There’s more to the strategy behind the 2021 Hyundai i30 sedan than simply a name change from the outgoing Elantra.
It needs to be remembered, too, that the Elantra was a solid car in a segment that has waned a little of late, but shows signs of gaining momentum over the next few years.
The small-car class might not go back to where it once was in this country, but the product offering – across all major brands, it has to be said – is better than it’s ever been.
In 2015, the small passenger car segment was ranked number one in Australia. Now, it’s ranked three, trailing, yep, you guessed it, dual-cabs and SUVs. Sedans currently make up around 23 per cent of the small-car segment, so they sit well behind hatchbacks still.
However, according to Hyundai, customers who do buy a small car in 2020 expect more safety and technology, and as such, the price those customers are willing to (or expecting to) pay has also crept up.
Hyundai told us at launch that 53 per cent of sales in the small segment right now sit between $24,000 and $34,000, which is a big jump from the old ‘$19,990 drive-away’ days. There is definitely an upward trend in consumer preferences, that’s for sure.
Back to that strategy, though – the number one in the segment is the evergreen Toyota Corolla, a car that we have categorically tested to be better than ever, especially the hybrid version. Unlike Hyundai, though, the Corolla hatch and sedan are counted in the sales charts as one vehicle.
Hyundai had to go into battle with the i30 and Elantra capturing separate sales data. Not anymore, though, and if you reckon this isn’t a direct shot at trying to get that number-one title from Toyota, you might also think there are fairies at the bottom of the garden. Simplifying the marketing message comes into the bargain.
Australia will be the only significant RHD market for the i30 sedan, which according to the brand "reflects its commitment to Australia, and is a car that completes the Hyundai small vehicle range".
There’s no doubt the sedan cuts a sharp figure at standstill, so let’s find out if it feels as impressive as it looks behind the wheel.
Our pricing and specification guide details all the important data, so take a look at that if you want to know more. Pricing starts from $24,790 for the Active manual, while the Elite automatic starts from $30,790, both before on-road costs.
We haven’t yet tested the N Line, which also comes in Premium guise, starting from $30,290 and $37,290 respectively.
The Active and Elite grades we’re testing here are powered by a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder, with a six-speed manual available for the Active.
We tested only the six-speed automatic at launch, though. The 2.0-litre is smooth and seemingly pretty effortless generating 117kW and 191Nm.
The ADR combined fuel cycle claim for the 2.0-litre engine is 7.0L/100km with the automatic transmission, and we saw mid eights on test. We’ll take a closer look at that figure, especially around town, when we spend some more time with the new i30.
|2021 Hyundai i30 Sedan|
|Engine||2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol four-cylinder|
|Power and torque||117kW @ 6200rpm, 191Nm @ 4500rpm|
|Drive type||front-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||7.0L/100km|
|fuel use on test||8.5L/100km|
|Boot volume (rear seats up / down)||474L|
|Turning circle||10.8 metres|
|ANCAP safety rating||Not tested yet.|
|Warranty||5 years / unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Toyota Corolla, Kia Cerato, Honda Civic|
|Price as tested (ex on-road costs)||From $24,790|
Styling is key in the small-car segment, and the i30 sedan looks the part. Aggressive, sharp, modern and detailed, it provides a tasteful alternative to the hatch, something not all sedan variants can claim.
If you do opt for the sedan, therefore, you won’t look like you’re driving your grandparents' car.
The cabin is classy and comfortable – especially for the pricepoint. No surprises there, though; we’ve come to expect that from Hyundai.
Wireless charging (standard across the range), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, plenty of useful storage, and clever cupholders that can be adjusted to suit small cups and larger bottles headline the practicality.
Both grades get leather trim, with two-tone black/grey for the Elite, while the entry grade gets an 8.0-inch touchscreen and conventional gauges for the driver.
Step up to the Elite and you get twin 10.25-inch screens adding to the premium and up-to-date feel from behind the wheel.
Buyers will obviously have their preference, but it certainly didn’t feel to us as if the smaller screen and conventional gauges were in any way lesser than their more high-tech counterparts. Either standard offering works, and the system worked well for us on our launch drive.
Aside from the storage and comfort throughout the cabin, though, the other thing you’ll notice about the i30 sedan is how much general passenger space is on offer. That’s especially so in the second row, where not all small cars are created equal.
It’s only ever so slightly larger than the outgoing Elantra, but with a 474L boot, the i30 sedan is nothing if not practical.
As is now par for the course with Hyundai products, the i30 sedan has had a local suspension tune worked into an already excellent platform, making for ride comfort and handling ability beyond what the standard chassis could deliver.
The mix between comfort and handling is as close to perfect as the small-car class would demand, and outside hotter versions like the N Line we’ll see soon, the i30 sedan can do it all with ease.
The solid nature of the ride, and the way in which the chassis can soak up rutted B-roads, adds to the premium feeling from behind the wheel, too.
The i30 sedan’s cabin is quiet and insulated, and it allows you to simply enjoy the drive, rather than contend with road or wind noise and any banging or crashing through the suspension.
It cruises easily at 110km/h, making for a more practical and useful road-trip option than you might initially expect, as well. That rings true if you’re a passenger, too, and you will easily be able to hit the road with four adults on board for a decent road trip without anyone feeling uncomfortable.
The steering and braking were precise on test, whether you’re rolling along casually or hooking in a little harder, and the i30 sedan retains some of the fun-to-drive feeling we’ve noted with the i30 hatch in the past.
Part of that sensation relates to the local suspension tune, but a large serve of it is intrinsic in the engine, gearbox and chassis.
As we’ve noted with more than a few new cars of late, some of the electronic safety trickery can be a little annoying – lane-keep assist specifically on country roads for mine – but it’s worth noting that the i30 sedan does come with a full suite of important electronic safety aids.
Whether small sedans will ever be as popular as they once were in this country is a matter for debate, and something that is pretty hard to predict.
What is sure, though, is that vehicles like the i30 sedan improve the offering and buying proposition in such a way that buyers will absolutely consider one if they are looking at a small car.
The i30 is neatly styled, modern, well equipped, comfortable and practical. That it’s backed by a quality Hyundai warranty and is also a decent driver is something of a bargain.
We won’t coax everyone out of the medium SUV they don’t really need, but for smart city dwellers, the small-car class definitely has its mojo back.