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Hyundai i30 2021 review: sedan

We put the Hyundai i30 Sedan to the test. (Elite variant pictured)
EXPERT RATING
7.8
Does a rose by any other name smell so sweet? We'll soon find out, with Hyundai rebranding its Elantra as the i30 Sedan for this all-new 2021 model. Is it just the name that's changed? Nope. There's lots of other new stuff to. So let's check it out.

The Hyundai i30 Sedan is the artist formerly known as the Elantra, with the brand renaming its small-car sedan to make a little more sense in its line-up. 

But it's more than an Elantra with a new name. The all-new i30 Sedan rides on a new platform, wears a new design, carries new technology and new safety equipment, and falls under a new - and more expensive - price structure. 

Is that enough to put sedans back on the small-car map? Or is it destined to play second fiddle the i30 hatch? Let's find out. 

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

The i30 Sedan range kicks off with the Active trim, available as a six-speed manual ($24,790) or a six-speed automatic ($26,790), before stepping up to the auto-only Elite trim at $30,790 - all about $3000 more than the hatch.

Before the end of the year they'll be joined by the sporty-flavoured N Line models, available in manual ($30,290) or seven-speed DCT automatic ($32,390), or the fancy-feeling N Line Premium, for $37,290.

Active cars get 17-inch alloy wheels, a leather-appointed interior, wireless smartphone charging, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as a comprehensive safety suite - which we'll circle back to under the Safety sub heading. 

The Active and Elite both wear 17-inch alloy wheels. (Active variant pictured) The Active and Elite both wear 17-inch alloy wheels. (Active variant pictured)

Elite cars add dual-zone climate control, twin 10.25-inch screens - one in the centre of the dash, the other in front of the driver - with satellite navigation, a BOSE eight-speaker stereo and DAB+ digital radio.

  • The Elite features two 10.25-inhc screens with one sitting in front of the driver. (Elite variant pictured) The Elite features two 10.25-inhc screens with one sitting in front of the driver. (Elite variant pictured)
  • The second 10.25-inch screen features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (Elite variant pictured) The second 10.25-inch screen features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (Elite variant pictured)

Finally, N Line cars will add a sportier engine, unique bodykit with new-look front and rear bumpers, and a new mesh grille. There's also twin exhaust tips, LED headlights and taillights, and 18-inch alloys, while the N Line Premium adds a sunroof, front parking sensors, 10-way power adjustable, heated and ventilated front seats and a heated steering wheel. 

  • The N Line cars score a unique bodykit with unique front end with a new mesh grille. (N Line variant pictured) The N Line cars score a unique bodykit with unique front end with a new mesh grille. (N Line variant pictured)
  • At the rear of the N Line is a new rear bumper and twin exhaust tips. (N Line variant pictured) At the rear of the N Line is a new rear bumper and twin exhaust tips. (N Line variant pictured)
  • The N Line rides on 18-inch alloy wheels. (N Line variant pictured) The N Line rides on 18-inch alloy wheels. (N Line variant pictured)
  • The N Line is powered by a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine. ( N Line variant pictured) The N Line is powered by a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine. ( N Line variant pictured)
  • Inside, there are heated and ventilated front seats plus a heated steering wheel. (N Line variant pictured) Inside, there are heated and ventilated front seats plus a heated steering wheel. (N Line variant pictured)

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

The i30 Sedan continues Hyundai's adventurous Sensuous Sportiness design language, though CarsGuide opinions are a little split on how successfully it's been applied here. 

The front-end looks sharp and shapely, with a cat-clawed bonnet split by two swept-back headlights. The bonnet points down towards the tarmac, with these angular inverts on either side that, in Elite models, house deep-set fog lights. 

  • The i30 Sedan continues Hyundai's adventurous Sensuous Sportiness design language. (Active variant pictured) The i30 Sedan continues Hyundai's adventurous Sensuous Sportiness design language. (Active variant pictured)
  • The rear is adventurous and might not be to everyone's taste. (Active variant pictured) The rear is adventurous and might not be to everyone's taste. (Active variant pictured)

The body, too, is a collection of sharp lines and angles, but both it and the front-on view look accomplished and premium, in our humble opinion.

It's the rear, though, that raises the questions, with the lip of the boot jutting out dramatically before angling in sharply before jutting back out again, a little little a pyramid laying on its side. It's adventurous, no doubt, but it might not be to everyone's taste. 

  • The front-end looks sharp and shapely. (Elite variant pictured) The front-end looks sharp and shapely. (Elite variant pictured)
  • The body, is a collection of sharp lines and angles. (Elite variant pictured) The body, is a collection of sharp lines and angles. (Elite variant pictured)

The ambience in the cabin of the i30 Sedan depends on which one you're sitting in. The Elite models are lovely - all quality-feeling materials (save the hard plastics on the upper doors), including a vaguely denim-feeling fabric that trims the inner door panels, and those big twin screens that feel plenty tech savvy. 

The Active model makes do without the niceties, though, feeling decidedly cheaper inside - a feeling not helped by the fact the smaller 8.0-inch touchscreen is housed in the same surround as the bigger 10.25-inch screen, meaning you're suddenly confronted by a lot of flat, black plastic.

