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Hyundai i30


Mazda3

Summary

Hyundai i30

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.

This was hammered home by the sheer brilliance of 2017’s i30 N, which for many reasons remains a premier league hot-hatch experience to this day.

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.

Safety rating
Engine Type1.6L turbo
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.5L/100km
Seating5 seats

Mazda3

We all know that X means buried treasure in the world of children’s book pirates, but it’s looking like it could hold similar relevance for what lies under the bonnet of future Mazdas.

We first officially heard about Mazda’s industry-leading Skyactiv-X technology at the brand’s Global Tech Forum in Germany two years ago, but now we’ve ventured back to Germany to drive it in production form ahead of its Australian arrival aboard a new flagship version of the Mazda3 early next year. 

No other manufacturer has managed to productionise compression ignition for a petrol engine, and with an underlying intention to make the combustion engine work better for everyday driving, in the face of the electric-focus of all other global brands, this could be the most exciting technological development of my career.

Why invest so much in combustion engines if every other major brand is beginning to treat them like yesterday’s news? While the Japanese government predicts that 52 per cent of new cars sold in 2030 will use some form of electrification in their drivetrain, the same data suggests 90 per cent will still use an internal combustion engine as at least an element of their drivetrain. That’s 90 per cent of the market, more than a decade from now.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.5L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.6L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Hyundai i308/10

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.


Mazda38.4/10

Unlike most big technological advancements, this isn’t about extra performance or reinventing the wheel, it’s about Mazda’s bigger picture approach to deliver the best mobility solutions for right now, while still planning for electric and fuel cell vehicles in the future.

That may sound like a line straight out of the Skyactiv-X press release, but Mazda’s realistic approach to our continued dependence on combustion engines is commendable. 

My final judgement will have to wait until we know how much more it will cost over a regular Mazda3, but I can say the technology works really well and should really suit Australian conditions.

Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.

Design

Hyundai i30

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?


Mazda3

Aside from the stunning good looks of the new Mazda3, the only visual distinctions the Skyactiv-X version scores over a regular high-sec model are bigger exhaust tips like those seen on the latest version of the Mazda6, and a Skyactiv-X badge in place of the regular models’ Skyactiv-G. 

Practicality

Hyundai i30

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.


Mazda3

It’s a similar story for practicality, except it’s completely identical to the regular Mazda3 this time. So expect the same decent interior packaging and convenience for four adults, with a 295L VDA boot and a space saver spare tyre under the boot floor. 

Price and features

Hyundai i30

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.


Mazda3

This is probably the biggest question mark above the Mazda3 Skyactiv-X’s head for now, with all we know being Mazda Australia’s plan to launch it as a new top-spec version, so sit above the existing $36,990 G25 Astina flagship. 

How far above will be the clincher, and given it’s not likely to quite match the performance of the G25, it will depend on what value you place on outright driveability and a marginal fuel saving over the base 2.0-litre engine. 

Like the rest of the Mazda3 line-up, we also expect to see the Skyactiv-X with a choice of hatch or sedan bodystyles with either manual or automatic transmissions.

Engine & trans

Hyundai i30

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.


Mazda3

What’s compression ignition again? It’s basically how a diesel engine works, by using extreme pressure instead of spark plugs to burn fuel. Skyactiv-X still uses spark plugs, but only to kick off the ignition process and act as a safety net for cold starts and other edge cases, while extreme compression makes for much more effective combustion, which means improved efficiency. 

This combustion efficiency means the engine can use a much leaner fuel-to-air mixture, and make more power and torque with less fuel and even less wasted fuel out the exhaust. Mazda describes it as delivering diesel-like torque and fuel consumption, with the power, responsiveness and refinement of a petrol. Or in other words, one step away from turning water into wine... 

Mazda is calling the process Spark Controlled Compression Ignition (SPCCI), and the extreme pressures required to make it all happen are created by higher static compression ratio (but less than a typical diesel), much higher fuel pressure and boosted air pressure entering the combustion chamber. 

Key to managing all these heightened parameters (and the very technological advancement that makes it all possible) is an ultra sensitive in-cylinder pressure sensor that has been developed specifically for this task. 

Delivering the boosted air pressure is a Roots-type supercharger - or what Mazda describes as a high-response air supply - which was chosen over other air pump designs like a turbocharger or the Miller-cycle supercharger previously used in Eunos models because of its instantaneous boost delivery and breadth of efficiency.

Speaking of breadth of efficiency, perhaps the biggest plus for average motorists is that the engine’s efficiency zone has multiplied, meaning the difference between city and highway consumption, leadfoot drivers and my Dad, heavy and empty loads etc will be far less than a typical petrol engine.

This all represents a continuation of core principles we’ve seen from the start of Mazda’s Skyactiv era. That is, to make an existing engine type work better under everyday driving conditions rather than targeting outright performance.

The Skyactiv-X era starts with a 2.0-litre based on the regular Skyactiv-G engine, with the same 1998cc capacity. Other capacities are planned, with the eventual reborn rotary looking increasingly Skyactiv-X along with a straight-six version for a new CX-9 in a couple of years. Smaller versions are unlikely due to the economies of scale involved with such technology in a smaller and therefore cheaper car. 

