The new-generation, 2017 Hyundai i30 SR and SR Premium have an extra performance shot to stand apart from the base petrol Active and more frugal diesel Elite and Premium derivatives, which we've reviewed separately here.
So does the i30 SR, which in fact undercuts each of these rivals with its entry point of $25,950 before on-road costs, a $5000 premium over the Active in return for a load more stuff.
It also out-powers its Japan- and Euro-developed rivals with a 150kW turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol-fired punch, taking it into the type of territory offered by a Golf GTI from two generations ago.
Launched this week alongside the rest of the third-generation ‘PD’ i30 range, the SR pair are now nudging into proper hot hatch territory, though they still leave headroom for the Nurburgring-tuned 200kW-plus i30 N, due here in November.
Under the bonnet of the i30 SR is the same 1.6-litre GDi turbocharged engine used in the Elantra SR, making 150kW of power and 265Nm of torque, the latter from 1500rpm.
The engine sends power to the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox or a $3000 pricier seven-speed dual-clutch automatic (DCT) with wheel-mounted paddle-shifters.
Unlike the base car, the i30 SR models also get independent rear suspension to better match the multi-link front setup, with its own specific Australian-market suspension tune co-created by former World Rally engineer and current gun-for-hire, David Potter.
Over the past few years HMC's local tuning arm based in Sydney has come on in leaps and bounds, and this iteration of the SR is probably its finest work to date.
For scale, the team did 168 data runs of the i30 range in Australia, using 208 damper specifications front and rear, seven anti-roll bar combinations, and 13 spring sets — some of which we joined them for a few months back and filmed.
Dynamically speaking, the new SR is not only noticeably more rounded than more prosaic MY17 i30 Active, Elite and Premium models, but also the previous-generation i30 SR with its modest normally aspirated 124kW/201Nm 2.0-litre engine.
The evolution of the i30 SR over three generations is actually interesting to those of us who’ve watched the brand for some time.
The first from 2007 brought a body kit and some other sporty cosmetic bits, while the second from 2013 brought then-new levels of localised suspension tune and a different engine. But this time around the SR is world class.
Hyundai Australia’s starting point is the new i30’s chassis shared with the Elantra. It’s more rigid than before but lighter thanks to greater concentrations of high-grade steel (made in-house), and extra adhesives.
The multi-link rear suspension is the same as that used in the Elantra SR, and while there have been many good sporty cars using torsion beams in the past, it’s clearly high time Hyundai came to the table on this one.
It’s pleasing after spending time with the car during its development phase to see the job done.
The SR’s ride proved comfortable over sharp hits, the body rising with undulations but settling quickly to retain body control and agility on turn-in, or during aggressive directional changes. The dampers are fixed, though the i30N will get adjustable and adaptive ones.
It’s still more engaging than most, quite nimble and light on its feet, without ever feeling unstable. You can carry serious cornering speed without fazing the ESC or getting squeal from the Hankook Ventus Primes, and the chassis balance is such that running too hot into a corner won’t bring you much understeer.
The electric-assisted steering is best in regular mode, with a little too much resistance for this reporter’s taste just off-centre in sports setting. There’s some very mild kickback over mid-corner hits, though interestingly HMCA says it actually honed this as a tactic.
The engine has improved a lot since it first appeared in the Veloster SR, with a new turbocharger, and more, present. There’s plenty of pulling power from down low, and a strong mid-range that gives good rolling response.
You’ll go sub-7.5sec to 100km/h, though the rather uninspiring note through the twin pipes doesn’t convey much drama. The manual 'box has a very light throw and clutch take-up, while the DCT is miles better than the earlier iteration in that Veloster SR.
Hoons note: the DCT has an electric park brake, while the manual 'box versions have a real hand brake.
With paddles in use and manual mode engaged, it’ll hold the ratio you’ve selected out to redline obediently, while left to its own devices it proved rapid and decisive. We need more urban wheel-time, but basic tests such as heavy throttle application from standstill, and reverse-to-drive on a slope, didn’t elicit much jerking.
After a good 200km bash around Mt Glorious near Wodonga, the car's uprated 305mm x 284mm diameter brakes neither faded or faltered in any noticeable way, though they were cooking.
The PD i30's cabin is also a marked improvement, with the SR versions adding metallic red highlights, alloy pedals and other go-fast-look bits.
The new floating 8.0-inch display looks the part, and comes with a much better satellite navigation system with SUNA live updates. There's also Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.
Standard equipment on the SR ($25,950 manual, $28,950 DCT) includes dusk-sensing headlights, LED daytime-running lights, rear-view camera and sensors, 18-inch alloys, LED tail lights, leather seats with red stitching and piping, dual-zone climate control, push-button start, an Android-compatible wireless charging pad, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
DCT auto versions of the base SR also add AEB, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping aid, which help explains this version's higher-than-average $3000 premium over the manual.
The SR Premium is DCT-only, and costs a further $5000 (at $33,950). It adds LED headlights, a panoramic glass sunroof, heated and cooled front seats, chrome body bits, one-touch windows and a power outlet in the luggage area. We wouldn't bother, frankly – just option the sunroof on the base SR for $2000.
Ergonomically you have the small and well-designed wheel trimmed in leather, simple gauges with a digital speedo, plenty of steering column and set adjustment, decent side bolstering and key button and switches that fall to hand.
On the down side there are still some hard plastics scattered about, though the quality of build seemed uniformly excellent. It's all fine on the $26k base SR, though on the $34k before on-roads SR Premium not so much, at least once the gloss has worn off.
Rear seat space is on the tight side for the class, though both versions get rear vents and ISOFIX. The 395-litre boot with netting is also more than adequate, though unlike the Active, Elite and Premium there's no full-size spare wheel under the floor, only a space-saver.
From an ownership perspective, there's a five-year and unlimited kilometre warranty, free roadside assist for 12 months at least, 10 years of sat-nav upgrades and advertised servicing prices for life. The service intervals are 12 months or 10,000km (the base petrol and diesel are 15k), with the first three currently pegged at $269 a pop.
It goes without saying we're impressed with the new i30 SR after our first full day of driving on local roads. The drivetrain offers plenty, the value proposition at entry level is particularly good, and most importantly the ride and handling balance is difficult to fault.
For those who can't stretch to a real hot hatch such as the Golf GTI or Focus ST – or perhaps just don't want something too honed for a daily driver – it offers a genuinely enticing proposition. Much more so than before.
Listen to the CarAdvice team discuss the 2017 Hyundai i30 below, and catch more like this at caradvice.com/podcast.
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