Hyundai i30 VS Renault Clio
- Excellent engineering throughout
- Sharp pricing
- Diesels are heavy
- Diesels are also slow
- AEB not standard across the range
- Great chassis
- Decent specification
- Good all-round liveability for a hot hatch
- No AEB or rear curtain airbags
- No CarPlay, Android Auto part of expensive option pack
- RS Monitor no longer standard
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|
I'm going to reveal something of myself here - I used to be a RenaultSport Clio owner. This is what the purists call what we now know as Clio RS, and I find myself constantly corrected yet unrepentant. It was a 172 - a nuggety three-door with wheels that looked too small, a weird seating position and a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated engine that was big on torque as long as you belted it.
It was a classic and you could still see the links back to the epoch-making Renault Clio Williams, that blue and gold Mk 1 Clio we never saw in Australia that redefined the genre. The current Clio has been around for four years now and I even drove this current RS Clio at its launch in 2013, memorable for the sudden bucketing rain that drenched the circuit and made things very interesting indeed.
This Clio was a big change from the cars that went before - slimmer-hipped, less aggressive-looking and with a 1.6-litre turbo engine, five-door-only body and (gasp!) no manual, just Renault's twin-clutch EDC transmission. It was a hit, at least with enthusiasts. Back then it was the dawn of a golden age in small hot hatches. But that was then, this is now. With a small power bump and a couple of features thrown in, is the ageing RS still at the pointy end?
|Engine Type||1.6L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium 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 Clio RS is still a ton of fun and in Cup spec, probably the best compromise between price and livability. Despite its advancing years (it turns five this year, so ready to start kindy) and big brother Megane hogging the limelight with a fancy new model on the way, the Clio is a stayer. It's missing some frustratingly obvious things like CarPlay, AEB, rear airbags and rear cross-traffic alert, but it's hardly alone in the segment.
With the departure of the Fiesta ST, though, the Clio returns to the top of the list of best small hot hatches on sale today.
Think the Clio is ready for the pension? It it living on franking credits it doesn't deserve?
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.
The Clio is a handsome small car but nothing out of the ordinary until you apply the very cool Liquid Yellow paint. That hue really is quite something and works even better with the black alloys of the Cup chassis.
The car has some lovely surfacing and in a recent-ish refresh, the slightly odd headlights were reworked, as were the front and rear bumpers which now link to the RenaultSport Megane. Sorry, Megane RS. The RS flag signature lighting is a nice touch, acting as DRLs at the bottom corners of the front bumper.
The lovely organic shapes of the Clio's sides still look good and the rather tough rear end with the chunky diffuser leaves you in no doubt that it's the proper RS not the halfway-house, 1.2-litre GT-Line.
Inside is starting to look its age, but graceful, a bit like Jamie-Lee Curtis' or George Clooney's embrace of grey hair. There are still some of the sharp edges I didn't like. It's certainly a Renault to look at and ergonomically works pretty well. One thing that has been fixed at some point is the switch on the gear selector - it won't bite you if you curl your finger underneath when you press it. You might think that's a small thing, but when you did it, damn it hurt.
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 Clio's interior is certainly snug. Rear seat passengers do okay for legroom but headroom is a mite marginal with the falling roofline for six footers. There are no cupholders out back, that curious French habit of supplying just a couple of cup receptacles of different and weird sizes persists. The front doors have space for bottles, the rears do not.
The boot is class-competitive at 300 litres (worth knowing the Trophy loses 70 litres to the Cup) and with the seats down stretches to a claimed 1146L.
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.
The iconic 'Liquid Yellow' ($750 option) Clio I had for the week was the Cup spec chassis. The Clio RS 200, as it is officially known, comes in two specs - Sport and Cup - and there's a Trophy 220 at the top of the range. I had the Cup, which retails at $32,490 (plus on-road costs). The RS220 Trophy, with a bit more poke and stuff, weighs in at $38,990 if you're interested.
