As more and more carmakers continue the drift away from manual gearboxes, it’s refreshing to hop into an all-new model and be faced with three pedals and a gearboxes that requires you to do the hard yards.
The 2021 Hyundai i30 N Line Sedan is a case in point. It doesn’t quite stand alone in being offered with a manual gearbox in the small car segment, but its rivals can be counted on just about one hand.
Hyundai introduced the i30 Sedan to its range of popular hatchbacks last year, and immediately impressed with its ultra-modern styling. Subjective, of course, but in the metal the i30 Sedan is a looker from just about any angle. Those sharp creases and angles work well together, creating a profile that looks years ahead of its time.
That was something noticed by the person on the street, too, the i30 Sedan garnering more attention from passers-by than any of the more premium and exotic metal I’ve taken home in recent times.
The Hyundai i30 Sedan range runs across four trim levels, with two different engines and a choice of manual or automatic transmissions. Pricing starts at $24,790 before on-road costs for the entry-level Active with manual gearbox and reaches its zenith with the $37,290 N Line Premium.
But, somewhere neatly in the middle sits the car we have on test here, the i30 N Line with a manual gearbox. It’s priced at $30,290 plus on-road costs, which equates to around $35,000 driveaway. Opting for a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission adds around $2500 for a driveaway price of around $37,500.
For now, it’s the manual ’box in the CarAdvice garage, bringing with it six ratios, a third pedal, and whole bunch of old school driving vibes.
|2021 Hyundai Sedan N Line manual|
|Engine||1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol|
|Power and torque||150kW @ 6000rpm, 265Nm @ 1500–4500rpm|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||7.5L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||8.1L/100km|
|Boot volume (rear seats up/down)||474L/NA|
|ANCAP safety rating (year tested)||Untested|
|Warranty||5 years/unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Kia Cerato, Mazda 3, Toyota Corolla|
|Price as tested (ex on-road costs)||$30,290|
In the field of small cars with a three-box silhouette and three pedals, the Hyundai i30 Sedan doesn’t have too many rivals.
The Kia Cerato can be had with a manual in base S trim for $21,690 (plus on-roads) and in Sport spec for $23,690.
Mazda, for its part, has doggedly stuck with tradition, the entire Mazda 3 sedan range available (from $25,990-$37,990) with three pedals and a do-it-yourself shifter.
And Toyota offers just a single variant of its segment-leading Corolla with a manual ’box, the entry-level Ascent Sport available for $23,895 plus on-roads.
As we’ve come to expect from Hyundai, adding the letter ‘N’ to a variant brings with it some extra goodness. And it’s not just cosmetic, either, although there’s plenty of that too.
The i30 N Line is powered by Hyundai’s 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine making a healthy 150kW and 265Nm. That’s a significant boost over the i30 Active and Elite models, where motivation comes from a naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre four-cylinder with 117kW and 191Nm.
Cosmetically, the N Line is enhanced by a range of specific exterior flourishes: a gloss black grille, N Line exclusive front and rear bumpers, gloss black side mirror caps, chrome dual exhaust tips, a rear diffuser and a bootlid spoiler are highlights.
Similarly, the cabin receives some N Line enhancements – black headlining, leather seats with red contrast stitching and inserts, alloy sports pedals and N Line exclusive leather gear knob and steering wheel with red stitching add a racy vibe.
It’s certainly a striking cabin in terms of design, one that belies its pricepoint. The i30 Sedan’s interior would not look out of place in a car from Europe costing twice as much.
The N Line specific sports seats are comfortable and supportive although miss out on heating and ventilation, only the next model up in the range, the N Line Premium, scoring those creature comforts.
Infotainment is anchored by a 8.0-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto which you’ll need if you want navigation as inbuilt sat-nav is reserved only for the N Line Premium variant (and its larger 10.25 touchscreen).
Integration is seamless and easy, Apple CarPlay – in our case – booting up before the ignition is even turned on. The graphics are crisp and clear and Hyundai’s new operating system is intuitive to use.
One brick-bat in a spray of bouquets is the lack of DAB+ radio, the N Line making do with good old AM/FM, digital radio again only found in the range-topping N Line Premium. It’s a small inconvenience, but it rankles none-the-less.
The second row is deceptively spacious, with plenty of space in all the key areas – toe-, knew-, leg- and headroom – while air vents back there go some way to keeping occupants comfortable. No charging options, though.
ISOFIX child seat mounts can be found on the outboard seats, joining the three top-tether anchor points on the seatback. The seats fold in 60:40 fashion to free up boot space which measures in at 474L with the second row in use. Hyundai doesn’t quote a figure with the second row stowed away. A space-saver spare lives under the boot floor.
