Owner Review

2017 Hyundai i30 Active review

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To begin this review, one first needs to understand how I ended up choosing the Hyundai i30. I have only ever owned German cars, more specifically a W203 Mercedes and an E90 BMW. I know what you're thinking: how does one buy an entry-level hatchback after owning such cars? The answer to that question is 'because rental cars'.

This might not make sense initially, but bear with me. Every time I have rented a car, it has always been a car in the i30 segment, usually dominated by the all-conquering Toyota Corolla. And every time I have had one of these cars, the first thought that would always pop in my head is 'Does anyone really need a car better than this?'. Even though the cars were the base model, I always felt it was more than sufficient for the everyday grind.

So, I made myself a promise that the next time I went to buy a car, I would buy an entry-level hatch, and for the first time in my life I would buy a car with my head and not my heart. I initially planned to buy a used car with less than 40K on the clock, as I hate taking that depreciation hit and I refuse to finance anything. As far as I'm concerned, if I have to finance it, I can't afford it.

So began the search for my next car. Private sellers, in my opinion anyway, were asking stupid prices for cars out of warranty in my range, usually asking $15–17K, plus I would need to pay stamp duty and registration possibly. At this point I decided that I could get an i30 Active manual for $20K drive-away. I called a dealership, said that's what I want to pay and would come and buy the car immediately. We went through the usual dealer blah-blah, and within one hour I was the owner of a new i30 Active manual in white for $20K drive-away.

The more I thought about it, the crazier this deal was. Once you factor in stamp duty and registration, the dealer let this car go for about $18K. I honestly doubt they made any money of it. It was a floor model and had been sitting for a while (never registered), so I think they just wanted to get rid of it (perfect, as far as I was concerned).

Here I was three days later driving away in the i30 (not having test-driven anything, because I believe no-one really makes awful cars anymore) and the first thing I thought to myself was 'Damn, this is what I should have done years ago'. Immediately it made me regret all the time, money and effort I spent over the years keeping the German cars going, only to be let down time and time again.

Here was a car that, I kid you not, was more comfortable and quiet than both the BMW and the Mercedes I had, and was in all honesty lacking nothing. The car is now at 1500km, so I thought it would be a good time to do a first review. I will try to do one every year to show the true ownership experience of such a car.

What appealed to me about the car was that it was a no-nonsense vehicle and had everything I wanted and nothing I didn't. No auto stop-start, N/A engine, manual transmission, no lane-keep assist, radar cruise, blind-spot monitoring, emergency braking etc. Now, I'm not one of those people that thinks he can out-brake a computer, but I am one of those people who has seen the true cost of such technologies, especially when you plan to keep a car for 10 years. All these things are great when they work, but when they don't they cost thousands to repair and require a lot of special equipment.

Ask any insurance assessor about the cost of repairing a car that has been in an accident, and the systems that manage lane-keep assist/AEB etc need re-calibrating. I'm also truly sick of the automatic transmission, not just because it makes even the best cars insanely boring to drive, but because they are also so much more complicated than a manual transmission.

There is so much more to go wrong with an automatic transmission than a manual transmission. With a manual transmission, your drive is as smooth or as sporty as your skills allow it to be. With an automatic transmission, the computer can make its mind up when to shift, how to shift, and you can be stuck with it for years in a configuration you don't like.

Now that I have finished my little personal rant, I can review the car I've purchased. Let's start with the engine. The 2.0-litre GDI engine in the i30 is honestly more than capable, and not just for around town. In sixth gear on the highway, you can effortlessly overtake without having to drop any gears. It is an incredibly smooth and quiet engine for a four-cylinder. It makes the Mazda's equivalent engine sound like a bag of marbles and it's considerably smoother across the entire rev range (The wife has a CX-5 with the 2.0-litre engine).

Fuel economy with this engine is greatly affected by your driving style and stop-start traffic. I realise the irony of complaining about fuel economy at idle when I listed not having stop/start as a positive, but it is a sacrifice I'm more than happy to make. I'm currently averaging on my daily commute about 6.8L/100km. The commute consists of a round trip of 18km with an average speed between 32–35km/h. There is quite a bit of decent traffic, but no extended periods of not moving. There is also no highway driving on my route, but it does consist of 5–10km of free-flowing road.

I'm also going out of my way to try and see how low I can get the car's consumption; however, not to the point where I'm annoying other road users. I never cared about fuel economy before, but Hyundai has an application that tracks your driving and it has almost turned fuel consumption into a competition. I will eventually remove this app because I would like to stop thinking about the fuel economy.

