Hyundai i30 2021 [blank]

2021 Hyundai i30 hatch review

Rating: 8.0
$25,420 Mrlp
  • Fuel Economy
  • Engine Power
  • CO2 Emissions
  • ANCAP Rating
Hyundai’s hatchback is a pleasant surprise – even if you opt for the cheaper choice.
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You know a manufacturer has done something right with a car when it’s tricky to pick which specification grade you’re sitting in.

In my opinion, the best base models are the ones that don’t immediately remind you that you’ve opted for the cheapest choice. In fact, it could be argued the strength of a model should be determined by its weakest point.

For Hyundai’s i30 hatchback, that so-called ‘weak point’ is its entry-level variant – named simply ‘i30’ – which kicks off at $25,420 before on-road costs.

It offers a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine with six-speed automatic transmission, although buyers are also given the option of a manual transmission for $2000 less (before on-road costs).

And as far as ‘weak points’ go, it’s a pretty strong one.

There are a few worthy contenders in this space, but the i30 hatch mainly competes with the Honda Civic hatch, the Toyota Corolla, the Kia Cerato hatch and the Mazda 3 hatch.

For a base-spec, automatic petrol model, a Civic is just under $24,000 before on-road costs, a Cerato is just over $24,000 before on-road costs at list price, but $22,490 drive-away as an ongoing offer, while the Corolla kicks off from over just over $25,000 the Mazda 3 is the most expensive at over $26,000 before on-road costs.

This places the i30 pretty much in the middle of the spectrum price-wise.

However, having driven the top-spec Civic hatch mere weeks prior, I can attest that the i30 certainly initially seemed like the better-value proposition by comparison.

I reviewed the i30 in a hectic week in the lead-up to Christmas, during which I had no time to even double-check which spec-grade I was reviewing. Getting behind the wheel, this was even harder to ascertain.

The level of standard equipment on the i30 led me to believe I was at the very least sitting in a mid-spec car, so I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this was actually Hyundai’s bare minimum.

A large, crisp digital driver display instantly lends a premium feel to the cabin, and even outshines the less-impressive central 8.0-inch touchscreen.

Well-executed fabric seats look highly presentable, and there’s a leather-appointed steering wheel and gearstick, all packaged together with subtle polish.

While the usual hallmarks of a top-spec car – like seat heaters, a wireless phone charger, electric seat adjustment, dual-zone climate control – are missing, the base i30 certainly doesn’t feel like the cheap option.

2021 Hyundai i30 hatch
Engine configuration2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol
Power and torque120kW @ 6200rpm, 203Nm @ 4700rpm
TransmissionSix-speed automatic
Drive typeFront-wheel drive
Kerb weight1276–1382kg
Fuel claim (combined)7.4L/100km
Fuel use on test7.1L/100km
Boot volume395/1301L
Turning circle10.6m
ANCAP safety rating5-star (tested 2017)
Servicing costs (5 years/75,000km)$1495
Warranty5-year, unlimited-kilometre
Main competitorsHonda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Kia Cerato, Mazda 3
Price as tested$25,420
Ground clearance140mm
Tow rating (braked/unbraked)1300/600kg

Hitting the road, I was also impressed with the driver-assistance tech on offer. Particularly the active cruise control with lane-trace assist, which is standard and is one of the better systems I’ve encountered, allowing you to really ease into longer drives.

Finally, I was quite shocked to find wireless Apple CarPlay offered – something traditionally only found on more expensive Audi and BMW cars, but fast finding its way into mainstream cars. Unfortunately, my cardinal rule with wireless anything is that if you’re going to do it, do it well. On this front, Hyundai has work to do.

While I enjoyed the i30 overall due to reasons I will detail shortly, the defining experience of my week with the car was the fact the wireless CarPlay dropped out every five minutes or so.

