Hyundai i30 VS Honda Civic
- Excellent engineering throughout
- Sharp pricing
- Diesels are heavy
- Diesels are also slow
- AEB not standard across the range
- Roomy cabin
- Strong powertrain
- Comfy ride
- Fussy styling
- Fiddly multimedia system
- Some road noise intrusion
Hyundai's first i30 launched to quiet praise in 2007. Hyundai had just come off a rough patch of making pretty ordinary cars with only a few exceptions. At some point in the preceding few years, the Korean giant realised that dull, middle-of-the-road machinery was not going to turn it into the next Toyota. Instead, it was in danger of fading into a pale imitation of the great white-goods maker.
That first i30 was the moment Hyundai set off on its own path, with a few key positions filled by industry veterans from around the globe. Kia did the same, almost in parallel, and look where it is today.
The third-generation i30 was an instant hit. Building on the success of the first and second generations, the car had built a reputation as dependable, solid and, as the years went by, good to drive. Excellent value has been a core competency for Hyundai since day dot, but adding all that other stuff took a while.
|Engine Type||1.6L turbo|
The clue’s in the name.
A permanent fixture of the small-car scene for nearly 50 years, the Honda Civic has long been a strong urban runabout proposition, providing quality, efficient and progressive engineering at affordable prices.
Here we take a longer look at the Civic RS – one of the more popular and sportier grades in this 10th-generation series – to see how effective the updates are, as small cars struggle to stay relevant against the onslaught of compact SUVs.
|Engine Type||1.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The third-generation i30 was a hugely impressive car when it launched last year and continues to impress now. The added halo if the i30 N has rapidly solidifed Hyundai's reputation as a quality car maker.
With the Smart Sense pack fitted, either as an option on lower-spec cars or as standard from the SR up, the i30 is well in front of its rivals as a total package, even if it misses out on some details.
If you had to pick the best of the range, it would have to be the SR, with its bigger wheels and sportier tune, the 1.6 turbo and a cabin full of gadgets (while retaining the better cloth trim), it's sharply-priced and better again than just about anything in the segment or at this price point. It is, quite simply, a car that will make everyone happy.
And if it's outright performance you're after, you can't go past the i30 N.
Is the Hyundai i30 on your small car radar? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
The Civic RS may look like it was designed to keep up with racy Golf GTIs through twisting mountain passes – and it can certainly hold its own thanks to assured handling and roadholding – but it actually shines best as an urban family runabout proposition.
The key points to remember are that the turbo engine provides enough low-down punch for rapid round-town driving while returning reasonable economy, the suspension’s ability to soak up the rough stuff should help calm and soothe away the most trying commute, and the cabin’s focus on functionality and simplicity (fiddly multimedia screen aside) serves to enhance rather than distract from the job at hand.
With nearly half a century’s experience building Civics, it’s clear that Honda hasn’t forgotten how to build an excellent town car. Like we said in the beginning, it’s right there in the name.
The i30's basic shape is very clean and far more grown up than the previous generation. While that car had all sorts of interesting surfaces and big headlights, this newer look is more restrained. The segment is starting to converge on a more conservative, pan-European look, with even the new Focus calming down. The i30 puts me in mind of the Peugeot 308, with elements of the VW Golf.
As you move up the range, you'll see chrome, which suggests more gadgets inside. On the SR sports pack, a mild body kit includes a rear spoiler and side skirts but stops short of a rear diffuser. Even the performance version, the N, is reasonably subtle, so the philosophy is common across the entire range, and it looks the business.
Speaking of the N, it's reasonably easy to spot with its big 19-inch wheels, red flashes here and there, N badging and grille and, if you're listening, a poppy-bangy exhaust note from its chunky twin exhausts.
Interior photos show a light and airy space, with all that glass letting in the light. The light leather option on the Premium was bright, even on an overcast day. It's a well-constructed and designed space, with sensible choices all through the cabin and Hyundai's habit of nailing the driving position continues. Some of the materials are a bit ho-hum and in the Go and Active, the plastic steering wheel is pretty dire, but the quality look and feel of the switchgear and the tangible quality feel of including a big screen makes up for that.
