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The cut-price and cool-looking Kia Cerato punches well above its price in the fashion stakes, which is at least partly why it's Kia's best-selling model. So is there substance to go with the style?
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The 2018 Hyundai i30 Active manual tested in this review used to be the entry-point to the range, but with the addition of the new base model Go variant you can now get a sub-$20k stick-shift i30.
Unlike the budget-focused Go, the Active has nice things like alloy wheels and blinkers in its side mirror caps, and even a centre console bin up front and a flip-down armrest with cup-holders in the back. It’s basically a luxury car…
Okay, not quite. But straight off the bat you could do a lot worse than this for your $20,950.
In fact, if you can deal with the idea of a manual transmission, or perhaps you’re one of those rarer examples of humanity that actually enjoys using both legs while driving, then you’ll be getting a great car, with more than a few nice touches, inside and out.
Let’s take a detailed look at what makes this one of the best cars in the class for the cash.
|Hyundai I30 2018: GO 1.6 Crdi|
|Engine Type||1.6L turbo|
As mentioned, the Active was once the entry point to the Hyundai i30 2018 range, and as a result it does miss out on a few desirable options that the higher-spec models get as standard.
Even so, it’s not quite the stripped-out version you might expect, with the aforementioned 16-inch alloy wheels (including a full-sized spare alloy), rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls, tilt and reach-adjustable steering. You miss out on all that in the cheaper Go version.
Standard kit across all i30 models includes an 8.0-inch touchscreen media system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a single USB port, and Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, and cloth seat trim.
The Active includes sat nav with live traffic updates and DAB+ digital radio, and also has power folding side mirrors, and rear parking sensors to complement the reversing camera - read more about the safety specs of the i30 below.
Debate rages in the CarsGuide office as to whether the new i30 looks any good or not. Well that’s not exactly true - everyone except the boss man thinks it’s completely inoffensive. But Mal? He thinks it’s a bit gross.
I can understand why he feels that way - the previous i30 was a handsome thing, while this model looks considerably more European-inspired in its design (because it’s European designed, most likely). The sharp headlight lines, the tapered grille and double tail-light treatment are all nice details… on the higher-spec models.
On the Active those design flourishes are somewhat at odds with the smallish 16-inch alloy wheels. But it’s far from hard to look at, even though it could be a little generic for some tastes.
The i30 doesn’t set any new benchmarks in terms of cabin space and comfort, but the guys and girls at Hyundai do know their way around the practical elements of cockpit design.
There are good-sized cupholders between the front seats and in the rear flip-down armrest, and bottle holders in all four doors. Plus, the shelf in front of the shifter has a textured rubber lining inside to stop things rattling around.
There are mesh map pockets on the backs of the front seats, but there are no rear air-vents. Unlike the cheap-feeling Kona, there are soft materials on the door cards and elbow pads, and the rear-seat space is adequate for a six-foot adult: toe room is a little tight, and knee room isn’t the best. Headroom, happily, is quite good, however.
The i30 has dual ISOFIX anchor-points and three top-tether restraints.
The media system was a cinch to use, and plugging in my iPhone to activate CarPlay took away most of my issues with the infotainment unit. The display is a little pixelated, not as crisp as some competitors (like the Volkswagen Golf) and the sat-nav system has a frustrating tendency to be too verbose: in fact, I struggled to get it to shut up about speed cameras and traffic-light cameras.
The boot of the i30 is claimed to offer 395 litres of capacity (VDA), and that figure expands to 1301L with the 60:40 rear seats folded down. Not only is that boot space bigger than many rivals, the big bonus is that there’s a full-size alloy spare wheel under the floor.
The 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine is a pretty solid competitor in its segment, with 120kW of power and 203Nm of torque. It’s a direct-injection engine, which is better than what you get in the base model Kona, for instance.
It doesn’t push the boundaries for what’s possible in a low-spec model, but it is entirely inoffensive and suitably refined for this application.