To anyone considering this car I would say this: if you have some decent sections of free-flowing traffic, go right ahead and buy this car as you will get decent economy. However, if you are in heavy stop-start traffic, there are probably better alternatives out there. Every time I do short trips with a lot of stopping and starting, this car's consumption is around 10–11L/100km. I'm sure there are cars out there that can do a lot better in this kind of driving. For my situation, though, the car has been a godsend and has more than halved my fuel bill from the E90 325i (six-cylinder) I had before it.

Moving on to the suspension tune of this car, as far as I'm concerned it is perfect. It cannot be improved in any way. There is no noticeable body roll, the turn-in is sharp and you can fling the car around corners like a little go-cart. It glides over road imperfections to a degree that most German cars can only dream of (apart from the Golf, which also has a great suspension tune).

The tyres will let you down before the suspension gets anywhere near its limits. Although they are incredibly quiet and offer extremely low rolling resistance, they are quite soft and in the wet will under-steer through a round-about doing only 40km/h (when going straight through one of those quite large ones, with no-one else around of course). But I understand why Hyundai has chosen this tyre, as it makes a lot of sense for this application. It is an entry-level commuter car anyway; however, when it is time to replace them, I will be putting something a lot more sticky on.

The next thing I believe deserves some attention is just how well spec'd this car is for its price, even if you paid full retail. I was only shocked how much car you can get for low 20s these days, and honestly Hyundai could have left a bunch of these features off and I still would have purchased it.

Here is a list of things Hyundai has packed into this vehicle that I consider unnecessary but greatly appreciated: folding mirrors with the locking and unlocking of the car, 8.0-inch screen, inbuilt navigation, reverse camera, rear parking sensors, a way-above-average sound system (To this day I get surprised how good the sound system is in this car, leaves my BMW for dead), alloy wheels, automatic headlights, metal-finished interior door handles on front and rear doors, full-size spare, tyre pressure monitoring system, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, all buttons and controls are back-lit including the steering wheel, and I'm sure there were a couple more things that I have forgotten about.

I'll also mention that the updated PD2 model also gets a leather steering wheel and gear shifter, although I will say that I have no issues with the current plastic ones that are in my car. I have never once grabbed the wheel or the shifter and thought 'man I wish this was leather'. The headlights are also pretty impressive considering they are halogens.

The thing I would like to most boast about this car that most people (including myself) don't consider is the ownership program of the vehicle. In fact, I'm so impressed with Hyundai that I will probably keep on buying them from now on. I've had to get three things replaced under warranty because the dealership damaged them. The service department could have tried to blame me, but no, without a single question they just replaced it all without dramas.

The car has a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty and capped-price servicing. Although most companies have capped-price servicing, they are not all equal. The perfect example being the CX-5 we have. It's capped but it is stupidly expensive: $330 for an oil and filter change is not cool. Luckily the CX-5 will be out of warranty and I will be servicing it from them on.

The Hyundai, on the other hand, is so affordable that it's not worth my time doing it myself. The servicing is capped for life and 90 per cent of the services are about $245 with the odd $340 one every 3–4 years roughly. If you stick to Hyundai's schedule, the company will also include 10 years of roadside assist (That's not a typo) and 10 years of free map updates.

Honestly, I'm blown away by the ownership preposition of this vehicle. Looking at the Golf's service requirements, it immediately put it off my shopping list, not to mention the fact I hate the company, short warranty and questionable reliability, and premium fuel on top of it all.

The first thing my wife said to me when I bought the car was "I'm glad you bought yourself a new car, but aren't you going to get bored of it?". To which I replied that no matter what car I got, within six months I would be bored of it, so I might as well buy something that's easy to live with. I'm sorry, but you cannot enjoy any car in Australia if you commute to work with it in traffic. It is a mind-numbing task, and everyone should have comfort and noise at the top of their shopping lists when buying vehicles for such tasks.

I will admit the design is a little boring and Hyundai played it safe this time, but it is far from ugly, and I have caught myself a couple of times looking at it and thinking 'This looks better all the time and will probably age really well'. I'm also more than happy with the cabin materials and the hard plastics have been textured nicely. I do question Hyundai's choice of material around the door handles and bottle holders, as it looks like it will scratch easily, but time will tell on that one.

Interior space is also quite generous. I'm 6ft 2in and I can sit behind myself, but my knees do touch the seatback. However, most people are not giant freaks like me, so for all you normal people, there is actually a lot of room in this car. I also use this as a family car and have no issues doing so.

To summarise this review, although I'm not in love with this car for its looks, I am in love with this car for the peace of mind it provides me. It does everything I need it to do exceptionally well. If you've been thinking of buying one, I couldn't recommend it highly enough.

I thought about stepping up to the SR, but I just couldn't justify it considering how well this car did everything. For those of you who have experienced thin tyres and run-flats, you will understand how nice it is to go back to a squishy tyre. As James May once said, "I'm sick of cars being tuned for the Nūrburgring".