October 19, 2014 @ 04:06 PM

Review: Hyundai i30 - "Surprising" is the best word

Being the first modern Hyundai I have ever driven, this is a pleasant surprise. By Arvind Kumar

Being the first modern Hyundai I have ever driven, this is a pleasant surprise. By Arvind Kumar

People often tell me the new Korean offerings are a treat to drive. That’s a statement that I find hard to digest. You see, right up till now, my experiences with these cars have only encompassed the family’s ’06 Hyundai Getz. I don’t think I need to elaborate on how it drives. Let’s just say those who have, might understand what I’m getting at, and those who haven’t, you’re not missing out on a lot.

So, I approached the I30 with some cynicism and perhaps negativity. Thoughts of “How good could it be?” swirling around between the limbic system and cerebral cortex within my cranium. So to be fair, I have divided my opinions of the Hyundai I30 into five things I love and two things I’m not so fond off. 

One: the looks. It may be Korean but the fluidic sculpture program for the Hyundai I30 was actually honed and perfected in Germany.  From the back, the sloping tailgate of the hatchback which climaxes at a contour line also forms its way towards the sleek combination tail lamps. 

The curvaceous rump makes way for integrated rear fog-lamps. Our Sport version comes with exhaust tips that integrate well with the rear diffusers, it’s a shame it doesn’t integrate with the actual exhaust. They’re not hollow and the single exhaust actually ends a bit further back. Talk about pulling a fast one.

Moving towards the side, the pinched shoulder line resembles athletic sinews which create an impression of forward motion when viewed from front to back. In my opinion, the front contours that fade off after the front arches seem a bit too busy without adding much visual effect. At the back though, the rising belt line introduces girth and some aggression towards the rear haunches.

The lovely side blades fitted to our Sport variant are top notch but don’t come cheap. The front splitters, side blades and rear diffuser carry a near RM5,000 premium over the Executive. If you think that’s pricey, raise your hand.

The front encompasses the family’s hexagonal grille flanked by sharp looking projection headlamps. The fog-lamps and front quarters look purposeful and elegant. Finished in Hyundai’s Coffee Bean hue-(the bean and not the café), make no mistake, this is a striking car to look at. 

Two: the handling. Having just exited Hyundai’s car park, not knowing the I30’s intelligent Flex-Steer system was in comfort mode, steering felt like as light as those on a Little Tikes kiddie-cars for 3 year olds. Push a button on the steering wheel though, and you will access normal and finally sport mode. 

The modes get progressively and noticeably meatier. Feedback from the motor driven power steering is adequate in all except Little Tikes mode. It does seem like a novelty because I don’t see drivers fidgeting between modes to eke out every last second to find a car park at a mall.

I did however; prefer the steadiness of the Sport mode on the highway. Its lovely weightage allowing for stable inputs well into three figure speeds, while switching to normal once I’m back within concrete jungles.

The road-holding in a word; surprising. Off the highway, I find a windy stretch of B-roads and joy of joys. The sticky Michelins fitted are clawing between apexes and bumps with tenacity. Just point the front end, initial turn-in is superb, attached to a composed back-end. 

The McPherson struts up front and torsion beam setup at the rear are nicely modulated. Said B-road romp involved the I30 ironing out many bumps, uneven crests and cambered corners. But while it’s sporting in nature, it’s also compliant. The chassis is rarely unsettled and its surefootedness inspires confidence.

Driving aids are substantial too, the I30 is equipped with vehicle stability control (VSM) which includes steering assist control which helps you counter under-and oversteer. Also standard are brake assist and traction control. Six airbags complete the safety repertoire of the I30.

Three: build quality and toys. Fit and finish have come a long way since the Getz. Panel gaps and fit-up points are consistent and well matched. On the inside, the door panels and dash console are premium to the touch.

The seats are well-padded, comfortable and offer good support for the back while the side bolsters up front limit unnecessary lateral movement. NVH levels are kept well in check. There is little wind noise, impact noise and engine roar within the cabin to speak off. Although at speeds, tire-roar does drip into the cabin.

Speaking of toys, USB and AUX connectivity come as standard, as do Bluetooth, auto wipers and engine start/stop. Steering wheel mounted controls for volume and mobile hands-free. Note though, the radio display looks rather fiddly and isn’t the easiest to get used to.

The cars vital parameters are beamed through a very clear three dimensional cluster. The darker the ambient lighting gets, the more futuristic it looks. And if you enjoy star-gazing, retract the huge panoramic roof to take in the sights.

And, finally five: the drivetrain. Power comes courtesy of Hyundai’s Nu 1.8-litre multi-point injection engine capable of producing 148bhp at 6,500rpm and a not too tardy 178Nm at 4,700rpm. It’s a punchy unit, very eager to rev but around 3,250rpm is where you notice the grunt and grunting of the four banger. It’s otherwise relaxed lower in the rev range.

The 1.8-litre lump is combines with a six-speed gearbox to power the front wheels. Shifts are refined enough for the car’s segment, downshifts rapid enough for overtaking. The unique factor being, that you feel very little drivetrain friction contributed by the six-speeder. 

At speed, once you lay off the pedal, there is a noticeable lack of engine braking filtering through the ratios, as if decoupled by a clutch. It’s nifty when coasting along.
This brings me to the end of the-things-that-i-like-about-the-I30 and onto the red flags.

Firstly: Consumption. It’s greatly improved over its predecessors but still nothing to write home about. Spirited driving returned 10.9L/100km and the best throttle feathering earned 9.7L/100km. Combined; I managed 430km for a full tank before nearly running on fumes.   

Finally: the price. The greatest hindrance to seeing more of its charming silhouette is a sticker which reads RM124,382 for the Executive and RM 129,252 for the body-kit clad Sport version you see here.

And for that price, it does have to fend off contenders from Honda, Toyota and Ford. The most of which are sporting 2.0-litre engines and expansive equipment lists. Another factor to consider is Hyundai’s own Elantra which is similarly specified but retails for nearly RM10k less.

All in all, the I30 showcases Hyundai dynamic thinking capacity sprinkled with some very talented engineering, but sadly perhaps, not one that flaunts itself very well within our rigid marketplace. 

Great to look at, descent drive.
Pricy enough to make buyers look away.
It’s a statement of intent, if you want to stand out.

3.5/5 Stars


On Sale
RM129,252 (Sport)
1797cc, 4 cyl, Nu-MPI, 150bhp @ 6500rpm, 178Nm @ 4700rpm
Six-speed auto, front-wheel drive.

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