Two things are immediately apparent about the Civic hatch’s brash aesthetics. Firstly, it’s big for a so-called small car, reflecting the model’s US-focus and with the upshot making for a pleasingly spacious cabin. And secondly, Honda’s designers seemed uncertain as to when to put pencils down. It’s a melting pot of fussy styling.
For some, the sleek fastback-style four-door sedan is a little more elegant, but both shapes stand out as truly individual. Sadly, with a move to cleaner and more geometric lines nowadays, gen-10 Civic is unlikely to age quite as gracefully as several earlier iterations.
That said, the RS’ large, turbine wheels fill the guards nicely, while that vast interior is right on the money, now that the fiddly touchscreen interface has partly given way to hard buttons for faster and more intuitive access to multimedia, ventilation and vehicle-control settings.
Sure, the Civic’s handsome dash architecture is swathed in a sea of monotone plastic, but it’s of hardy and consistent quality, is well-crafted (save for one persistent rattle in our test car) and is created to prioritise function over form, from the perfectly-placed screen and considered ventilation outlets, to the easy reach of most switchgear (barring the USB ports below and behind the buttressed centre-console layout.
Few cars at any price present a greater choice of, or more effective, storage solutions. Enormous cavities to lose things in seem to proliferate everywhere.
The RS’ stitched leather trim contrasts well to the matt metallic highlights decorating the dash and door cards, adding a dose of athletic intent. It’s fair to say, then, that – unlike the exterior styling – the Civic’s interior may weather the years better.
The i30's footprint contains a car with good interior dimensions. Passengers front and rear have plenty of headroom. Those in the back will fit easily if they're under 185cm, although the centre rear passenger might not be so happy if they're that tall.
Storage space varies between the models. Owners of the entry-level Go can expect just two cupholders but four bottle holders. There are also two bag hooks in the 395 litre boot and four tie-down hooks. The boot space dimensions are near the top of the class, easily wiping out the Mazda3 and Golf hatches' much smaller boots.
Step up to the Active and you get another two cupholders for a total of four.
Drop the 60/40 split-fold seats and the luggage capacity jumps to 1301 litres, meaning objects of a decent size will fit from your flat-pack furniture adventures. The Elite, Premium and SR Premium also pick up a luggage net.
Its external dimensions are reasonably compact and the turning circle is 10.6m. Ground clearance is 140mm when unladen.
The overall feeling in the Civic is that it’s low, wide and roomy. A big small car, if you will.
Getting in and out is easy, broad yet enveloping seats provide ample support up front and reasonable comfort, even for three (at a squeeze), out back, and that’s backed up by ample space for legs, knees and shoulders. Taller scalps might scrape the rear ceiling, though.
Back up front, that big central touchscreen does demand familiarisation – and the fact you need to confirm an action every time you restart the car is annoying – yet the basics are spot-on, from the excellent driving position and super-clear dials, to the abundant ventilation, logical control layout and the aforementioned storage bonanza.
The USB and 12V ports are a stretch away behind the two-level lower-console layout, but there’s nothing difficult or intimidating here otherwise.
That said, while the forward view is commanding and confidence-inspiring, shallow side and rear glass makes reverse parking tricky and the rear camera essential.
Speaking of the back of the Honda, a long, flat cargo floor offers very competitive luggage space (at 330 litres). With only a lipped sill to lift bulky things over, loading is effortless, although not everybody will appreciate the gimmicky cargo cover blind that needs to be pulled across like a sunshade. A space-saver spare lives below the floor.
Note that if you’re coming from the two earlier-generation (2006 and 2011) Civic hatches sourced from Britain, you may be disappointed to find that Honda’s ‘Magic Seats’ aren’t fitted, since the older cars were based on the Jazz supermini and had their fuel tanks beneath the front seats to enable the base and seat-back ensemble to fold down into a cavity for extraordinary floor-to-ceiling space.
Still, reflecting its focus on the key US market demographic, few rivals this side of a Kia Cerato feel, or are as accommodating as, our Thai-assembled Honda.
Price and features
There are six distinct trim levels in the i30 range. Our price guide is purely based on rrp - how much you pay will depend on drive-away deals and the cost of any options and accessories.
