After a four-month-long search, and basically test driving all the cars in this segment, I decided to put the money down on the i30 SR. It just ticked all the boxes for me: fun to drive, comfortable, affordable, latest tech and reliable. For the past year it has proven to be a joyous experience without any complaints, which is rare for me.
Under the hood, the 1.6-litre GDI turbo unit, a well-known unit to the Korean manufacturer duo, is the beating heart behind the sporty hatchback. Any manufacturing issues have been mostly ironed out by now and it has proven to be super reliable unit.
Excellent fuel consumption and nice responsiveness are its strong suits. In real world conditions, the 150kW it outputs and 265Nm of torque are more than enough to take you safely to any destination. At any point after 1350rpm on the rev-range, you would never feel that you lack power. Remember, I am talking real world conditions with cops and speed cameras, so luckily the understated looks make it fly under the radar.
The 6-speed manual gearbox reminded me of shifters from my 90's Hondas. The clutch is not heavy, nor light; very well-balanced for a mix of weekend fun and effortless daily commuting. On long journeys, cruise control takes care of you. On fuel consumption, my last trip from Sydney to Canberra made it average around 6.5 litres per 100 kilometres both ways, measured at the pump.
The only downside of the drivetrain is the exhaust note. It's a bit quiet, but that can also be a plus side, as it makes it even more of a sleeper. It's also good to surprise any friends expecting your average hatchback. Dual exhaust tips make it distinct from the lower trims.
Suspension and ride comfort are very adequate, tuned for Australian conditions. On the country and mountain roads, they give you enough confidence and feedback to push the car on a more spirited drive. In the city it feels comfortable, supple and civilised.
The dashboard feels solid and upmarket, and red accents on the dials with red seatbelts do give away its sporty intentions. Interior space is very good for four adults, although five can get a bit tight in the back. At 185cm, I have decent head room, even with my chiropractor's recommended position, and I can sit behind my own driving position. The panoramic sunroof sacrifices head room slightly, but brings in so much more class and refinement to the interior. Passengers in the back really enjoy it.
The cargo space (at 395 litres) is more than enough for a 12-inch subwoofer box, fortnightly groceries, and mine and my wife's backpacks. With the seats down, we managed to carry a 60" flatscreen in it without issues. Also the i30 has never let us down on the occasional IKEA visit - a very frequent occurrence.
The infotainment system works great with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. After one month testing each, I ended up mostly on the Android system. The speakers are decent, but lack low down punch, which is where the aftermarket installed subwoofer came into play. The factory GPS is not bad and responds well, but honestly I mostly rely on Waze and Google Maps for real-time traffic data.
Blind-spot monitoring, reversing camera, cross-traffic alert and parking sensors complete the well-rounded tech package. Six airbags and the 5-star ANCAP ratings will assure the extra peace of mind.
On the exterior, i30 SR family plays it safe. Hyundai left the sporty side to shine on the driving feeling, without fake spoilers and other dubious body features. Fluid but discreet lines give it a very Golf-like appearance. The 18-inch wheels are a nice size and provide good comfort and grip. The wheel design is very conservative, but suits the stance appropriately.
Overall, the word for the SR is balance. Hyundai was able to find a really nice sweet spot between affordable fun, comfort, tech features and safety, making it an all-rounder gem in the $25k to $30k price range. With 5 years warranty, roadside assist, plus some extras that most dealerships can throw into the deal, it is an easy car to recommend.