Under the bonnet, that 1.6-litre turbo inline-four is plenty perky. With 150kW at 6000rpm and 265Nm between 1500-4500rpm, the i30 N Line loves being set free on the rev band. And thanks to the slick six-speed gearbox, you can do exactly that, if that’s your driving bent.
There’s a lovely little engine note too, which, while not exactly rowdy, is enough to elicit a little smile, especially as the revs rise.
Acceleration from standstill is linear and predictable, the engine singing away. The manual shift is nice and notchy, offering some tactility, while the clutch pedal isn’t overly taxing on the left leg. One minor gripe, is the tight spacing of the gate which requires a precision when shifting. On more than one occasion, I shifted from first gear to fourth – not ideal – thanks to fourth’s close proximity to second. You get used to it, but it is very tight.
Like most perky and slightly-sporty drivetrains, especially those with manual shifter, the Hyundai’s is an engaging option. The engine is eager to pile on the revs, with the commensurate acceleration (zero to 100km/h is dispatched in 7.9 seconds, 0.3s down on Hyundai’s claim for the dual-clutch auto equipped i30) laugh-out-loud fun.
Rowing through the gears is a delightfully tactile experience, while thanks to the 1.6-litre’s fat torque band, on the move acceleration is effortless. It just never feels overly stressed, instead always providing the sense there’s plenty more in reserve.
On the road, the i30 Sedan N Line benefits from MacPherson struts up front and an independent multi-link set-up at rear. The suspension also benefits from Hyundai’s Australian engineering team which fettles and maximises the suspension set-up to best suit our local conditions.
And, as it has done for a good while now, the local team has nailed it, the i30 Sedan settling into an easy and compliant ride, even over scrappy and pockmarked surfaces that pass for roads in these parts. And that’s despite sitting on standard-fit 18-inch alloys with slim sidewalled rubber. Minor bump absorption is excellent while larger hits are dealt with easily, too.
The steering is nicely-weighted, erring on the side of light. It’s nice and direct too, making for easy manoeuvrability around town, a boon in tight inner urban enclaves. Parking is a cinch, too, although the N Line does miss out on front sensors, a strange omission, only available on the range-topping N Line Premium. Rear sensors are standard as is a rear-view camera with guide lines.
It all adds up to a fun little and surprisingly sporty package, one the can be driven sedately around town, and yet hustled with some intent when the situation and conditions warrant. The engagement and sheer joy derived from the N Line’s manual ’box, married to the turbo-four’s predictable delivery, is a recipe for fun times behind the wheel.
And that became quickly apparent on some inviting stretches of winding and twisting roads, there the N Line manual held itself like a proper little sports sedan. It’s not an out-and-out performance car, but there’s enough in the tank to have some fun. It is, in a word, charming.
Stopping power comes courtesy of 305mm discs up front and 262mm out back, the front measuring slightly larger than the 280mm discs found up front on non-turbo i30 variants. It should be noted though, the manual i30 doesn’t come with an electronic handbrake, instead making do with a good old-fashioned manual handbrake lever.
Still, hill-hold assist is standard, making light work of getting away from standstill on an incline.
Additional safety smarts fitted as standard as part of Hyundai’s SmartSense pack include blind-spot warning, driver attention warning, autonomous emergency braking including cyclist and pedestrian detection, lane-following and keeping assist, and rear-cross traffic alert. It misses out on the smarter blind-spot avoidance assist and rear-cross traffic avoidance assist, both of which mitigate in the event of an impending collision, those technologies only available with the dual-clutch auto variants.
Similarly, the cruise control in the N Line manual is of the standard variety, it missing out on adaptive radar-based speed control, again reserved for dual-clutch auto variants.
Still, it’s a decent suite of safety tech on top of the mandatory acronyms and is joined by a complement of six airbags. ANCAP rating? The i30 Sedan range remains untested at this stage.
Hyundai covers the i30 Sedan with its standard five-year-year/unlimited km warranty. A trip to the workshop for standard maintenance is required every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. Servicing can be pre-purchased and asks for $807 over three years, $1116 over four or five years’ coverage will set you back $1385. Less than $280 a year for five years? That’s pretty attractive.
Hyundai claims the i30 N Line in manual guise will need 7.5L/100km of 91RON unleaded. That’s almost a chunk more than the dual-clutch auto-equipped variants require (6.8L). Our week with i30 N Line manual saw an indicated 8.1L/100km, which isn’t too shabby when compared against the manufacturer’s claim, even more so considering letting 1.6-litre turbo rev out eagerly and happily is more than a little addictive.
It’s that addictive nature that makes the 2021 Hyundai i30 N Line Sedan in manual trim so charming. Blessed by stylish, sleek and sporty looks, the N Line lives up to that aesthetic with a mature yet characterful experience behind the wheel.