The Cup spec is heavily based on the more affordable ($30,990) Sport, which means you get 18-inch alloy wheels (painted black, so watch those kerbs), climate control, four speaker stereo, keyless entry and start (the "key" is still that unwieldy keycard style thing), reversing camera, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, fog lamps, LED daytime running lights, sat nav, auto LED headlights, auto wipers, launch control, leather bits and pieces and a tyre inflation kit instead of any kind of spare.
The 7.0-inch 'R-Link' touch screen software runs the four speaker stereo with DAB digital radio, Bluetooth and USB. If you get the optional RS Monitor, there is a full-on telemetry system from which you can save your, er, "track day" data and overlay in Google Maps to compare with your mates' or past efforts. You can also change the piped-in engine sound to various different sound effects which are delightfully silly.
Android Auto is part of the breathtaking $1500 'Entertainment Pack' option that includes RS Monitor (which used to be standard) and no, there's no Apple CarPlay. Leather is a further $1500.
Bottom line is that you do get a decent spec bump from the $30,990 Sport along with the more capable (and less comfortable) Cup chassis.
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.
The 200-equipped RSes pony up 147kW/260Nm, which is pretty much bang-on the obvious competition (Peugeot 208 GTI and the outgoing Fiesta ST), driving the front wheels through Renault's six-speed EDC twin-clutch. Unlike those two, there is no overboost function.
Dieppe's finest sprints from 0-100km/h in a claimed 6.7 seconds, pulling along a kerb weight of 1204kg.
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.
Renault claims 5.9L/100km on the combined cycle but, yeah, nah. My week was admittedly filled with plenty of horseplay and spirited driving, yielding 11.4L/100km. If you were careful you may fare better - but not that much better.
The fuel tank is a fairly standard 45 litres. It requires 98RON premium unleaded.
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.
The RS has always had a belter of a chassis. The Cup chassis became a thing just over a decade ago and is lauded by the fans as The One To Have. I've not always been convinced of this as my earlier drives of the Cup-equipped machines have usually been in close proximity to the Sport chassis.
The Cup is slightly lower than the Sport, with 15 per cent stiffer springs and dampers and perhaps more importantly it scores 18-inch wheels with Dunlop Sport Maxx RT2 tyres, which you can reasonably expect to be a bit firmer than the 17s with Goodyear F1s on the Sport. And they are.
However, in most situations, the Cup chassis is perfectly benign. You certainly feel the bumps and lumps, but you haven't bought a Cup chassis for Lexus-like isolation. It's certainly sharper than the Sport chassis and when you're really giving it a go around the bends, the comfort deficit is more than made up for by the extra grip and poise.
The chassis is aided and abetted by a torquey 1.6-turbo that cheerfully...no, gleefully spins to the redline which could do with another thousand revs, but that's forced induction for you. The aluminium shift paddles need a good positive pull to get a gear, but that gear is delivered quickly and effortlessly. The Clio is a great deal of fun in Sport and Race modes, with throttle mappings and gearshifts becoming more aggressive as you switch through the modes.
The brakes are tremendously effective and the electronic limited slip diff (*cough* brake-based torque vectoring) ensures you'll hit your apexes and the tyres spend more time gripping than spinning.
But it's not all hairpins and off-camber left-right-lefts, is it? Plenty of owners have to live with the car in traffic day to day. Driving the Cup in isolation, I've changed my mind about it. I reckon it's the best of the two chassis settings. The city ride is better than decent, with the hard edges potholes chamfered off by the dampers and decent compliance. It's not too noisy, either.
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.
The Clio was awarded a five-star ANCAP rating in November 2013.
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.
Renault says it was the first European maker to offer a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty in Australia, and who are we to argue? The package also includes up to four years of roadside assist and three years of capped-price servicing.
Renault expects to see you just once a year or every 20,000km, which gives you a bit more headroom than some similar service plans, at least on the mileage. The first three services will cost no more than $369 unless you need a new air filter ($38) or pollen filter ($46). At 60,000km or four years you'll cop $262 for a set of spark plugs. The company's website also suggests if the Clio doesn't like the state of its oil, it will beep at you until you have that attended to.