The 2017 Hyundai i30 SR Premium gives you 150kW of power and a load of standard features that belie its modest $34k price. It begs the question: how much hot hatch do you really need?
You are looking at the flagship of Hyundai's hyped third-generation i30 range. It's called the SR Premium, and it's designed to make prospective Volkswagen Golf GTI buyers pause.
On paper the Korean contender looks the goods. It's quick, has thoroughly reworked suspension and standard features that belie its $33,950 before on-road costs list price.
The argument: It's not quite as fast or potent as the German, but it is about 10 grand cheaper and not a million miles removed. So how much hot hatch do you really need?
Let's break this down. Under the bonnet is the same 1.6-litre GDi turbocharged petrol engine used in the Elantra SR, making 150kW of power and 265Nm of torque, the latter from 1500rpm.
This engine sends its power to the front wheels via a standard DCT seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox with paddles - only the base $25,950 i30 SR with less equipment gets a six-speed manual option.
The bad news is that the i30 SR Premium certainly can't match the Golf GTI's 'EA888' 2.0-litre turbo with 169kW/350Nm, and, in acceleration, it falls a second shy of the Golf's 6.5sec 0-100km/h time.
Listen to the 2017 Hyundai i30 SR from 0-100km/h.
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The engine and DCT's responses aren't quite instant off the mark, nor is the drivetrain as theatrical - grumbling note, pops and crackles on downshift - as the Golf.
The good news is that the 7.5sec 0-100km/h Hyundai's 1.6 engine has a sufficiently strong mid-range (peak torque lingers until 4500rpm) to give you disarming rolling response.
It also out-powers the aforementioned price-point rivals, which until now were led by the 147kW Astra.
Hyundai's global head of performance, ex-BMW M chief Albert Biermann, has also helped take the seven-speed dry clutch DCT from the shocker it once was in the first Veloster SR into a thoroughly well-sorted unit now.
The 'box doesn't elicit any typical dual-clutch gremlins like urban rolling or low-speed jerking and jittering. It also allows rapid-fire double-downshifts and crisp upshifts.
The paddle-shifters allow you to take over and rev out to 6500rpm, though the engine management eventually overrides and upshifts once you linger at redline.
In more sensible driving we about matched the factory claim of 7.5L/100km combined-cycle fuel consumption, and unlike the German it'll run on cheap 91 RON fuel if you're an uncaring tight-arse.
Dynamically the SR Premium (and its regular i30 SR cousin) is more than impressive. The suspension has been thoroughly reworked by Hyundai Australia, and it shows.
Unlike the more humble i30s, the SR range gets a multi-link rear suspension setup that maximises road contact, and makes a tangible difference in disciplining the tail over patchy surfaces and mid-corner hits.
Hyundai has done a borderline masterful job of keeping the ride soft on initial compression around town, while allowing for excellent directional changes and body control.
This isn't all down the reworked bars, fixed dampers, bushes and springs, but also to a fundamentally well-balanced and stiff chassis. Push-on understeer? Fat chance, despite the lack of a tricky front diff.
Go on, throw the i30 SR around and try to flummox it, and then bash over a patchy inner urban road and get it flustered. You won't, and that's an achievement. Only the tyre noise (NVH) suppression is not in the upper-percentile of the class.
Hyundai's electric-motor-assisted steering is sharp from centre and has three settings, including a sporty mode that adds resistance (too much, at times). Yet it never feels communicative and there's some mid-corner kickback dialled in.
Nevertheless it all makes us very eager for the 200kW-plus i30 N due late this year, that'll have a front electromechanical LSD to tame the front tyres, and additional downforce.
The i30 SR's cabin is impressive, starting with the great leather-wrapped wheel, the red belts and cabin flourishes, alloy pedals, and black headlining that sets it apart.
That said, there are some cheap-feeling plastics on the door trims and along the transmission tunnel that feel a grade or two below the Europeans and Mazda.
Ergonomically you have simple gauges with a digital speedo, plenty of steering column and seat adjustment, decent side bolstering, and key buttons and switches that fall to hand.
There's an absolute ton of standard equipment including a 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, sat-nav with live traffic updates and DAB+ digital radio.
There's also a proximity key with push-button start, heated and cooled leather seats with 10-way adjustment up front, full LED headlights, 18-inch alloys (alas with a temporary spare only) and a full-length panoramic sunroof that doesn't obviously affect body rigidity.
Read our detailed Hyundai i30 pricing and spec breakdown to see what differentiates each variant from the other (including the SR and SR Premium, which are $5000 apart).
There's also a range of active safety tech such as Autonomous Emergency Braking, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane assist and radar-guided adaptive cruise control, alongside more conventional safety fare like seven airbags and a rear-view camera.
It's mostly good stuff as well. The sat-nav is clear and logical to use, the rear cross-traffic alert is perfect for forward parkers, the radar cruise works at basically all speeds and the sound system is stronger than its six speakers suggest.
On the down side, the voice control only works when your phone is plugged in, and the lane-assist needs work.
Rear seat space is modest, though there are top-tether child seat - and outboard ISOFIX - anchors, and smaller occupants will love the massive sunroof and the rear vents.
Boot space of 395 litres exceeds many rivals, though the i30 Active, Elite and Premium all get proper full-size 16- or 17-inch alloy spare wheels under the floor, unlike the SR versions.
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.
As we found on the i30's local launch, the SR and the upper-spec SR Premium alike both offer excellent choice for those who don't want and/or need a proper hot hatch, or perhaps can't stretch to $40k-plus.
Perhaps the base i30 SR and its sub-$30k price make it a better bet - option the sunroof for $2000 on this version if you go this way - but there's no doubt the i30 SR Premium blends comfort, nimble handling, decent engine punch and downright cabin luxury in a way that few other cars around this price can.
We're no longer even pleasantly surprised by the Korean brand. We demand excellence, and here Hyundai has delivered. Go look for yourself.
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