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Hyundai i30 SR 2013 Review

EXPERT RATING
8

A warm hatch with a nice price - that's the bottom line on the Hyundai i30 SR. But there is more to the SR than just a little bit of tizzying and tweaking to the car that was a close second in the Carsguide Car of the Year judging for 2013. 

The SR shows that Hyundai is serious about sharpening the edge for Australia and, far more importantly, doing serious tuning of its cars for local drivers and conditions.

PRICE AND EQUIPMENT

The SR is a genuine world leader, at least for Hyundai, because it stuffs the company's 2.0-litre engine into the i30 for the first time and delivers it with a starting price of $27,990 including nice kit such as Xenon lamps, leather seats, push-button start and satnav with Bluetooth.

Hyundai believes it will account for about 10 per cent of its i30 sales downunder, up to 250 cars a month, and is already following-up with an Accent SR. Other SRs will follow, but none is likely to benefit from the 1.6-litre turbo engine in the model that introduced the badge to Australia, the Veloster SR, despite the potential for a truly hot hatch.

ORIGIN

Just in case you're wondering, SR has no special meaning. It's not short for Sport Racing or Serious Rocketship, just "I think it sounds good", Hyundai's chief operating office, John Elsworth, tells Carsguide.

But Elsworth, a high-profile Hyundai recruit last year from the second-top job at Holden, is committed to SR and what it means. "To me, it's about making the brand more multi-functional than being famous for great value. I think we already own that," he says.

"Having the local tuning program gives buyers a lot more confidence that the cars aren't just imported direct from the factory in Korea. The SR models are key to us in developing character."

The SR story on i30 began just 10 months ago with a tease at the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney, which gave the support to drive the project forward. The show car was only cosmetic, but Hyundai knew it needed to do more and targeted the SP25 version of the Mazda3 and the Ford Focus Sport as the result it wanted.

The go-ahead for production sparked intensive local development using technology that would not be out of place on a V8 Supercars racer, including live telemetry and dozens of individual sensors, in a program spanning everything from alpine and gravel roads to closed-course hot laps.

The program was directed by Hyundai's local product planning chief, Andrew Tuitahi, but the keys to success were provided by British suspension guru David Potter. He's a motorsport veteran who has 15 years experience of local conditions and is described as a 'doctor of suspension' by Hyundai.

WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE

Work on the SR concentrated on compensating for the extra 33 kilograms in the nose, because of the heavier engine, and giving a sportier feel. The car gets 17-inch alloys with Hankook rubber but the other changes, as far as Hyundai will share, run to heavier front springs and much different damper settings.

ENGINE AND TECHNOLOGY

The SR is only mildly sporty, although the 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine picks up 17  per cent more power at 129kW and a similar torque increase to 209Nm. The best measure of the improvement is the 0-100km/h time, which drops from 9.1 to 7.7 seconds in the manual. There is a six-speed automatic, but I chose the six-speed manual SR for my first drive in the latest i30.

DRIVING

After the impressive performance at COTY 2013 I know the basics, but this is a car with a tougher job and much tougher opposition. The result of all the work transforms the basic i30 into a car which has a very mature feel, coping easily with the worst road conditions I could find while still delivering great grip and balance in corners.

Within 10 kilometres I know the SR’s chassis is a winner. In fact, it feels like it could easily handle more grunt - and a bit more aural excitement above the standard exhaust. The body changes are only mild, and the leather seats are nice without being amazing, but the suspension tuning has made a huge difference.

It's the control that's most impressive. Nothing upsets the SR, from full-power acceleration to hard braking or the worst potholes I can find. It's even better than the Kia Cerato hatch I've just driven, and that's saying a lot. The i30 SR is not cheap, but it is good value and it's the sort of car that makes living easy. In the history of Hyundai in Australia, it's a landmark car because it shows what can be done by applying tasty Australian icing - even though Potter is British - to a Korean cake.

VERDICT

The Hyundai i30 gets a tasty tweak thanks to local SR development.

Hyundai i30 SR
Price: $27,990 (auto $2200)
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol
Power: 129kW and 209 Nm
Thirst: 6.5-7.2 litres/100km
Transmission: six-speed manual and auto, front-wheel drive

 

Pricing guides

$13,990
Based on 424 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$7,799
Highest Price
$19,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Active 1.8L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $6,200 – 9,570 2013 Hyundai I30 2013 Active Pricing and Specs
Active 1.6 Crdi 1.6L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $7,000 – 10,780 2013 Hyundai I30 2013 Active 1.6 Crdi Pricing and Specs
Elite 1.8L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $7,200 – 11,220 2013 Hyundai I30 2013 Elite Pricing and Specs
Elite 1.6 Crdi 1.6L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $8,900 – 13,420 2013 Hyundai I30 2013 Elite 1.6 Crdi Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8