Hyundai i30 VS Hyundai Ioniq
- Appealing design
- Excellent cabin upgrade
- Lively performance and handling
- Too much highway road-noise intrusion
- Misses out on i30 Elite’s top-drawer safety kit
- Firm ride and rack rattle over bumpy roads
- Well-tuned electric drive
- Range is about right
- Excellent energy consumption
- Feels very heavy
- Design won't be for everyone
- Still a little too pricey for mass adoption
Since 2007, the i30 has consistently been Hyundai’s best model.
A car so focused on being an amiable Volkswagen Golf alternative, it’s even been co-developed in Germany. As such, over three distinct generations, there’s never been a dud version.
But does the i30 N-Line have the same impact in the non-full-fat, semi-skimmed warm-hatch category – you know, the sporty hatches that don’t cost the earth?
We drive the latest, 2021 i30 N-Line Premium to find out.
|Engine Type||1.6L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Hyundai's Ioniq range is nothing if not a flex in the face of Toyota.
Sure, Toyota has a dominating position in the Australian market, with its well-received range of hybrid models, but what happens after hybrid? Hyundai takes on the blocky Prius formula with not only a directly competing hybrid model, but a plug-in and a fully electric version, too.
This expansive range is as though Hyundai is trying to demonstrate it's ready for any future, near or far, and guess what, Toyota? Anything you can do; the Korean juggernaut thinks it can do better.
These cars aren't really designed to sell so much as they are offerings for early adopters, but a few years after its launch, with a host of rivals set to take it on, and an entire sub-brand based on the Ioniq just around the corner, is Hyundai's top-spec Ioniq electric worth a look? I took one for a week to find out.
Right now, the N-Line with the DCT is the fastest auto i30 you can buy, and that – plus all the luxuries and features that the Premium includes – makes it an attractive grand touring small car with sufficient speed and athleticism to entertain the keener driver.
But the manual i30 N at only around $5000 more significantly elevates the driving experience and thrills, while an auto is imminent. That’s what we’d save up for.
Still, as a fun and entertaining warm hatch, the i30 N-Line still offers enough consistency to warrant your attention. Easy to respect but hard to get really rapt over.
Just like the Kona EV, Hyundai's Ioniq is still one of the best EV options on the market today. It strikes an excellent balance by offering significantly more range and better energy consumption than the more affordable Nissan Leaf or MG ZS EV, while providing the familiarity of the Hyundai spec and drive experience at a price only a little higher than a top-spec Prius.
Its relatively high score is a product of these factors, but also the way in which its interactivity offers the early adopters the engagement they will be searching for.
For some people it’s what hasn’t changed that is the most interesting visual aspect about the 2021 i30 N-Line.
The “Sensuous Sportiness” nosecone found on all other i30s including the base grade does not apply here, for reasons which still aren’t clear, as most models bar the i30 N and Fastback are out of same South Korean factory. Yet even the latter (imported from the Czech Republic) are about to gain the fresh proboscis.
But is this a bad thing? Frankly, no, as the original front-end styling is arguably prettier than the fussy new visage.
Another thing is how well this pleasing 2017 design is ageing, with sober, elegant proportions and confident stance that reflect Hyundai’s desire to be classed as a credible Golf alternative. Plus, the N-Line body kit makes a statement without it being in your face. Listening, Honda Civic?
The Ioniq follows in the footsteps of eco hatches before it. You'll note this car's similarity in profile to the Toyota Prius, both shaped as such to secure low drag figures and therefore better economy and longer range.
While the Ioniq is a little more sedate than the wacky angles of the current Prius, there's no getting around the fact it's not exactly a cool shape. You could say it's interesting, perhaps, in the way it warps the low-drag box to Hyundai's styling cues, but dorky nonetheless. The LED headlights help lift it a little, but the filled-in grille and small 16-inch wheels hardly lend this car extra street cred.
