It’s not every day we get to buy a new car. And your first-ever brand-new car is important, not just because you’ve made that massive decision to buy a new car, but it has to be the right one. It makes a statement: of all the cars I could have picked, I chose this one.
I bought my very first new car just last Friday. The car I chose was the third-generation Hyundai i30, a Premium to be exact. Of course, Korean cars still have some stigma about them from some people who still live in the Dark Ages, and I’ve had to justify myself to a number of people. I could easily just reply with “it’s all the car I need”, which is the truth, but it’s much deeper than that.
Firstly, it’s an extremely handsome car, quite possibly one of the best-looking cars in its class. European design has had its hand here. It’s simple, elegant, and even derivative from some angles, and that’s okay with me.
It may be a small car, but it feels quite the opposite behind the wheel. It sits and holds the road like a much larger car and road noise is extremely well hushed. You can really feel the depth of the Australian-spec suspension tune, and even though the Premium misses out on the SR’s independent rear suspension, you don’t feel hard done by.
Propelling this particular car along is Hyundai’s well-proven 1.6-litre CRDi in a 100kW/300Nm flavour with an equally well proven seven-speed DCT. Some lag is present at low RPM, and the Eco setting in the car's Drive Mode seems to exacerbate this with a doughy throttle response. I feel as though the car behaves best in Normal and Sport is almost pointless.
Once underway, the 1.6-litre is a little fighter, the turbo winds up nicely, torque is plentiful, and even the engine noise isn’t obtrusive in or out of the car. Around town the DCT is basically faultless, but don’t expect seventh gear to arrive until you’re doing 80km/h. Even in Eco mode 60km/h shows around 1200rpm in fifth gear.
On the open road, this car really comes into its own. Effortless and economical cruising is this car's party piece, with a peaceful and comfortable cabin, plus a highway range of over 1000km. That sounds incredible, but I’m already seeing 900km to a tank around town.
On the subject of the peaceful cabin, place yourself in the heated and ventilated front seats, which are leather (of course!), and you’re met with a dashboard that’s just as handsome as the exterior of the car. Somehow Hyundai has managed to pack equipment to the rafters in this thing and not overcomplicated everything in the process.
A clear instrument cluster with two large dials and a comprehensive trip computer are directly in front of you. The tablet-style display on the centre of the dash is quite logical and easy to use, with the ability to display the standard navigation and audio at the same time. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also standard and pairing the phone was a cinch.
The dual-zone climate control is operated via a well-laid-out unit below the centre vents, rather than being hidden in the big touchscreen, and works well. Some things are just best left untouched.
Safety is well taken care of too, as well as the usual suite of airbags and basic traction and stability controls, you’ll also bag Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Keep Assist, Forward Collision Mitigation, Autonomous Emergency Braking (this variant works on speeds above 30km/h), Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Smart Cruise Control.
Plus, there are front and rear parking sensors, a reverse camera, and Auto Hold. Most of these features were the preserve of luxury cars costing many times over the cost of this car, and some of these features are also available on lesser models of the i30.
A medium-sized Korean hatchback doesn’t seem like an aspirational car to own, but a car is an extension of its owner, and what it is to anyone else shouldn’t matter. Take a closer look at the new i30 and it doesn’t need to be justified to anyone. Hyundai has gone above and beyond with reinventing this new i30 and it shows.
How could this car be even better? Jazz up the door trims for a start. Despite the plastics being of good quality, no material or leather inlays make them feel like they belong in a $15K runaround. And considering the list of equipment, perhaps a self-parking feature would have been nice, and maybe an extra USB port so you could have a smartphone hooked up with a stick of music together.