Our model comparison takes you through each of the specifications to help you find which one suits you best.
The price list opens with the bargain basement Go. The manual petrol kicks off at $19,990m with the twin-clutch auto diesel weighing in at $24,990, via a manual diesel and petrol auto.
Standard features include 16-inch steel rims, air-conditioning, reverse camera, cloth trim, remote central locking, cruise control, trip computer, auto headlights, power windows front and rear, heated powered door mirrors (auto only) and a full-size spare tyre.
The sound system is the same in every i30. With six speakers, AM/FM radio, Bluetooth and USB at a minimum, the system is controlled via a dash-mounted 8.0-inch touch screen. iPhone and Android users will be pleased to know all i30s have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so if there's no GPS, you can use your phone for satellite navigation. There is no CD player or DVD player in any of the cars.
Tailored floor mats are available as part of the $320 interior-accessory pack which also includes a dash mat and fabric rear bumper protector.
Move on to the Active and you can get a 2.0-litre petrol manual ($20,950), auto ($23,250), diesel manual ($23,450) and twin clutch ($25,950). In addition to the Go's spec, you get 16-inch alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, LED daytime running lights, navigation system, park assist (a graphical display in the dash), folding heated mirrors and a full-size alloy spare.
The infotainment system also gains DAB radio.
The first of what you might call the sport editions is the SR manual and auto, starting at $25,590 for the six-speed manual and $28,950 for the seven-speed 'DCT' dual-clutch auto. Sporting the 1.6-litre turbo petrol, the SR has 18-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, the advanced safety features of the Smart Sense pack including lane assist, active cruise control, a bit of chrome here and there and sports pedals,
Next up is the Elite for between $27,790 and $30,490. Added to the Active's spec are fake-leather seats, steering wheel and gear shifter and keyless entry via smart key technology. The Elite also has 17-inch alloy wheels.
The Premium Auto jumps to $32,790 for the auto petrol and $35,490 for the DCT diesel. This machine picks up further styling changes - including a lot of chrome detailing - front parking sensors, electric driver's seat, auto LED headlights, sunroof and electrochromatic rear vision mirror.
The SR Premium auto goes back up to 18-inch alloys and again runs the 1.6-litre turbo petrol. The price is identical to the Premium diesel at $33,950 and is basically the same spec.
The final step is an important one - the i30 N. The N brand is Hyundai's performance arm and this is the first fully fledged performance car from Hyundai. The N has most of the same goodies as the SR Premium but rolls on 19-inch alloys, has bigger performance brakes, its own specification of Pirelli P-Zero tyres, an extra selectable drive mode known as N, dual-mode exhaust, sports front seats, mechanical limited slip diff, torque vectoring, auto rev matching and active dampers.
The N starts at $39,990 and you can add a 'Luxury Pack' for $3000, or a Luxury Pack with panoramic sunroof for $5000, both of which include keyless entry, auto wipers, electric heated fronts seats and front parking sensors.
Colours include 'Phantom Black', 'Intense Blue', 'Marina Blue', 'Iron Grey', 'Fiery Red', 'Platinum Silver', and 'Polar White'. All but the white attract an extra $495 cost. SR-badged cars score 'Sparkling Metal', 'Lava Orange' and 'Phoenix Orange' as extra colour options. The N also has its own colour schemes - 'Performance Blue', 'Clean Slate', 'Engine Red' and 'Micron Grey'. Brown is, sadly, off the menu.
Also off the menu are a self-parking function, bull bar, heated steering wheel, subwoofer, nudge bar, roof rails, design pack, xenon light bar or a launch edition (you're probably a bit late anyway).
Dealer accessories include things like tinted windows, roof racks, a cargo barrier, towbar and a cargo liner. No doubt they'll also try to saddle you with rust and paint protection.
Instead, like a Civic in Lululemon, the RS is the automotive equivalent to an athleisure outfit, striving for a sporty yet stylish and easy fit.