  • Compared to the Elite model, the Active feels cheaper inside. (Active variant pictured) Compared to the Elite model, the Active feels cheaper inside. (Active variant pictured)
  • Inside, the Elite has quality-feeling materials. (Elite variant pictured) Inside, the Elite has quality-feeling materials. (Elite variant pictured)

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

It's a small sedan, but it doesn't feel small. It's longer and more practical than the hatch, for example - at least in terms of seats-up boot space - and there's a surprising amount of room for rear-seat passengers, too.

This is a seriously spacious backseat - at least for those in the window seats - with a heap of room between my knees and my own 175cm driving position, and plenty of headroom, too. Yes, three adults across the back will prove a squeeze - this is a small car, after all - but two can ride in comfort.

  • This is a seriously spacious backseat. (Active variant pictured) This is a seriously spacious backseat. (Active variant pictured)
  • The rear seat will comfortably fit three adults. (Elite variant pictured) The rear seat will comfortably fit three adults. (Elite variant pictured)

The rear seat is split by a pulldown divider that's home to two cupholders, there's bottle storage in the doors, and two ISOFIX attachment points, too.

Upfront, the cabin feels plenty spacious, and the light-coloured, denim-look materials used in the Elite models add a sense of airiness not found in the cheaper, more plasticky Active models. Up front riders get cupholders, bottle holders in the doors, twin USB connection points, a power outlet, and wireless charging for phones.

  • The i30 is a small sedan, but it doesn't feel small. (Active variant pictured) The i30 is a small sedan, but it doesn't feel small. (Active variant pictured)
  • Upfront, the cabin feels plenty spacious. (Elite variant pictured) Upfront, the cabin feels plenty spacious. (Elite variant pictured)

Cubbies abound, too, including one at knee height under the dash, and more in the doors and centre console.

Hyundai says the i30 Sedan will swallow some 474 litres (VDA) of luggage, up from 395 litres in the hatch - with the rear seats in place - and around 1350L with the seats folded flat.

With the rear seats in place, boot space is rated at 474 litres VDA. (Active variant pictured) With the rear seats in place, boot space is rated at 474 litres VDA. (Active variant pictured)

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

It's a pretty tried and true powertrain this, with the i30 Sedan Active and Elite both fitted with Hyundai's 2.0-litre petrol engine producing 117kW and 191Nm, pairing with a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic.

The 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine makes 117kW/191Nm. (Active variant pictured) The 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine makes 117kW/191Nm. (Active variant pictured)

The combo feels dependable, rather than exhilarating, but does produce enough grunt to get you humming along easily enough. Frustratingly, there are some super-clever hybrid-assisted powertrains available internationally, but we don't get them in Australia. At least, not yet.

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

Hyundai says the 2.0-litre engine will sip around 7.0L/100km on the combined cycle, but is yet to reveal C02 emissions.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

It's not an excitement machine, the i30 Sedan (the incoming N Line models with their turbocharged engines should better fulfil that role) but what it lacks in outright speed it makes up for with its road manners. 

We came away impressed with its ride and handling balance, with the newest Hyundai feeling genuinely competent in corners - so much so that we were longing for more grunt - yet comfortable on the dodgy road surfaces of the city, too. 

The i30 Sedan is an easy, breezy, largely care-free drive. (Active variant pictured) The i30 Sedan is an easy, breezy, largely care-free drive. (Active variant pictured)

Part of that is likely down to Hyundai's local chassis tuning, but could also be down to the fact the Sedan rides on a new and different platform (the K3) to its hatch sibling. Either way, this i30 balances the dual roles of comfort and connection to the road below with aplomb. 

There are some downsides, though. The engine, though providing enough shove to move you around fairly easily, lacks the urgency required for overtaking or for spirited take-offs. Instead, planting your right foot makes things get louder and more gruff in the cabin, without producing much in the way of extra performance. You're far better off treating it gently, and letting it do its thing without asking too much of it. 

The Sedan rides on a new and different platform (the K3) to its hatch sibling. (Elite variant pictured) The Sedan rides on a new and different platform (the K3) to its hatch sibling. (Elite variant pictured)

It's an easy, breezy, largely care-free drive. It won't get your heart beating any faster, but nor will it have you kung-fu-gripping the steering wheel in frustration. But we do wish Hyundai could have gotten its hands on those European mild-hybrid engines.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

Safety is an interesting one, given Hyundai won't be submitting this vehicle for ANCAP testing. Recent changes to the testing regime require the addition of a central airbag to qualify for a full five-star rating, and the i30 Sedan doesn't have one, meaning it would likely max out at four stars.

Does that mean it's unsafe? Nope. Just that ANCAP's testing requirements are moving quickly, and not all cars have managed to keep up.

You'll find six airbags, along with the usual braking and traction aids, before the tech steps up to the active safety stuff, like AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, as well as junction detection, plus lane keep assist, lane following assist and active cruise - all in the Active model. The Elite trim then adds blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and rear parking sensors. 

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

The Hyundai i30 Sedan is covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, and requires servicing every 15,000kms. Capped-price servicing is available throughout, too. 

Verdict

The i30 Sedan improved on the Elantra formula in every way, provided the new and adventurous design language speaks to your tastes. It does feel more advanced in the cabin than it does under the bonnet, though.

EXPERT RATING
7.8
Price and features8
Design7
Practicality8
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption8
Driving8
Safety8
Ownership8
Andrew Chesterton
Contributing journalist

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Pricing Guide

$24,790

Lowest price, based on new car retail price

This price is subject to change closer to release data
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