Mazda is making two versions of the Skyactiv-X 2.0-litre for now, one with 16.3:1 compression designed for Europe that favours Premium unleaded petrol, and one 15:1 version aimed at the US with their abundance of lower grade unleaded. 

Unlike conventional engines, it’s the lower compression version that will deliver the biggest benefits, because Skyactiv-X relies on the usually “bad thing” pinging to do its best. 

We’re set to get the Euro-spec one in Australia, which unfortunately means we won’t quite be getting the very best Skyactiv tech again.

The Euro-spec engine puts out 132kW at 6000rpm and 224Nm from just 3000rpm, which on paper sounds about halfway between the existing Skyactiv-G 114kW/200Nm 2.0-litre and 139kW/252Nm 2.5-litre petrol engines.

The engine also incorporates a mild hybrid system, but don't be confused by the H-word, there's no electric drive element. It simply means its got a cleaver alternator that only engages when needed and on deceleration to reduce efficiency-sapping drivetrain friction,

Pop the bonnet and you’re confronted by the biggest engine cover you’ve ever seen, but unlike most, this one is equipped with labeled latches that encourage you to have a look underneath. This encouragement continues with a clever little retention hook to hold the cover up against the bonnet while you’re poking around.

Unless you’re a Mazda engineer you’re likely to be baffled by the array of hoses, ducts and wiring, but you might get a kick out of spotting the supercharger.

There’s less to be said for the transmissions though, with versions of the existing six speed manual and torque converter automatics deemed up to the task, with the new engine’s increased efficiency zone negating any increase to the ratio count. The ratios have been adjusted to suit the new output characteristics, and while the ratios are yet to be published, there’s a narrower spread across the six with what feels to be taller first and sixth gears.

Fuel consumption

Hyundai i30

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.


Mazda3

All this hooha about fuel savings, and Mazda is yet to confirm an actual figure for Australia. We do know the hatch is rated at 4.5L/100km in manual and 5.3L/100km in auto according to the NEDC, which is historically close to the figures generated by the ADR 81/02 test we go by in Australia. 

If it comes close to matching the NEDC figure it will be a win, sitting comfortably under the 6.4L/100km (manual) and 6.2L/100km (auto) figures currently applied to the Skyactiv-G 2.0-litre Mazda3 hatch

While the Australian-spec Skyactiv-X engine is expected to align with Europe rather than the US, and therefore be tuned to deal with Premium 95 RON unleaded, it’s still unclear if it will accept the cheaper Regular 91 RON unleaded.

Driving

Hyundai i30

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.


Mazda3

What’s probably most amazing about Skyactiv-X is that you can’t really tell there’s anything special going on under the bonnet. 

Push the start button and it gets going like any other petrol Mazda, although perhaps quieter. 

Move off from rest and there’s no significant difference to the way it feels. 

When I drove the prototype version of this drivetrain, there was a slight pinging under light throttle as it transitioned from spark to compression ignition, but I’m pleased to confirm that the extra two years of calibration has tuned this down to the tiniest occasional diesel sound, and it all feels a bit like a smooth diesel that’s more responsive than you expect.

The European-spec Skyactiv-X 2.0-litre’s outputs suggest it should be closer to the existing 2.5-litre in terms of performance, but in reality it feels closer to the 2.0 litre.

My perception is likely to be clouded by the Skyactiv-X’s specific transmission gearing, but it could also be because it’s able to do the same job with less revs and therefore not sound like it’s working so hard. 

First gear feels quite tall with either transmission, and we also found the auto and manual were only sitting on 3500rpm in sixth at 160km/h on the Autobahn. 

Mazda doesn’t specify performance figures, so it would be handy to put all three alongside each other from a standing start. But then, that’s not what Skyactiv-X is all about, it’s more about performing better under light throttle and incidental bursts of acceleration. 

We can’t wait to put it to the test over some hilly terrain and familiar territory when it hits Australia early next year.

Safety

Hyundai i30

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).


Mazda3

The existing Mazda3’s maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating will almost certainly be carried over, and the high level of safety gear fitted to the existing G25 Astina is also likely to be matched. 

This means front and rear airbag coverage, front and rear AEB, front and rear cross-traffic alerts, lane keeping assistance and blind-spot monitoring

Ownership

Hyundai i30

Hyundai offers a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty as well as 12 months of roadside assistance, with scheduled servicing at every 12-month or 15,000km intervals.

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!


Mazda3

Service pricing is also yet to be confirmed, but Mazda engine development boss Eiji Nakai assures CarsGuide that the new engine will not need servicing more frequently or cost any more to service than existing Skyactiv-G engines.  

So expect the same 12month/10,000km intervals, with five year/50,000km capped servicing plan totalling just under $2000 over that period.  

Like all new Mazdas, the recently upgraded five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty will apply to the 3 Skyactiv-X.