The new 2016 Hyundai i30 SR is a facelifted version of the Korean brand's sporty small car variant, with extra standard features.
The second-generation Hyundai i30, which first went on sale in Australia in 2012, was updated in 2015, and the new 2016 i30 SR builds on the Series II version of the popular model, with subtle exterior changes, and interior design and equipment updates.
The well-equipped sports-slanted SR and SR Premium sit above the i30 Active and Active X versions, and below the flagship Premium - the latter three continuing to be available with 1.8-litre petrol and 1.6-litre turbo-diesel engines.
The i30 was the best-selling car in Oz in the first half of 2016, while the brand itself continues to battle Mazda for sales share, behind market leader Toyota. Clearly, then, the i30 is already on plenty of small-car shopping lists and, particularly for those looking for a high level of equipment, a bit more fun and livelier look than the average small car, the new SR serves to help keep it there in the run to the new-gen i30, which is due for an international release in October 2016, ahead of a likely Australian launch in early 2017.
The i30 SR is offered with Hyundai’s direct-injection 2.0-litre non-turbo petrol four-cylinder engine, teamed with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic (rather than the seven-speed dual-clutch offered with the turbo-diesel 1.6). Paddle shifters for the automatic come as the main injection of drivetrain sportiness for the 2016 SR.
Engine outputs are unchanged at 124kW of power at 6500rpm and 201Nm of torque at 4700rpm, and the suspension springs, dampers and anti-roll bars are calibrated locally for a sporty flavour by the Hyundai Motor Company Australia tuning team.
Externally, the biggest departures from the previous SR are a good-looking new set of five, twin-spoke machined-face dark grey 17-inch alloys wrapped in 225/45R17 rubber, and a new SR-exclusive colour, Phoenix Orange.
Sports bucket seats with more pronounced side bolsters locate front occupants more securely than the standard i30 seats during quick cornering, and come trimmed in a combination of black and red leather and synthetic trim with red stitching.
The previous SR silver interior trim highlights have been re-coloured dark grey, and the previously grey headlining is now black. The engine start button (a smart key is standard on SR models) is now ringed in red rather than silver.
The panoramic sunroof continues as standard in the SR Premium, and is offered as a $2000 option in the SR.
Prices rise slightly to $26,550 plus on-road costs (from $25,590) for the i30 SR five-door manual, topping out at $33,550 (from $32,890) for the five-door SR Premium automatic - metallic or mica paint adding $495.
As well as the new-for-2016 extras, the i30 SR offers a comprehensive catalogue of standard equipment including a rear-view camera and rear park-assist system, dual-zone climate control, dusk-sensing headlights, rain-sensing wipers, LED daytime running lights, a 7-inch touchscreen audio system with Google Now voice control and Apple CarPlay integration, Bluetooth connectivity for phone calls and audio streaming, and seven airbags.
To this fare, the SR Premium adds HID xenon headlights, satellite navigation, a powered driver’s seat and heating and ventilation for both front seats, and rear air vents in the centre console, to create a small-car package that wants for little.
From the initial slotting of first gear, easing into the slightly indistinct clutch pickup point, and smooth turn into the first corner, the i30 SR is well-mannered in the suburbs.
The electrically-assisted steering, in either the 'Normal' or 'Comfort' mode of the Flex Steer system, is light and slick, and the direct-injected 2.0-litre engine pulls fifth and sixth gear with little stress and a muted induction note.
From the comfort of the sports seats, the i30 SR delivers a composed and Euro-taut ride and makes refined progress, with only a small amount of tyre and wind noise. The red-stitched sculpted wheel is nice to hold and the manual gear knob chunky, while the grey on black interior theme gives a plainly presented dash an understated dose of sportiness.
The automatic, meanwhile, is smart, with the option of a manual paddle downshift for engine braking.
The 2.0-litre works well on the motorway, cruising quietly and happily at less than 2500rpm at 110km/h.
The local launch included a quasi-track session on a challenging private road, which gave the SR the opportunity to live up to the warm hatch tag – or otherwise.
The four-cylinder, which is quite powerful for a non-turbo 2.0-litre, is tempered by kerb weights nearing 1400kg in hi-spec auto versions, yet pulls decently from mid revs and develops a pleasing, if not especially exciting note, towards its redline. The acceleration alone won’t excite in the i30 SR, but the engine has enough to let you explore the sound chassis tuning.
Pushed nearer to the limit, the i30 steering is vice-free, but remains low on feel. Although the push-button Flex Steer system’s normal mode is perfectly suitable for sporty driving, some might prefer the heftier 'Sport' mode, so it’s nice to have, even if it’s ultimately a set-and-forget feature.
Grip from the Nexen tyres is adequate given the good balance of the strut and torsion beam-suspended chassis, and the modest power level, while the breakaway point is progressive and well telegraphed. The i30 SR is moderately adjustable, tucking its nose in subtly on a lifted throttle or a gently trailed brake, though, not surprisingly, it firmly favours safe understeer to lift-off oversteer.
Two cabin improvements make the SR a better machine on a tight high-g road. The deep front seat bolsters, which hold you firmly in place, and the paddle shifters. While the automatic’s manual gear lever plane is contrary to our preferred forwards-for-downshift orientation, the paddle shifters mean you can grab a lower cog easily, provided you’re low enough in the rev zone.
The cooperative manual lever, of course, adds to the fun and, for what it’s worth, is open to a heel-and-toe downshift via a well calibrated accelerator that’s on the same plane as the brake.
A dedicated hot-hatcher would want more steering communication and handling involvement, and more grunt, more enthusiastically delivered, but as a warm hatch, the 2016 Hyundai i30 SR and SR Premium will likely sustain the popularity of the model on the back of subtle sportiness as they will on enviable standard equipment and a winning ownership experience.