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Hyundai i30 Active 2018 review: weekend test

The car looked and felt like something worth a fair bit more than $20,950. Surely, a mistake was made.
EXPERT RATING
8
It’s almost as though Hyundai doesn’t even want to sell higher variants of the i30... Or do they?

Something has either gone deeply wrong or very right when you have to double-check the spec sheet the day after driving a car.

I was pretty sure I was getting the budget 'Active' model Hyundai i30 when a set of keys were thrown at me. Reasonably confident, like, maybe 90 per cent sure. 

When I drove it that night, I was confused. The car looked and felt like something worth a fair bit more than $20,950. Surely, a mistake was made.

The next day I double checked everything, including the spec sheet. Turns out this is the second cheapest i30 you can buy. Almost the 'poverty pack' car... 

Which is interesting, because it’s almost as though Hyundai doesn’t even want to sell higher variants. Or do they? And, now that the new base-model i30 Go is here, should you consider that instead? Read on as I explain.

Saturday

The i30's new look packs a bunch of European flavour. The i30's new look packs a bunch of European flavour.

The i30 Active certainly looks the part. Well, specifically - it looks like somebody else’s part, the Audi A3’s part. I don’t mean this in a bad way, not like a Chinese knock-off. It’s different enough to have its own personality, but the flavour is certainly European. 

The square overall shape is nicely smoothed out at the edges by a pleasing mix of angles and curves. I was very much a fan of the scoops that nestle the Daytime Running Lights (DRLs) at the lower edges of the front bumper.

The raised rear bumper with suspiciously Golf-esque tail-lights gives the car a sporty demeanour. If it had a European badge, nothing would be out of place.

There's more than a taste of Volkswagen group products, but it all works. There's more than a taste of Volkswagen group products, but it all works.

It’s the highlights you might miss that were the biggest surprise. Hyundai could have easily bundled things like the fog-lights, folding wing-mirrors with indicators, 16-inch aluminium-brush alloys and black rear highlight spoiler into some kind of $1000 ‘sports pack’, but didn’t. This all comes free of charge on the Active.

Seriously, if you saw this car in the street, would you think it’s the roughly $20k edition?

Inside, the design of the dash has an incredibly pleasing sense of symmetry about it. Unfortunately, the cabin is the only place where you can tell this is a somewhat cheap hatch. The seats are nice enough, but the steering wheel and shift-knob in our manual were made from nasty (albeit, incredibly well-put-together) plastics.

The symmetry of the i30's interior will please even the most fastidious drivers. Too bad about the plastics... The symmetry of the i30's interior will please even the most fastidious drivers. Too bad about the plastics...

The star of the show is the 8.0-inch touchscreen. It’s not as slick as Mazda’s multimedia offering, but it does support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The home-screen is far more sensible too, offering a split glance at both navigation and audio. For the record, the i30s software is so much better than the equivalent Toyota and Subaru systems there’s simply no comparison.

And yes, you read that right: This car gets navigation as standard and digital (DAB+) radio.

Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, DAB+ and built-in nav? Most other systems can't compare. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, DAB+ and built-in nav? Most other systems can't compare.

Oddly, my two passengers on the weekend both noted that the touchscreen unit looks a little tacked-on, perhaps detracting from the otherwise clean-looking interior space.

My Saturday was an errand-laden loop around much of Sydney’s eastern half. The trip on sub-par inner-west and northern roads revealed the car is damn well put together. The dash is made of pleasing, mostly soft, materials with barely a rattle to be heard.

The boot (395 litres VDA) was large enough for the few boxes I threw at it and also includes (in a very European manner) a luggage net. If you’ve never seen or used a luggage net before I can’t stress enough how useful they can be for carrying fragiles. Place them under the net and they simply won’t move in the corners. That’s smart. 

Despite packing a full-size alloy spare, the i30 manages to have one of the biggest boots in the class. Despite packing a full-size alloy spare, the i30 manages to have one of the biggest boots in the class.

In comparison, the Corolla hatch is smaller at 350-litres VDA, and the Impreza hatch smaller still at 345-litres VDA. 

If larger carrying capacity is important to you, with the seats flat the i30 can go to 1301 VDA-flavoured litres.

Sunday

The i30's locally tuned suspension gives it the handling edge. The i30's locally tuned suspension gives it the handling edge.

Sunday was picnic in the park time. And by park, I mean the Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park, because General San Martin Drive is too good a road test circuit to ignore.