Fuel consumption for the i30 Active manual is listed at 7.3 litres per 100km, which is a little high for the class. The auto is claimed to use 7.4L/100km.
For instance, a Toyota Corolla manual hatch uses a claimed 6.7L/100km, and a Mazda 3 uses 5.9L/100km. On test, we saw pretty close to the claim, at 7.6L/100km, so, it may just be a bit more realistic than its rivals.
The Hyundai i30 has a really European feel to the way it drives, and in large part that’s due to the fact it was engineered and designed there. But - as with all Hyundai models - it has been put through the local wringer for its steering and suspension setup, and that makes the driving character even more impressive.
The i30 Active’s steering is light, linear and feels natural when you’re applying lock at low speeds. It also offers great confidence to the driver with its solid on-centre feel at highway speeds.
Perhaps more amazing is the i30’s ride comfort, which I described in my notes after my usual drive loop as being “supreme”. It really is, dealing with pockmarked back roads, coarse-chip arterials and urban patchwork extremely well. It never feels loose or wobbly, but it has an excellent cushion and comfort to the suspension without lacking the control we love to see in a small hatchback like this.
Another point I made in my notes was that this 2.0-litre Hyundai engine is “definitely more impressive than the Kona” - the direct-injection unit in the i30 is a newer, more powerful and more refined powerplant than the newly added small SUV.
It revs with less raucousness, and never feels short of breath. And the manual shift action is light, city-friendly, and easy to manage - even in a terrible morning commute (trust me, a two-hour slog in a manual can be taxing, but it was surprisingly fine in the i30 Active).
5 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
The current-generation PD Hyundai i30 range was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP crash test score in 2017.
The i30 Active has six airbags, a reversing camera with active steering lines, rear parking sensors, electronic stability control, tyre-pressure monitoring and hill-start assist (you mightn’t need it, though, because the transmission is a piece of cake, and it has a manual handbrake for all the old-schoolers out there).
The big omission in the i30 Active is auto emergency braking (AEB) - you’ve got to spend up to the Elite if you can deal with diesel or SR if you want petrol. But if you must have a manual, you won’t be able to get AEB at all, no matter the spec.
A lot of people buy Hyundais because of their ownership promises, and it’s easy to see why. With a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty program that is transferable to the next owner if you decide to change, you’re buying peace of mind and potentially extra resale value.
The Korean brand also offers a brilliant lifetime capped-price servicing plan, with maintenance due every 12 months/15,000km. The costs are low, too, with the average over the first five years/75,000km working out to just $259 for the 2.0-litre engine.
Plus, if you maintain your car with Hyundai, you can get up to 10 years of roadside assist included.
If I wanted an affordable hatchback that has some nice trinkets and promises a hassle-free long-term ownership experience, this is 100 per cent the car I’d buy. If I wanted the latest safety kit, though, I’d have to eschew my manual desire and spend more money to get it.
That’s a shame. And while the manual gearbox won’t be the transmission of everyone’s dreams, if you want an auto just spend the extra $2300 - you’ll still be getting an accomplished, comfortable and charming small hatchback. Personally, I could live with the manual: and that’s saying something, because I commute 160km per day.
|Active||1.6L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN||$14,500 – 20,460||2018 HYUNDAI i30 2018 Active Pricing and Specs|
|Active 1.6 Crdi||1.6L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO||$16,400 – 22,770||2018 HYUNDAI i30 2018 Active 1.6 Crdi Pricing and Specs|
|Active 1.6 Crdi Smartsense||1.6L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO||$17,500 – 24,310||2018 HYUNDAI i30 2018 Active 1.6 Crdi Smartsense Pricing and Specs|
|Active Smartsense||2.0L, ULP, 6 SP SEQ AUTO||$15,100 – 21,230||2018 HYUNDAI i30 2018 Active Smartsense Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||8|
|Engine & trans||7|