The Ioniq is more a proof of concept for early adopters who care a little less about the way the car looks and a little more about its drivetrain and technology, which is clearly the focus here.
This can be seen in the Ioniq's interior, which has been re-worked for its most recent update. The digital features are impressive, with the floating 10.25-inch screen now totally dominating its dashboard.
I also like how the brand has given the instrument cluster a more modern design, with a cool floating bridge element over the top to eliminate glare, and, as always, Hyundai has made ergonomic use of its excellent switchgear and tidy steering wheel from the i30 and Kona ranges.
The climate unit has lost its tactile dials, replaced by touch-panel controls, and the lack of a transmission under the centre console has allowed plenty of negative space for the brand to play with, in this case a huge storage bay. There are also elements from more recently launched Hyundai models, which help to tidy the centre space up further, like an upright wireless-charging bay and shift-by-wire drive selector, which all looks very modern and neat.
It's a step towards things to come from the newly minted Ioniq sub-brand, which will do a lot more of this stripped-back, space-saving stuff with its next vehicle, the Ioniq 5 SUV. For now, though, the Ioniq is good as a half-step into the future. It's not as outlandish as a Tesla Model 3, for example, and will better suit a buyer looking for something a bit more familiar that still has a futuristic edge.
Given the basic ingredients are shared with the i30 Active, the N-Line’s interior presentation is an impressive step up.
Not immediately obvious are small changes for MY21, including the 2.25-inch larger central touchscreen with its modernised graphics and repositioned and simplified access button. From the handsome steering and matte grey leather/vinyl upholstery to the red piping and stitching as well as brushed metallic accents, the look and ambience agrees with the N-Line Premium’s price positioning.
The new digital instrumentation, with its BMW-style (or is that Honda-like) hexagonal tacho and central speedo, provides enough differentiation from bread-and-butter i30s for it to feel a bit more special.
As do the panoramic sunroof, thick-rimmed wheel, sports front seats, black trim, double stitching and red seat belts, while the MY21 multimedia update has fresh graphics that is easy and pleasurable to use.
But while there’s no missing the digital speedo, the instrumentation lacks the clarity and elegance of the previous, classically analogue iteration. And it cannot be configured like Audi’s Virtual Cockpit. Where’s the scope for personalisation? It feels like a wasted opportunity.
Otherwise it’s all normal-i30 inside, which means big doors for unimpeded entry/egress, sufficient space, loads of practicality, excellent ventilation and a first-class driving position, offering a welcoming, intuitive interface between car and driver. Vision out isn’t too bad, either, aided by that huge central touchscreen and big exterior mirrors.
The N-Line Premium’s heated and vented front seats are superb, with the driver’s offering a 10-way electrical adjustment including lumbar support. They ensconce their occupants in all the right areas, with bolsters that grip you in tight through tight turns, and immediately make you feel like you’re in a sporty hatch. Their accompanying red seatbelts look great too.
The rear seat area is a bit smaller than in many rival small cars nowadays, but it isn’t a disaster, as the back bench/backrest combo is firm yet supportive, promoting a comfy posture. Rear face-level air vents, a centre armrest, huge door pockets, overhead grab handles, coat hooks, individual reading lights and windows that drop almost all the way are further bonuses. But betraying the i30’s age is the lack of USB ports, with only a 12V outlet in the (huge) centre console between the front occupants.
Finally, the cargo area is big, deep and handy, with a huge space available and a low lip to negotiate heavier objects over. Under the floor is a space-saver spare. Capacity is rated at 395 litres, extending to 1301L with the rear backrests dropped.
Overall, then, with its racy yet classy trim, the i30’s cabin in N-Line Premium guise is as inviting as you’d wish for in a warm hatch.
As mentioned, there's actually quite a lot of space in the Ioniq cabin, and the design has been further stripped back with its most recent updates.
The front seat seems a bit high for a hatch, although ergonomically everything is correct for the driver, with a good amount of adjustability in the seat back and wheel.