To that end, the $33,540, automatic-only RS continues with the 127kW/220Nm 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo engine (rather than the 104kW/174Nm 1.8-litre naturally aspirated unit powering the lesser VTi and VTi-S), but introduces larger alloy wheels (up from 17 to 18 inches) shod with top-shelf Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres (a massive thumb’s up), reshaped bumpers, a new rear diffuser, different grille and fresh colours.
Stepping inside, the RS adopts auto high-beam headlights (of superb spread but tardy response since sometimes they don’t switch off in time, so dazzle on-coming traffic), physical buttons (including a volume knob at last) for the 7.0-inch touchscreen and dual-zone climate-control systems, and updated seat and dash trim inserts. Still looking fresh.
Only turbo Civics offer Honda’s ‘Sensing’ safety package that brings autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control with stop/go functionality, lane departure warning, lane-keep assist and steering assist, thus almost matching direct rivals like the Corolla and Mazda3 that standardise most of these from base-model up.
There are a couple of driver-assist omissions, though. More on that in the Safety section below.
Other RS goodies include leather upholstery, heated front seats, a powered driver’s seat, LED headlights, a multi-angle reverse camera with inside-lane view to avoid cyclists (brilliant), privacy glass, DAB+ digital radio, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, a (smashing) premium audio system and keyless entry/start with walkaway locking. Handy.
The RS undercuts the $35,590 Hyundai i30 N-Line Premium and $35,090 Mazda3 G25 GT (though lesser-equipped grades are available in both), matches the $33,490 Kia Cerato GT Turbo but trails the $32,240 Ford Focus ST-Line with Driver Assist Pack and $32,135 Corolla ZR – but the latter makes do with the standard 2.0-litre engine and the ZR Hybrid for an extra $1500 is substantially down on oomph against this lot.
The spare is a space-saver while all RS colour choices are either metallic or pearlescent, with no cheaper flat paint alternative.
Engine & trans
Engine specs vary across the range but all i30s are front-wheel drive.
The Go, Active Elite and Premium come with Hyundai's 2.0 GDi developing 120kW and 203Nm, driving the front wheels through either a six-speed manual or traditional automatic transmission. The 0-100km/h acceleration time for the Go and Active is around nine seconds.
The 1.6 CRDi diesel engine is available in the Go, Active, Elite and Premium with either a six-speed manual (Go and Active) or seven-speed twin-clutch automatic (all variants). The 1.6-litre turbo diesel produces an even 100kW and delivers 280Nm in the manual and 300Nm in the twin clutch. Performance figures appear leisurely - the race to 100km/h is a calm 10.2 seconds. Clearly it has less horspower and more weight, but once you're up and running, the in-gear acceleration is impressive. Emissions are kept in check with a diesel particulate filter.
The 1.6 turbo petrol is the same engine size as the diesel, spinning up 150kW and 265Nm. That engine is available in the SR and SR Premium along with a six-speed manual or the seven-speed DCT. The sprint to 100 is said to be around eight seconds, but independent testing has clocked it closer to seven.
The N's engine is a firecracker 2.0-litre turbo producing 202kW/353Nm, with 378Nm when the overboost function kicks in. That means a 0-100km/h time of 6.1 seconds, although it felt slightly quicker to me. In true Australian style, we don't get the lower-powered version of the N because we don't buy entry-level cars any more.
Across the rest of the range, the petrol vs diesel argument is fairly straightforward - the diesel is a happy, frugal cruiser while the petrols are a bit more rev-happy, particularly the turbo.
Oil capacity and type varies between the engines and it's all in the owner's manual if you need a top-up on the run. There are no 4x4/AWD/rear-wheel drive, LPG or plug-in hybrid versions.
Towing capacity for the 2.0-litre petrol is 600kg unbraked and 1300kg braked.
Diesels aside, Honda famously eschewed turbos for decades, relying instead on multi cams, variable-valve timing and other high-tech advances to get the most out of its (mostly brilliant) petrol engines.
For Australian buyers, the tenth Civic broke the rule, and with it brought a terrifically flexible 127kW/220Nm 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo that maintains the urge of old Hondas at the top end, without the need to rev the daylights out of it at lower engine speeds.
Driving the front wheels via an ultra-smooth continuously variable transmission, off-the-line response is pleasingly immediate, and the power just keeps on coming on, making for a slick and rapid machine.
