We know the Hyundai i30 is great in entry-level Go trim, and we know it's a riot as a Golf GTI-baiting i30 N. Sitting somewhere between the two, in price at least, is the Premium petrol.
Exclusively available to diesel buyers until a mid-year range refresh, Hyundai now offers the base 2.0-litre petrol engine in Premium trim. Priced from $32,790 before on-roads, it undercuts the oiler by a handy $1800.
Why has the petrol been added? For one, diesel isn't attractive to buyers like it once was. Blame Dieselgate for that one.
The other issue, in Hyundai's case at least, was the fact its South Korean factory wouldn't build the car with the base petrol engine and safety kit required to justify the Premium price/badge. Diesel duly sullied and factory obliging, the Premium petrol is now officially a 'thing'.
Power comes from the same naturally aspirated 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine offered in the wider i30 range making 120kW and 203Nm. The former is available at 6200rpm, the latter when the tachometer needle swings past 4700rpm. Although a six-speed manual and seven-speed dual-clutch transmission are offered elsewhere in the range, the Premium is exclusively available with a six-speed torque converter auto.
Performance is adequate around town, with decent pull from low in the rev range. With no turbo, there's (duh) no big mid-range shove in the back, but the i30 never feels underpowered or sluggish. The six-speed automatic is a solid companion, shuffling unobtrusively away in the background 99 per cent of the time.
It's surprisingly willing to kick down, even in Eco Mode, which helps with overtaking at highway speeds – although it can put you into the post-4700rpm thrash zone if you're not careful. Refinement is a strong suit at low revs, but things quickly become noisy as the tachometer needle swings toward redline.
Then again, this isn't a performance model; the i30 SR and i30 N exist to serve that purpose, so it'd be rude to hold it against the Premium.
Hyundai claims 7.4L/100km for the Premium on the combined cycle, while we got 9.2L/100km in a week heavily skewed to driving in traffic. We've seen 8.2L/100km from an i30 Active petrol in mixed driving conditions, which is a more realistic figure for the average driver. My week was a nightmare, the likes of which I've rarely endured in my commuting life. One like = one prayer.
If you are doing lots of highway miles, there's also a Premium with a 1.6-litre diesel engine. Hyundai claims it'll do 4.7L/100km on the combined cycle, and we've seen 5.6L/100km on test. It's more expensive than the petrol, though, at $35,490 before on-road costs.
As with the wider range, there's a bit there for keener drivers in the Premium, despite lacking the independent rear suspension from the SR. The steering is nicely weighted – striking a balance between the feeling of substance required on the highway, and the single-finger twirl-ability your grandma demands for parking – while the suspension does a good job of filtering out the minor imperfections common in the city.
It errs on the firmer side of comfortable, but in a good way, holding its composure nicely if you hit bumps mid-corner. The only real knock is the sound it makes: expansion joints elicit a noticeable 'thwack' in the cabin, while potholes or larger bumps are met with a dull thud.
This isn't intended as a performance car, which is why Hyundai has gone all-out on the standard convenience kit to justify the Premium's price. If you can option it on a lower-grade i30, it's fitted standard here. That means you get heated and ventilated leather seats (electrically adjustable on the driver's side) along with a panoramic glass sunroof, dual-zone climate control, rear air vents and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror.
All that fruit makes for an i30 that definitely feels Premium, although it doesn't necessarily look all that high-end. All the materials are quality, from the leather-wrapped steering wheel to the aforementioned seats, but the dash design is identical to that of the Go, Active and Elite sitting lower in the range.
Even with the panoramic sunroof open it's quite a dark place to sit, with a black-on-black dashboard and black-meets-grey door trim. All it'd take is a strip of (faux) aluminium across the dashboard – and maybe some on the centre console – to brighten things up and create a more 'premium' ambience to take on the Volkswagen Golf and, at its $30K pricepoint, the Peugeot 308.
At least the infotainment is top-notch. Although it's got Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the base Hyundai software is excellent, with well-placed shortcut buttons supporting an 8.0-inch touchscreen display with DAB, Bluetooth and inbuilt navigation. As with all Kia and Hyundai products, the obnoxious automatic speed camera alerts are a pain but can be turned off.
The ergonomics are excellent, too, with all the major buttons falling easily to hand. Oh, and the seats are all-day comfortable, even for tall drivers. Hyundai really does get the basics right with the i30, making it an excellent place to spend time – something we learned with our SR long-termer.
Rear leg room is par for the class and foot room is excellent, but head room is somewhat impeded by that panoramic sunroof if you're carrying tall teenagers. There's 395L of space in the boot (which trails the class-leading Honda Civic by 19L) and a full-size spare tyre under the floor – handy for drivers who regularly take on longer trips.
You'll fit 1301L with the second row folded, although there's quite a significant lip between the boot floor and seat backs, which could prove prohibitive in some cases.
You also get absolutely everything in the Hyundai active safety suite, with autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control with stop/go, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert, forward-collision warning, parking sensors, a rear-view camera and tyre-pressure monitoring. Phew, that's a mouthful.
The standard equipment list is a bit shorter on the outside. Chrome highlights on the grille and around the windows, 17-inch alloy wheels and LED tail-lights from the SR are the only real changes of substance. There's not even a Premium badge – not that the target buyer is likely to care. I'd personally like a bit more sparkle for my money, but I roll the cuffs up on my jeans, so take that style preference with a grain of salt.
They're more likely to be worried about running costs. Having paid $32,790 before on-roads to buy the car, you'll pay $259 for the first three services ($777) – significantly cheaper than the Subaru Impreza ($1301.09) and Volkswagen Golf ($1258). The new Corolla whacks even the i30 when it comes to maintenance, though, asking for just $525 over the first three years.
Although it wouldn't be my pick of the range, the i30 Premium hits the mark if you're after a fully loaded, comfortable hatchback to tootle about town. It's practical, reasonable to run and has a five-year warranty, which is a handy boost over the three years of coverage offered by Subaru, Toyota and Volkswagen.
Its only problem is the SR Premium. It's just $1790 more expensive and brings a 1.6-litre turbo engine, seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and a multi-link rear suspension to the table. Owners after a bit of sparkle should consider it, given the small cost impost brings a more resolved, performance-oriented drive.
If you're not worried about getting from A-to-B in a hurry, the Premium will do just fine.