The big, bright multimedia touchscreen is easy to use, and the single centrally mounted volume dial is welcome, but I do sorely miss the dials for adjusting fan speed and temperature. Touch-panel controls, to me at least, are always inferior.
As already mentioned, the centre-console area under the climate unit has been almost entirely deleted for the electric variant, granting the driver a little more knee room, and leaving a deep rubberised bay for loose objects, maybe even small bags. This area also houses two 12v power outlets and one USB port. The centre console has been re-worked to include a smart, space-saving upright wireless-charging bay for your phone, the shift-by-wire console, and controls for the heated and ventilated seats. This area also hosts two large bottle holders, and a large centre-console box.
As is usual with Hyundai models, there's also a large bottle holder in the door, alongside a practical bin.
Rear passengers are treated to decent legroom, about on par with what you'd expect in a hatchback. Headroom is a little limited, both for getting in and out, with the descending roofline, so if you have family or friends taller than my 182cm height, they might be less than pleased.
The rear-seat area gets bottle holders in the doors and in the drop-down armrest, although there are no power outlets, just dual adjustable air vents.
The hatch body of the Ioniq makes for a decent boot volume of 357 litres, enough for a large pram or, in the case of my testing, the largest of the CarsGuide luggage cases, with ease. Hyundai gives you a little satchel to tidily store the standard powerpoint to Type 2 charging cable. A Type 2 to Type 2 cable, which you will need to charge at public outlets (up to 7.2kW) is not included.
Price and features
In October, 2020, Hyundai facelifted the PD-series i30 hatch.
Known as the PD4, most of the range gains a wide toothy grille with chrome bars and a sleeker shape to the front bumper as well as fresh lighting elements – but not the N-Line. Why? More on that later. You’ll also find a revised rear bumper and diffuser. The inevitable price rises have also struck, to the tune between $2400 and $3100 depending on grade.
However, there are plenty of new features for all MY21 i30s, including auto-folding side mirrors with heating, a 7.0-inch multifunction display and a restyled steering wheel and gear selector, while on the safety front all models include autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keep and steering assist, lane following assist, adaptive cruise control with full stop/go functionality, driver attention warning and auto high beams.
Priced from $36,220, the N-Line Premium as tested here is on the expensive side, but it does usher in two significant changes over the regular i30 – a turbo-engine and dual-clutch transmission powertrain and an upgrade from a torsion beam to a multi-link rear suspension system. Both are transformative additions.
Additionally, you’ll find keyless entry/start, dual zone climate control with rear-seat air vents, heated and vented front seats, a powered driver’s seat, solar control glass, rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing LED headlights, front as well as rear parking sensors, sunroof, sunvisor extenders, digitised instrumentation display and wireless smartphone charger.
Meanwhile, a somewhat larger (to 10.25-inch) central touchscreen houses the wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto display, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming connectivity, a premium audio system upgrade, digital radio, satellite navigation and rear-view monitor, while a body kit, 18-inch alloy wheels shod with Michelin Pilot 4 performance tyres and a temporary spare round out things nicely. This i30 is heaving with gear.
Should buyers of the $29,490 Ford Focus ST-Line, $35,790 Honda Civic RS, $33,690 Kia Cerato GT Turbo and $35,290 Mazda3 G25 Astina be turning Hyundai’s way? Maybe, as the South Korean-built five-door hatch matches or exceeds most for kit – with the curious exception of blind-spot monitoring and front and/or rear cross-traffic alert (the Mazda’s got both) as well as the Civic’s excellent side lane-watch camera – while offering substantially more power and torque to boot than the lot (related Kia excepted).
One of the few options is metallic paint for $495.
On the one hand, forking out over $50k for a car which looks like this is a tall order. On the other hand, there is no other electric car that really falls into this price bracket, and when you think about it, it's only a few thousand dollars more than a top-spec Prius.
