The entry-level Hyundai i30 Active offers a sharp value proposition. This car should finally erase memories of the company's past "cheap and cheerful" image.
The third-generation 2017 Hyundai i30 range has landed in Australia, hoping to build on the success of the hugely popular second iteration of the Korean small hatchback.
For this review, we have the entry-level Active variant fitted with the 2.0-litre petrol engine and a six-speed automatic transmission – which starts at $23,250 before on-costs.
The Marina Blue mica paint finish on our test car adds a further $495, bringing the as-tested ticket price to $23,745 plus on-roads. Key competitors at this price point include the Holden Astra R+ (from $22,740), the Mazda 3 Neo (from $20,490) and the Volkswagen Golf 110TSI (from $23,990).
Despite being the budget-focused model, Hyundai has loaded the Active grade with a host of standard equipment, including an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rear-view camera with dynamic guidelines, rear parking sensors, DAB+ digital radio, 16-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime-running lights, cruise control, automatic halogen headlights, hill-start assist and a tyre pressure monitor.
However, the entry-level i30 doesn't offer active safety systems like autonomous emergency braking (AEB) or blind-spot monitoring even as an option, though the company says it is working to have the equipment available as an option later in the year.
Otherwise, the base Hyundai makes do with seven airbags (including a driver's knee inflator), seat belt reminders for all seats, ABS, stability control, traction control and brake assist. The i30 was awarded a five-star safety rating by crash-testing authority ANCAP, though this was based – rather controversially – on the tests carried out on the related Elantra sedan.
Under the bonnet is the company's 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated 'GDi' petrol engine, developing 120kW of power at 203Nm of torque – 13kW and 28Nm more than the previous model's 1.8-litre mill.
Buyers interested in the Active grade can also opt for a six-speed manual with the 2.0-litre petrol ($20,950), or instead get a 1.6-litre turbo-diesel offering 100kW/280Nm in six-speed manual form ($23,450) or 100kW/300Nm with the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission ($25,950).
In terms of design, the new-generation i30 is quite a move away from the vehicle it replaces, with the company adopting a more classy and European – if somewhat generic – look.
Up front is the company's new 'Cascading Grille', flanked by slim headlights and upright LED daytime-running lights. The black grille of the Active grade isn't as dramatic as the chromed version seen on higher models, though the entry model still looks quite attractive.
The 16-inch polished alloy wheels on the base grade are also much nicer than the standard hubcaps of the model that preceded it, though they can look a little small compared to the 17- and 18-inch units fitted to the Elite/Premium and SR/SR Premium variants respectively.
Out the back, the i30's uncluttered and basic design shows a family resemblance to the larger Tucson SUV, thanks to the slim tail-lights and chunky bumper section.
Inside, the Korean hatch is quite a nice and comfortable place to be. While the black-on-black-on-black colour scheme may be a little dull for some, the cloth-trimmed seats are comfortable and supportive, while the upper dash and the doors feature soft-touch materials – making for a premium-feeling cabin.
However, there are some exceptions to this feeling of quality, namely the harder plastics lower down on the dash and centre console, along with some of the plastics on the steering wheel which appeared to be misaligned in some areas.
The steering wheel does, though, feel nice in the hand despite the plastic rim. Its overall design is quite handsome as well.
Behind the wheel are traditional analogue speedo and tacho dials, with a small TFT information display residing in the centre. The dials are clear and easy to read, helped by the white backlighting, while the central display is also nice and clear, offering smooth animations between menus and a digital speedometer.
Despite the relatively minor niggles, the new i30 features a cabin that is competitive with the likes of the Holden Astra and Mazda 3 in terms of look and feel, though it cannot match the premium ambience of the Volkswagen Golf.
In the rear, the Hyundai isn't as spacious as some of its rivals, with legroom only average for the class. This six-foot-two-ish reviewer had plenty of head room in the second row, though my knees did touch the back of the driver's seat in my driving position.
Rear passengers are catered for with a fold-out centre armrest and bottle holders in the doors, while the large rear windows are good for travel-sickness-prone children. However, the Active misses out on the rear air vents of higher-spec automatic models.
Behind the second row of seating is a healthy 395-litre boot, beating out the Golf (380L) and Astra (360L), but it can't match rivals like the Peugeot 308 (435L).
The luggage area is nice and square, though the high lip can get in the way when storing heavier items. A neat feature is the floor-mounted luggage net, which is great for keeping movement-prone items still over longer journeys.
For those who may use their i30 to cart around a trailer, the automatic petrol i30 Active has a braked towing capacity of 1300kg. The turbo-diesel wears the same rating.
Out on the road, the Hyundai impresses with a comfortable, quiet and refined driving experience.
Despite peak power and torque coming in at 6200rpm and 4700rpm respectively, the naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre petrol provides ample shove down low, getting up to speed at a reasonable speed and without a lot of noise.
However, getting to freeway speeds requires a little more foot, which in turn translates a bit of a thrashy engine note into the cabin. The six-speed automatic is a smooth unit, though, offering intuitive, snappy shifts.
Once at speed, very little road and wind noise enters the cabin of the i30, giving the small hatch a mature and refined feel, also making it a relaxing car to drive over long journeys.
Hyundai's local suspension tuning program continues to pay dividends when it comes to the balance of ride comfort and handling, with the i30 able to soak up the lumps and bumps of Melbourne's urban roads with absolutely no fuss, while also feeling nimble and fun to drive.
Additionally, larger imperfections like potholes and train tracks rarely transmit more than a quiet thud into the cabin, a stark contrast to rivals like the Honda Civic which can be upset by those kinds of obstacles.
The steering is nice and direct without being overly heavy, making the i30 great for both shopping centre car parks and country back roads – but bear in mind this is no sports car, nor is it meant to be.
While Hyundai claims a combined fuel consumption rating of 7.4L/100km for this model, we could only manage around 8.2L/100km in mixed driving conditions. No i30 model offers fuel-saving stop/start technology, a system already employed by rivals such as the Astra, Mazda 3 and Volkswagen Golf – which would likely see a decent difference in fuel consumption in urban driving.
In terms of ownership, the i30 is covered by Hyundai's five year, unlimited kilometre warranty with a lifetime capped-price servicing plan and up to 10 years of roadside assistance.
Scheduled maintenance is required every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. The first five years/75,000km will set you back a total of $1395, with each visit costing $259 bar the 48 month/60,000km interval, which commands $359.
In conclusion, the Hyundai i30 makes a lot of sense in entry-level Active specification. Not only does it look pretty good, it's well-equipped, good to drive, comfortable, and relatively inexpensive to own over the long term.
While rivals like the Mazda 3 and Volkswagen Golf may offer more perceived badge value and more premium levels of quality and refinement, the i30 is definitely a worthy alternative to the safe buy – the Toyota Corolla.
With a five-year warranty, yearly maintenance intervals, and a lifetime servicing program, one can purchase a Hyundai i30 with the added peace of mind that it's not going to cost a bomb to keep on the road once the factory warranty dries up.