Let’s get the i30 sedan’s styling out of the way first - yes it’s polarising and the haters will say it’s already come pre-dented, but I think it’s nowhere near as hideous and unresolved as the Honda Civic hatch, which to my eyes resembles an arthritic Transformer stuck crouched in mid-transformation and unable to get up. I love the i30 sedan’s styling - it’s the mark of a confident, progressive carmaker giving the finger to the rest of the industry. It turns heads at every traffic stop and so what if it doesn’t age well? I think it’ll still look better in five years than any future Toyota, the most yawnfully timid stylist of all mainstream Makes. And we all know if the Euros did it, they’d be gaining plaudits all round in the discussion forums.
The i30 N-Line Premium (hereafter referred to as Premium) replaced my reliable but modestly-specced 2008 Mazda3 Neo, so with this review I’m coming off a low base in terms of exposure to current day vehicles - things like driver aids, safety tech and ICE.
Are you reading this and you work for Hyundai Australia? Feel free to take this review as a marketing and demographic snapshot as to who is buying the sedan and why we chose it over yet another needless SUV.
PRICING AND OPTIONS
Ever since the sedan lobbed on my shopping list I was budgetarily set on the non-Premium, regular N-Line, but the omission of the bigger and newest 10.25-inch infotainment setup and digital dash cluster was a huge annoyance, especially as I was happy to take the manual over the DCT. Yet surprisingly I found it wasn’t too big a leap price-wise for the Premium after some haggling. I predict Hyundai Oz will dump the non-premium N-Line (and offer a simplified 3-model lineup excluding the full fat N) when they realise buyers will readily stump for the Premium when it comes with all the fruit. And that’s the clincher - the Premium lacks for nothing in terms of options. Value for money 10/10
DIMENSIONS AND SPACE
As the reviews have already said, this is a big car for its class and in my opinion is something approaching Camry size if the Camry spent six months quitting sugar and carbs. Front seat passengers remark how roomy it is despite the imposition of the racing handle thingy. Basketballers will feel squished in the back seat as the sloping roofline curtails headroom for taller occupants.
Not only do I really like just how the car is low slung but also how it’s wider and more squat in appearance - it really occupies its space with presence and purpose. The sedan’s rear really lends itself to an opening hatch rather than a boot, which is massive, incidentally. The drawback of its lower profile is the low lip under the glossy front skirt which I’ve already scraped more than once on driveways.
The Premium, with its 150kW/265Nm is more than adequate in Sydney conditions. Finding a gap in traffic and taking advantage of it requires a bit of flooring of the pedal to let the DCT do its thing, but once it kicks in the rush of the turbo really makes me appreciate the extra power on tap. Others more impatient than me may call it turbo lag but I don’t push it hard often enough to find it off-putting, which speaks to the Premium’s raison d’etre; it’s perfectly satisfactory for anyone who desires only a warm sedan rather than any hot version. There’s no rush - I’ve got Spotify queued up in the car, so I’m happy.
I concur with other reviewers who mentioned the spongy brake pedal feel. There is a lack of reassuring bite, if that’s such a thing in motoring evaluative terms. Tyre roar is loud on the motorway and Sydney’s potholes are definitely felt.
Fuel economy is average but I’m not saying it as a bad thing - I simply haven’t driven it long or hard enough for any educated measure. Hopefully by keeping it on Smart mode it will make an appreciable difference over time, since my weekday commute and weekend trips to the shopping centre should be predictable enough for the car.
INFOTAINMENT, CABIN AMBIENCE AND CREATURE COMFORTS
As I said, I’m coming off a low base, car-wise, so I’m greatly impressed by the Premium’s ICE and all-round equipment level. There’s nothing else I need or want. I can live without a sunroof (it’s got one) and wireless smartphone mirroring (doesn’t have it). The i30 sedan (as opposed to the ageing hatch) really nails the cabin layout, in my opinion. Everything is laid out logically in a clutter-free manner. The ICE menus and submenus are easy to use and navigate and I am glad Hyundai eschews the use of a rotary knob dial.
The multitude of ambient light options screams Hummer Party Limo Hire. The ambient Sounds of Nature would be more usefully relaxing if the sounds were lengthier and each one more varied rather than the same 10 second loop repeated over and over.
The seats are comfy enough - no issues there. Cost control is evident in the use of plain black plastic on the doors and dash - the most visible reminder that this is an affordable mainstream car. Oddment storage is well, odd - the narrow front door pockets are an ergonomic nightmare to fit a water bottle and will accommodate only certain sizes. In contrast the central dual cup holders can be niftily switched around to accommodate both small takeaway cups and taller commuter cups. My biggest beef is reserved for the glovebox - for a big sedan it’s unacceptably small and unlit. Even my base model Neo had a helpful glovebox light.
The Premium more than capably fills the brief for a warm sedan. In my opinion it offers the best value for money package in the freshest metal out there right now. The current Kia Cerato GT just feels and looks older. The upcoming GT update will no doubt offer the same appeal as the Premium but it didn’t at the time I bought mine. I feel neither the Mazda3 nor Corolla are the compelling must-buys they once were. Sure, I want their bulletproof reliability but I want a modicum of on-road flair to go with it. Skoda's upcoming Octavia Sportline or RS you say? Too long to wait / expensive options. As for the Honda RS, well, I’d rather play with my kids' Transformer toys.