The aggro never-EV types will argue you can have a very good hot hatch, like say, Hyundai's own i30 N for less, but then this car really is for those early adopters who are after a slice of future drivetrain tech rather than a complete value offering.
In the context of the EVs currently available in our market, the Ioniq shines. Yes, it is more expensive than rivals like the Nissan Leaf or MG ZS EV, but it also offers more range than either of those, at 311km measured to the more accurate WLTP standard.
This is short of Tesla's Model 3 standard range, but also more than $10k more affordable, and as I discovered on my week of testing; 311km, and it really is 311km, is plenty for a predominantly urban commuter to get by with either routine maintenance charging, or a once-a-week stop at a DC charger.
So, value then? As this car has probably the minimum electric range you really want for an Australian city at a price only a little above rivals which fall short, it's in quite the sweet spot.
Oh, you probably want to know about equipment, too. Our Ioniq electric Premium scores familiar equipment from the facelifted Hyundai i30 range, including a 10.25-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, built-in sat-nav integrated with charging-station distances, a 7.0-inch digital dash cluster, eight-speaker premium audio system, 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and DRLs, single-zone climate control, leather-appointed interior trim with heated and cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel, auto-dimming rear vision mirror, wireless phone charger, opening sunroof, and keyless entry with push-start ignition.
It's a good array of items, and we'll touch on this car's fully equipped safety suite later. The only notable omissions for now are the lack of a holographic head-up display and the lack of dual-zone climate control.
Engine & trans
While most i30s are stuck with a dull 120kW/203Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder naturally-aspirated unit, the N-Line steps up to Hyundai’s 1591cc 1.6-litre twin-cam 16-valve four-pot turbo from the Gamma GDI gasoline direct injection family of engines, delivering a healthy 150kW of power at 6000rpm and 265Nm of torque from a low 1500rpm to 4500rpm.
Tipping the scales at 1436kg, it results in a lively 104.5kW/tonne power-to-weight ratio.
It drives the front wheels only via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT), with a trio of drive modes – eco, normal and sport with corresponding green, blue and red instrumentation illumination – as well as a manual tip-shift (with forward/up and backward down) and a big pair of paddle shifters behind the wheel.
The Ioniq electric has a single motor on the front axle producing 100kW/295Nm. It's the least powerful EV in Hyundai's range, but still out-punches cars like the Toyota Prius on raw power. It drives the front wheels via a single reduction-gear transmission, and the Ioniq electric also has re-worked regenerative braking for its most recent update.
This is powered by a huge-for-its-size 38.3kWh lithium-ion battery pack under the floor.
Hyundai says the i30 N-Line Premium’s 1.6 T-GDi engine should average a combined 7.1 litres per 100km – 9.4L/100km around town and 5.9L/100km on the open road – but we managed a still-acceptable 9.2L/100km at the pump. That’s a fine effort considering how hard and fast we extended that four-pot turbo.
For the record, the Euro-5 emissions rated engine officially averages 167 grams per kilometre of carbon dioxide emissions.
Fitted with a 50L tank, some 700km between refills is possible. Standard 91 RON unleaded is recommended or 94 RON E10 mix is tolerable.
The huge 38.3kWh battery pack and official combined energy consumption of 15.7kWh/100km, grants the Ioniq electric an impressive 311km (WLTP) range. As already mentioned in the pricing section, this lets the Hyundai electric hatch strike a good balance for urban commuters, however, under our mostly urban testing, it's an even better story.
For context, electric cars are far more efficient when operating in an urban scenario than they are on the open road. This is because they can regenerate energy more often and are less susceptible to losses from drag. The Ioniq has a superb regenerative-braking system, which can be completely customised to the user's preference. Want to drive it with no regen braking (like a normal car)? You can. Want to have the full eco experience, and have the car's motor bring it to a halt even without using the brake pedal, thereby maximising the amount of energy recouped? You can absolutely do that, too.