In fact, there’s enough torque on tap for the driver to avoid the engine droning typically associated with CVTs in most instances, except when mashing the pedal right down for, say, fast overtaking.
That droning comes about because the single-speed CVT is tuned to keep the engine revving at a pre-determined spot (usually close to the red line) to achieve access to maximum power.
That’s about the only time when the 1.5-litre turbo ensemble hits a sour note, as it's also accompanied by an uncharacteristically un-Honda gruffness. But, like we said, it’s avoidable for most urban scenarios, and soon just blends in with the rest of the RS' driving experience.
Fuel mileage depends on the capacity and gearbox and varies between the different combinations.
As always, the official fuel-economy figures are only a guide, but Hyundai's numbers seem closer to reality than other manufacturers, at least in my experience.
The 2.0-litre's petrol consumption is listed at 7.3L/100km for the manual and 7.4 for the six-speed automatic. My most recent experience with an automatic Active resulted in a figure of 8.2L/100km in mostly suburban running.
The 1.6 CRDi's diesel fuel consumption is listed at 4.5L/100km for the manual and 4.7L/100km for the seven speed.
Moving on to the 1.6 petrol, the combined cycle is listed at 7.5L/100km for the manual and the seven-speed DCT dual-clutch auto.
The N's 2.0-litre turbo has a claimed combined figure of 8.0L/100km and it's worth noting that it requires 95 RON fuel. If you drive it like I did, you'll find that the 50-litre tank is a little on the small side.
Fuel-tank size is 50 litres, whether diesel or petrol.
Another key benefit to going turbo in the RS’ case is commendable fuel consumption. We managed a trip-computer-indicated 7.9L/100km around our mostly-urban driving loop, against the official combined average of 6.4L/100km. That’s just 1.5 litres shy of the claim.
Honda states that standard 91RON unleaded petrol is fine, and with the 47-litre tank, over 734km between refills is possible.
One of the areas in which the i30 stands out is its dynamics, whether the bottom-of-the-range Go or the SR Premium warm hatch or the N. While you're probably bored witless of motoring journos mentioning Hyundai's crack team of local engineers, much of the praise must go to them for making the i30 the best in the segment and a standout car in its own right.
Front susenpsion is by MacPherson struts and the rear is a choice of a sophisticated multi-link setup (SR and SR Premium) or torsion beams (everything else). The torsion-beam cars are very well planted and mostly fitted with eco-style tyres. That means a pretty good ride and little in the way of road noise.
When you go for the warm SR hatch with its sportier tune and multi-link rear suspension, you really do notice the difference. While the other cars are excellent as they are, the SR's tune is a bit firmer but also lots of fun to drive.
The electric power steering is weighted just so, even when you switch out of the laughable Eco mode, which ruins the throttle response (who really uses that, anyone?).
At speed, the i30 is quiet and composed, the multimedia system barely ticking over to cover what little noise invades the cabin. It's equally at home in the city and on the open road, with the diesel making long highway drags even longer with its impressive fuel economy.
On the downside, the diesel does feel a little heavy and firm around town,so unless you're super-keen for an oil burner, the cheaper petrols are the go.
If you were to score the driving experience solely on the i30 N, the 8/10 would become a nine. Hyundai has entered a space previously unknown to the Korean carmaker by racing headlong into the hearts and minds of Golf GTi wannabes. Except, it isn't a wannabe, it's a genuine GTi-beater - cheaper, more powerful, better-equipped and even more fun to drive. The N sends a loud message that Hyundai is after VW's mantle.
Again, Hyundai's local team took a super-hard riding, Nurburgring suspension spec and made it suitable for our rubbish roads. While still no magic carpet, the N is more than liveable in Comfort mode but supremely capable in N mode. It's completely unflappable down a mountain road on a cold morning and able to do things the Veloster SR Turbo - the closest thing Hyundai previously had to a hot hatch - could only dream of. It's fast, it's fun and, like the rest of its range, it leads its market segment.
