It represented a giant leap forward in chassis dynamics and build quality, showing the South Korean car industry had reached a new stage in maturity.
Here’s a fascinating fact - every Hyundai i30 sold in Australia is still under new-car warranty, being covered by a five-year / unlimited distance warranty. So the first cars, sold in October 2007, are still covered.
Now the second-generation of the small-medium hatchback Hyundai has been launched and looks likely to continue the success of its predecessor. It looks as though the styling is going to create controversy as Hyundai is out to challenge what’s considered normal in automotive shapes.
While the front with its large hexagonal grille works neatly enough, some may find the sweeping shapes of the side swages a bit over the top. Time will tell, and there’s certainly nothing like challenging convention to make people sit up and take notice.
Station wagons were a part of the original Hyundai i30 scene but, at least at this stage, we aren’t likely to seem them imported to Australia as the European factory is only making them with the steering wheel on the wrong side for us. For the time being we are only getting the five-door hatch.
New i30 is longer and wider than the old and just a touch lower. Interior space allows good legroom for four adults and my six-foot frame has no trouble sitting behind itself - if you see what I mean. The centre seat in the back is probably best left for a child, though three adults can fit back there in emergencies.
The front seats are well shaped and comfortable and we like the new interior design. While not as challenging as the exterior lines, the cabin has interesting shapes and modern angles. Even better it’s finished to a high quality that looks to be long lasting.
We were impressed with the ride quality and handling during our introductory test drive of the new Hyundai hatch out of Melbourne and through the Yarra Valley. A considerable amount of local design of the suspension and steering has been carried out in Australia - both by Korean and Australian engineers - and the endless compromise between comfort and road manners is just right to our way of thinking.
Hyundai has pushed the car to the stage that any more firmness may have been too much for some people. By doing so it has made the i30 appeal to those who really love driving. An interesting system called Flex Steer lets the driver choose the amount of assistance provided by the EPS (Electronic Power Steering). Perhaps a bit of a gimmick in our eyes (and hands) but we will let the market make the final decision.
Hyundai has installed its vehicle stability management system (VSM) in the new i30. This isn’t merely another electronic control system, it’s a highly sophisticated setup that can even counter-steer the car if a driver is really silly in their actions and gets the tail right out of shape. Build quality inside and out show the rest of the world that the South Koreans are really serious about challenging the Japanese.
Two engines are on offer: a 1.8-litre petrol and a 1.6-litre turbo-diesel. We test drove both and our preference is for the cheaper (by $2600) petrol unit, but the added grunt and reduced fuel consumption of the diesel will certainly appeal to many. Both engines can be mated to a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
The all-new Hyundai i30 has been crash tested in Europe and achieved the maximum five stars. Australasian barrier tests, which differ marginally from the European ones, are still to be carried out, but the local importer is confident in getting the top result here. Safety features include seven airbags, including a unit to cushion the impact of show on the driver’s knees.
New Hyundai i30 is being sold in three levels of luxury: Active, Elite and Premium. Prices range from $20,990 for an i30 Active with the petrol engine and manual gearbox, to $32,590 for an i30 Premium with the diesel engine and automatic transmission. These prices are higher than anticipated by most pundits and show that Hyundai Australia is no longer nervous about pricing its cars at the same level as its Japanese competitors. The spec levels of the Korean i30 are higher than those Japanese cars, partly accounting for the higher recommended retails.
The complete Hyundai i30 range is:
i30 Active 1.8-litre petrol five-door hatch: $20,990 (manual), $22,990 (automatic)
i30 Elite 1.8-litre petrol five-door hatch: $24,590 (manual), $26,590 (automatic)
i30 Premium 1.8-litre petrol five-door hatch: $29,990 (automatic)
i30 Active 1.6-litre turbo-diesel five-door hatch: $23,590 (manual), $25,590 (automatic)
i30 Elite 1.6-litre turbo-diesel five-door hatch: $27,190 (manual), $29,190 (automatic)
i30 Premium 1.6-litre turbo-diesel five-door hatch: $32,590 (automatic)