For most of my week, I stuck the Ioniq in its maximum regenerative setting and was very impressed to find it return an efficiency rating of 12.3kWh/100km. Not only is this number well below its claim, it's by far the most efficient electric car I have driven, and the only one I haven't tried yet is the brand-new MG ZS EV.
Colour me very impressed. The Ioniq charges via the most popular socket, the European Mennekes Type 2 combo. On DC, the Ioniq can charge as fast as 100kW allowing for a charge time of 54 minutes from empty to 80 per cent. On AC, its max charge input is a frustratingly low 7.2kW, making for a charge time of six hours and five minutes (more expensive rivals will charge at 11kW or even the max 22kW), while from a 240v wall outlet (~2.3kW) it will charge in 17 hours and 30 minutes.
My single charge session was at a council-supported clean-energy Tritium charger with a max output on DC of 112kW. It charged my Ioniq from about 35 to 80 per cent in 32 minutes, and cost around $7.
It should come as no surprise to learn that this i30 is very much a warm – rather than sizzling hot – hatch.
Strong performance, eager steering, a taut chassis, a supple ride and strong brakes makes the N-Line walk the fine line between rorty girl/boy-racer runabout and comfy, refined grand tourer.
Around town, this means smooth and progressive acceleration – rather than all-or-nothing lunges forward – accompanied by light steering for easy manoeuvrability. Aided by a large camera and fairly good vision out, parking in tight spaces isn’t a chore.
Unlike most DCTs, Hyundai’s is tuned for eager off-the-line response and a minimum of hesitation, lacking the lag and jerkiness of most similar systems. What you’re left with is a smooth, speedy and slick shifter that is in keeping with the N-Line’s sporty aspirations.
In Sport mode, the turbo engine holds on to each ratio a little longer, for sustained thrust right up to the 6500rpm red line. A keen driver can have fun exploring the Hyundai’s outer limits safely, without spills… or thrills, for that matter.
That’s because the N-Line falls somewhat short of an i30 N as far as dynamics are concerned… shorter, in fact, that the price gap would have you expect.
While the handling and cornering characteristics are defined by accurateness and agility, with expected high levels of road-holding, mid-turn bumps do transmit through to the steering rack, making it rattle and shake; the front end can lose traction quite easily in damp conditions, and grip carving up through bends isn’t quite as tenacious as the best hot-hatches. What this car cries out for is a limited slip differential.
The ride quality – though a tad firm around town – isn’t uncomfortable by any stretch, with sufficient wheel travel for the Hyundai to be a happy urban commuter. Yet there isn’t quite the controlled and planted grip on offer to make this a satisfying driving machine.
That all said, this isn’t trying to be a Ford Focus ST or Golf GTI rival. To anticipate it as such would be naïve. That’s what the N’s for.
Probably the most glaring issue is noise intrusion, as there’s far too much tyre roar intruding into the cabin. Like most Hyundais, the i30 benefits from an Australian-specific chassis tune.
The Ioniq's familiar Hyundai switchgear makes it largely feel like the brand's i30 from behind the wheel, and this is a very good thing. This car is immediately ergonomic and user friendly, although the seating position is a little high, preventing it from feeling particularly sporty.
The Ioniq emits a pleasant choral tone at low speeds, which enhances the perception you're steering something from the near future. It also helps alert pedestrians nearby, which was one of my pet peeves about the silent Tesla Model 3. The noise is interesting enough that you'll have people peering closely at it to figure out what's going on. It even gets louder as you accelerate, as though the motor is making it and it's not entirely artificial. Cool.
This EV is silky smooth to drive and accelerate. Like other Hyundai electric cars, it doesn't have the unleashed electric torque of a Tesla, but it feels well attuned to driving around in an urban scenario, with viscous acceleration and regenerative braking. I was surprised to discover how heavy it feels, though.
I was expecting it to be heavier than its hybrid or PHEV counterparts but compared to the hybrid Prius I drove only a week or two prior, the electric Ioniq feels obese.
