The Hyundai i30 Elite has a point of difference in the form of a standard diesel engine. It's the comfortable and frugal Jekyll to the identically-priced i30 SR's performance-focused Hyde.
Hyundai Australia's product planning team has boldly responded to the sales decline of diesel-engined small cars by jumping in with both feet as rivals run for the hills.
Three out of five specification variants within the brand new 2017 Hyundai i30 range come with diesel power either as standard, or at least as an option.
This comes at a time when the Ford Focus, Holden Astra, Honda Civic, Mazda 3 and Renault Megane no longer come here with diesel at all, and where even the Volkswagen Golf diesel is limited to rare high-spec derivatives.
You're looking here at the Hyundai i30 Elite, which sits smack-bang in the middle of the new range priced at $28,950 plus on-road costs with a standard automatic transmission.
This makes it $3000 more than the equivalent diesel-auto i30 Active and $5000 less than the diesel-auto i30 Premium, and equal to the 150kW turbo-petrol-auto i30 SR hot hatch. Jekyll, meet Hyde.
The launch of this new-generation 'PD' i30 is a significant event, given its predecessor was often Australia’s top-selling car. Even at the end of its life the old i30 still sat in the top five.
Under the bonnet of the Elite driven here is a 1.6-litre turbo-diesel engine making 100kW of power and a muscular 300Nm of torque between 1750 and 2500rpm.
It's matched to a seven-speed dry dual clutch automatic transmission (DCT). The drivetrain promises frugal fuel consumption of 4.7L/100km – more than 50 per cent better than the base petrol model.
Typical of a modern diesel, it's a pretty refined unit. It sends some minor vibrations through the wheel but is muted in terms of noise and muscular in terms of response.
You'll feel a surging sensation from about 2000rpm onwards as you ride the torque wave, and will sit at 110km/h at a very relaxing 1800rpm.
Long distance driving is where diesel engines make the most sense. If you're doing mostly quick urban trips go the i30 SR petrol, but our 4.8L/100km return on a cruise down the highway to Geelong was telling (the combined-cycle figure we got was 5.6L/100km).
The behaviour of the DCT is pretty good around town, helped in large part by the Auto Hold function that stops the car creeping and allows you to lay off the brakes in gridlock.
There's minimal lag on initial throttle application and the gear changes are slick. However if you park on a slope you'll get a moment of roll-forward or roll-back – more than in the SR petrol DCT, oddly.
Hyundai has done a good job of keeping extra weight off the nose, a common problem in diesels that can affect dynamic prowess. The 1445kg kerb weight is only 38kg more than the SR petrol's.
Stylistically the new i30 isn’t as adventurous as its predecessor, trading in the aggressive curves for a more rounded and mature look. It’s handsome, though, and the new grille makes the right first impression.
Dimensionally, it’s about bang-on with the Corolla, at 4340mm long on a 2650m wheelbase.
As with the rest of the i30 range we're pretty impressed with the i30's Australian-market suspension tune. The springs, dampers, bushes and bars have been fettled in a way that balances bump absorption and body control/handling well.
This means the ride over choppy roads is generally comfortable despite erring towards firmness, while the balance and body control point to a well-sorted chassis.
All told, the Australian team assessed data from 168 test-drive data runs involving 208 different damper specifications, front and rear. Also tested and assessed were seven different anti-roll bar combinations together with 13 spring set combinations.
Less great is the noise, vibration and harshness suppression over coarse chip roads, and the slightly resistant electric steering that feels a little heavy from centre. It's fine, just not great like the rest of dynamic package.
One particularly impressive feature of the i30 Elite is the suite of advanced active safety aids fitted as standard, comprising Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), blind-spot monitoring, forward collision morning, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assist and radar-guided active cruise control.
This tech future-proofs the new i30, and establishes leadership. It's largely highly effective too, with the exception of the opt-out lane aid that only successfully reads painted road lines about half the time.
On a side note, this safety suite is the main reason why the Elite spec is not yet available with the Active's 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol with 120kW/203Nm, despite this engine fitting Australia's demographics way better.
HMC simply hasn't developed these features on this engine. Expect that to change within a year. The equally-priced 150kW 1.6 turbo-petrol i30 SR gets the tech though, don't forget.
The interior of all i30s in this new generation is exceptionally well sorted. While the SR takes a sporty approach with its red highlights and alloy pedals, the Elite is focused on comfort and affordable luxury.
To this end you get leather-appointed seats (tested here in the optional cream colour that costs $295), lashings of soft-touch contact points and notably better trims than the base Active. There are some cheap bits, but remember, this is still a sub-$30k car.
The 8.0-inch touchscreen is mounted atop the dash and looks great, while the standard software suite of sat-nav with SUNA live traffic updates, DAB+ radio, Bluetooth/USB and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto is first rate.
Other standard fare includes seven airbags, rear-view camera, rain-sensing wipers, proximity key and push-button start, climate control and daytime running lights. The i30 Premium adds LED headlights, a sunroof, heated/cooled seats, LED cabin lighting and front sensors for $5000 more.
Rear seat space is moderate for the class compared to a Civic or Impreza, but it's bang on with a Corolla. Cargo space is 395 litres, and there's a full-size 17-inch alloy spare wheel under the floor. Big tick, furthering its regional appeal.
Cost of ownership is always a Hyundai strength, and the i30 brings the familiar five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, roadside assist plan and lifetime advertised servicing prices to the table – the latter with good 12 months/15,000km intervals at $299 per visit for the first three years. That's very good for a diesel.
All told the i30 Elite offer a strong level of spec and an excellent driving experience for the price. Given it's the same as an i30 SR with DCT, you're able to choose whether you want the sporty turbo-petrol or the luxo high-miler-friendly diesel.
The lack of a petrol i30 Elite for now will stop this variant being a strong seller, but we'd recommend it to buyers that do long distances, particularly those in the country.