Hyundai offers three engine options with the latest i30. It seems a little upside down, but the smaller 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine is the premium option. Our car was fitted with the carryover 2.0-litre petrol unit which produces 120kW/203Nm. I’m glad it does, sometimes the predictable power delivery of a non-turbocharged engine can be nice.

The downside to this, now ageing engine is that it’s not particularly fuel efficient. The trip computer was showing a hefty 7.7L/100km by the end of our weekend. Hyundai hasn’t made any outrageous claims, and reckon you can get this down to a very believable 7.3L/100km on the combined cycle. 

Concerningly, the more expensive 1.6-litre unit is claimed to use even more fuel at 7.5L/100km, so if you’re concerned about fuel economy the diesel is the choice (using 4.5L/100km in manual guise).

For comparison the Subaru’s 2.0-litre engine is claimed to use 6.6L/100km and the Corolla will do less again with it’s 1.8-litre unit scoring a claimed 6.1L/100km.

The 2.0-litre non-turbo petrol produces 120kW/203Nm. The 2.0-litre non-turbo petrol produces 120kW/203Nm.

Where the Hyundai does truly shine is the unreal locally-tuned suspension. Our drive through the national park proved this car is extremely confident and well-planted on the road and in the corners. Thankfully, the steering is packed with feel and weighted just right.

Despite the sporty ride, road noise is decidedly less than, say… the already impressive Mazda3. You can notice the Active’s torsion beam rear suspension over the bumpy stuff. It’s a little rough. You’ll need to spec up to a 1.6-turbo unit to get the more sophisticated multi-link rear suspension, but it’s by no means a deal-breaker.

I found headlights on the Active satisfactory, but they might not impress rural buyers. If this is a concern for you, LEDs, which may be better, are offered at higher grades.

There was enough legroom behind my driving position, but only just. There was enough legroom behind my driving position, but only just.

Safety is perhaps the key differentiator between this i30 and the rest of the range. Any of the manual, or 2.0-litre engine i30 variants have no AEB, 'Driver Attention Alert', 'Forward Collision Warning', 'Lane Keep Assist' or ‘Smart Cruise Control’. 

The cheapest way to get these features is to step up to either the $28,950 SR or Elite DCT autos at an $8,000(!) cost difference. The threat is truly from the $20,490 Mazda3 Neo with AEB as standard.

The six-speed manual isn't the slickest unit on the market. There’s a bit of play, and it doesn’t have that clinical precision of a Volkswagen group shifter. The Active can be served up with a traditional torque converter auto for $2300 more.

It's nice that a manual is even offered, but it's not the best one I've used. It's nice that a manual is even offered, but it's not the best one I've used.

Shockingly, the cheapest way to get into a dual-clutch i30 (1.6 CRDi Active) costs $5,000 more.

It's worth noting that for $960 less ($19,990, $500 less than the Mazda3 Neo), you can now step into an i30 Go. If it were my money though, I'd stick with the Active because you'll lose 10 years of built-in navigation updates and alloy wheels.

Will you get peace of mind with the Active? A competitive five-year/unlimited km warranty would suggest so. Plus, the 2.0-litre engine has proven itself as dependable in previous generations. The newer 1.6-litre turbo engines and dual-clutch transmissions are yet to put similar reliability runs on the board.

Verdict

As I said at the beginning, this car confuses me. It’s almost as though Hyundai doesn’t want to sell fancier grades of the i30, because the Active is an incredible offering for the price. It's an entertaining drive, looks great, and the standard inclusions list is bafflingly good.

You can upgrade to more current engines, dual clutch auto and a sunroof, but where you’ll really miss out is the advanced safety features. It’s a shame they aren’t available (even as an option) on the Active, and realistically cost $8000 more.

That having been said, you’ll certainly have trouble finding a better equipped car that feels this good for $20,950.

Are today's advanced safety features costing $8000 more an i30 deal-breaker? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Pricing Guides

$21,980
Based on 812 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$15,500
Highest Price
$49,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
ACTIVE 1.6L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $19,000 – 19,999 2018 HYUNDAI i30 2018 ACTIVE Pricing and Specs
ACTIVE 1.6 CRDi 1.6L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $18,810 – 23,760 2018 HYUNDAI i30 2018 ACTIVE 1.6 CRDi Pricing and Specs
ACTIVE 1.6 CRDi SMARTSENSE 1.6L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $22,980 – 25,807 2018 HYUNDAI i30 2018 ACTIVE 1.6 CRDi SMARTSENSE Pricing and Specs
ACTIVE SMARTSENSE 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP SEQ AUTO $19,977 – 28,620 2018 HYUNDAI i30 2018 ACTIVE SMARTSENSE Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Tom White
Journalist

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