Upon closer examination, the Ioniq electric weighs 200kg more than the Prius, at 1575kg. It doesn't sound outrageous but it's enough to have this little car's suspension wallowing and occasionally crashing over bumps that wouldn't bother its hybrid versions or, indeed, the Prius.
This is perhaps emblematic of the issues facing smaller EVs like this. To get more than 300 kilometres of range, they need a lot of heavy batteries. Manufacturers can better hide this with the existing heft and better suspension travel of SUVs. The Kona EV, for example, feels less hefty than this little hatch.
Regardless, the electric motor dispatches with the Ioniq's weight easily when you really want to accelerate, and while it doesn't provide the hold-on-for-dear-life acceleration of Teslas, it's more than enough for a daily commuter. Unlike the Prius, the Ioniq does genuinely feel pretty sporty in the corners, thanks to steering that's on the heavier side, and a firm, responsive damper tune.
The regenerative braking is particularly good on the Ioniq. Using paddle-shifters usually reserved for changing gears, the Ioniq instead lets you alter the amount of regenerative braking available. Feel like coasting a bit faster? Flick the Regen braking off. Feel like maximising economy and range? Max it out in the drive mode of your choosing, and you can use it as essentially a ‘single pedal' car (you can go or stop by using the throttle alone).
It even has an auto mode, which I found to be pretty intuitive. Paired with a few different display options to let you get superior feedback on how you're tracking with battery usage, it's brilliant, and more electric vehicles should take note.
So, this is an eco-focused electric car that is reasonably engaging to drive if a little heavy. Most importantly for the electric era, it's highly interactive, helping you really understand how your inputs are affecting its battery usage, and how you can better drive it to maximise range.
Tested in 2017, the i30 scored a five-star rating in the ANCAP crash-test results.
Each model includes seven airbags, AEB as part of Hyundai’s Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist driver-assist suite of features that includes pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keep and steering assist, lane following assist, adaptive cruise control with full stop/go functionality, driver attention warning and auto high beams.
Additionally, vehicle stability management (stability control and traction control), anti-lock brakes with Emergency Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, hill-start assist, lane-keep assist, driver-attention warning, auto on/off headlights and tyre pressure monitors.
There are also two rear-seat ISOFIX points as well as three top tethers for straps.
Meanwhile, the AEB system operates between 10km/h and 180km/h (other vehicles), with a complete stop possible at speeds of up to 55km/h (stopped vehicle), 80km/h (moving vehicles) and 65km/h (pedestrians and cyclists).
Oddly, only the i30 Elite features Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Blind-Spot Collision warning and Safe Exit Warning (great for not dooring cyclists).
The Ioniq electric comes with the full suite of Hyundai SmartSense safety features, with active items including freeway-speed auto emergency braking (detects vehicles up to 180km/h, detects pedestrians up to 70km/h), lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, driver-attention alert, and auto high-beam assist.
This is backed by the usual stability, brake, and traction systems, as well as seven airbags (the standard dual front, side, and head array, plus a driver's knee) securing the Ioniq a maximum five star ANCAP safety rating dating back to its launch in 2018. It scored highly across all categories.
Published online, the prices for the N-Line service is $299 for each of the first five annual services, then rises to $495 (year six), $585 (year seven), $370 (year eight), $310 (years nine to 11), $555 (year 12), $310 (year 13) and $585 (year 14) – and then onwards with similar varying numbers on Hyundai’s website right up to 51 years/510,000km service ($275 in 2021 dollars). Seriously!
Hyundais are all covered by a competitive five-year and unlimited-kilometre warranty, which includes 12 months of roadside assist. The roadside assist is topped up for an additional 12 months with every genuine service, and the battery pack in EV models like the Ioniq is covered for eight years or 160,000km.
Hyundai's service pricing is amongst the best in the business, and with less moving parts, the electric Ioniq is the cheapest in the range with the first five services for the life of the warranty fixed at just $160 per 12 monthly or 15,000km interval.