This also happened to one of my colleagues and, with no wired option as fallback, it drove us all nuts as we tried desperately to re-pair in an effort not to lose precious Google Maps routes or Spotify tracks.

When I asked Hyundai if this was a common problem or just mere bad luck on my part, a spokesperson said: "We are aware of the issue and are looking into a resolution."

While re-pairing was, to be fair, quick and easy, the experience was so incredibly annoying that it dominated my mindset towards the i30, but in an effort not to be overly negative, I will move on.

Out on the road, the i30 delivers ample power smoothly and evenly, but I occasionally found there was a little bit of a tug while decelerating, and this low-speed drag can have the car feeling occasionally unpolished in stop-start traffic – although it's far from a dealbreaker.

The i30 offers three drive modes – eco, sport and normal – all of which change the colour of the digital driver display in a highly satisfying manner, but won’t have any truly perceivable impact on your driving experience.

In any mode, I found the car’s steering had a surprising amount of weight to it, which really upped the dynamic feel and just made scooting around town a bit more engaging.

The ride is really quite comfortable, especially for a hatchback, and the layout of the car maximises rear visibility with a substantial rear-vision mirror and large windows.

It all amounts to a sense of ease behind the wheel – steering is efficient in tighter streets, the driver is afforded a clear view all the way around, and there’s power on tap (120kW/203Nm) for when you need it.

If you’re after a compact car but don’t want to skimp on storage, the i30 also strikes a nice balance between having a small footprint but a roomy cabin.

Up front, the seats feel evenly spaced so you won’t be left wanting for elbow room, while a large centre console leaves plenty of room for storing the various bits and pieces you acquire in your travels.

Head room in the front is substantial, and the windows and windshield are set a little higher so it feels light, spacious and like there’s plenty of clearance, despite being in a hatchback.

The back seat is similarly well-proportioned, although taller adults might find leg room slightly limited, but it’s certainly accommodating for shorter drives.

There are also ISOFIX points on both outside seats, plus three top-tether points over the back of the seat, so you’ll be able to squeeze two child seats in the back but nothing else.

The boot feels on the larger size for a compact car and offers 395L of cargo volume, which is actually larger than a number of compact SUVs, including the Mitsubishi ASX, Volkswagen T-Roc and Hyundai Kona.

More impressive still is the fact they’ve managed to fit a full-size spare alloy wheel under the floor – something that’s less common in hatchbacks.

The i30 scores a five-star safety rating from ANCAP that dates back to 2017, with the base model scoring a driver-attention warning, forward-collision assist (up to interurban speeds with pedestrian and cyclist detection), high-beam assist, lane-keep assist and smart cruise control with stop-and-go.

It does, however, miss out on the blind-spot collision warning and rear cross-traffic alert featured on higher grades.

I found the reverse camera with guidelines to be functional but on the grainier side, which detracted from the otherwise premium feel of the equipment package.

When it comes to ownership, the i30’s ongoing costs are certainly on the affordable side. Hyundai requires servicing every 15,000km or 12 months, and offers prepaid packages that range from $897 for three years, up to $1495 for five years of coverage.

Hyundai quotes a combined fuel consumption figure of 7.3L/100km, but I actually recorded 7.1L/100km despite a lot of my driving skewing urban (the quoted urban figure is much higher at 9.7L/100km).

As a result, my week of commuting and freeway driving barely made a dent on the tank.

I went into my time with the Hyundai i30 hatchback with shamefully low expectations and very little enthusiasm, perhaps as a result of having recently possessed a Hyundai Venue as a long-term loan that left a fair bit to be desired.

But after seven days with this handy hatchback, I was chastened. This is a car that truly deserves to sell the kind of volume I had long attributed to mere brand recognition or buyer decision fatigue.

Sure, it won’t light your world on fire, but it’s certainly a pleasant surprise and a solid choice in its segment – with one important caveat: Hyundai needs to sort out that bloody wireless Apple CarPlay situation. And make it snappy.