Honda has tuned the 1.5-litre turbo/CVT combination to great effect around town, since it offers seamless acceleration and (mostly) quiet operation in almost all urban environments, for un-intrusive point-to-point motoring. It’s a slick city-friendly machine.
Perhaps it’s the quality Michelin Pilot tyres talking, but the RS’ steering, handling and roadholding behaviour really seemed to have improved over the already-competent pre-facelift version released over three years ago.
From the first turn of the wheel, the Honda feels connected to the road and nicely measured in response, yet is also light and agile enough to be easy to manoeuvre through tight spots and between gaps in traffic. The turning circle is also small for effortless parking.
Out away from the confines of the Big Smoke, the car continues to feel secure and surefooted, taking fast curves with a flat and solid attitude that encourages keener drivers to step things up if feeling inclined to. Brakes feel natural, progressive and reassuringly strong.
The biggest stride the Civic’s taken, however, is in its ability to absorb all sorts of bumps back in the urban jungle, smoothing over bad roads with a high degree of isolation.
And this is despite the switch to larger (18-inch) alloys. You can probably attribute the sophisticated multi-link rear suspension system, elevating the Honda to the pointier end of the class in terms of dynamics.
About the only criticism is the level of road-noise intrusion at even moderate urban speeds, but even this is still within the class average. That said, Honda ought to ride in the latest Mazda3 or Volkswagen Golf if it really wants to see how quietness should be done.
Still, overall, the RS impresses with its maturity and refinement.
The basic safety package on the Go and Active inludes seven airbags, stability and traction controls, ABS, brake assist, hill-start assist and brake-force distribiution.
As part of the 'Smart Sense' pack (auto and DCT cars only, $1150 extra), Go and Active owners pick up forward AEB, forward collision warning, blind-spot detection, lane-change assist, lane-keeping assist, rear cross traffic alert and active cruise. These features are standard on Eite, Premium, SR, SR Premium and N.
Two ISOFIX points take car of the baby car seat or you can use one of the three top-tether child seat anchor points.
All i30s carry a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, even without the advanced safety features. It's annoying that the basic safety package on the Go and Active doesn't have AEB, though, while natural sales rival the Mazda3 has both forward and rear AEB.
As stated earlier, only the turbo Civics in Australia score Honda Sensing, and that currently covers most of the driver-assist safety offered right now in the small-car class. Yet all Civics, regardless of turbo status, score a maximum five-star ANCAP rating, awarded in 2017.
Sensing includes camera and radar-based AEB, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection (but not for bicycles like some other rivals), adaptive cruise control with stop/go and slow-traffic follow functionality, lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, steering assist and auto high beams.
However, unlike the Mazda3, Corolla, and various others, the Civic misses out on Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) and Front Cross Traffic Alert (FCTA), which automatically brakes the vehicle at up to a certain speed when nosing or reversing into traffic.
Other safety items are six airbags including curtain items covering second-row outboard occupants, stability and traction control systems, and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist.
For younger travellers, there are two ISOFIX points and three top tethers fitted.
Hyundai offers a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which used to be the benchmark but is now slowly becoming the standard across the industry. The five-year warranty is accompanied by roadside assist for the first year. Capped-price servicing applies for the life of the vehicle and if you return to Hyundai for a service, you get another 12 months of roadside assist for flat battery or tyre incidents.
Resale value appears strong, as it has been for each version of the i30.
I'm often asked if the i30 engines use a timing belt or chain. All of Hyundai's engines use their own silent timing chain system, with the happy upside of lower service costs and no issues with snapping belts. The i30's reliability rating is impressive as a result.
As the car is still fairly new, no obvious six-speed automatic gearbox problems or seven-speed auto tranmission problems seem to have appeared. Gearbox issues have never really been a big problem with Hyundai and common diesel problems have long since been banished to history.
A quick search for any other common faults yielded nothing in the way of persistent problems or complaints.
It also calls for servicing once every 12 months or 10,000km whichever comes first, and features capped-price servicing known as 'Honda Tailored Servicing', that lasts for five years or 100,000km.
As of May 2020, each standard service costs $297 (except the 80,000km one, which is $328).
That’s more than Toyota’s regime, which for Corolla ZR is $180 for the first four years/60,000km.