
Those rear seats fold down though, to expand the impressive cargo volume to a little over 1300 litres. It’s got quite a big boot for a car this size – 378L with a full-size spare under the floor. To compare that to its major competitors, the Toyota Corolla hatch only has 360L while the Mazda 3 is even less generous at 308L.
The loading lip is a good height too and there a deep drop to the floor. There are cargo hooks and a little side storage nook, 12V outlet and shopping bag hooks. Your luggage is considerably more accommodated for than rear-seat passengers which is kind of funny when you think about it...
The 1.8-litre engine under the bonnet of the Active produces 107kW and 175Nm and it has a bit of get up and go. Out on the road the six-speed automatic transmission is intuitive enough and fast enough working up and down through the gears, in fact it's quite smooth when you’re cruising around at city speeds. At higher speeds road noise becomes a bit more intrusive.
The suspension is nice and supple most of the time. It's compliant over some of the dodgier Sydney roads that we spent time on, and if you do get a bit of speed up or give it a bit of stick around a corner, the i30 feels quite composed. It's comfortable and confident on the road, and feels like it's tailor made for trekking around the city though it's certainly not out of its comfort zone on the highway.
Here is where we find our second conundrum, and this one takes a little more pondering time. There are three steering modes – not something you’d generally be looking for in a base model urban runabout. However, comfort is great around town. It's light and especially shows its value when parking. Sport adds some weight but when is it seriously going to be missed? When you're gunning that sporty engine around some windy roads with adaptive sports suspension engaged and paddle shifters... oh wait, that's right... the i30 is not that type of car.
There is also an eco-mode button that was overlooked and lay untouched and neglected for the majority of our time with the car. As a result, our fuel consumption was quite a lot more than expected at first. Combined fuel consumption is a claimed 7.3 litres per 100 kilometres, however with the first few days spent mostly in stop-start traffic around town, we were clocking more than double that.
However, with eco-mode engaged more often, that number rapidly started to decline and was sitting at 11.3L/100k by the end of the loan term. When you take into consideration that the urban claimed consumption is 10.3L/100km, that figure is perfectly acceptable. It's interesting to note that eco-mode didn't have too much of a detrimental effect on the performance of the i30 Active either.
When it comes to ownership costs, the i30 comes with Hyundai’s five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, lifetime capped-price servicing plan and roadside assist.
With an impressive amount of space, above average warranty, touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, reversing camera, cruise control and more, it's no wonder the Hyundai i30 Active has become so popular and omnipresent on Australia's roads.
Click on the photos tab for more images by Christian Barbeitos.