Hyundai i30 VS Toyota Prius
- 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
- Seamless hybrid drive
- Incredible fuel efficiency
- Comfortable and spacious
- Polarising exterior
- Dorky central instrument cluster
- Not so engaging to drive
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|
What to say about the Toyota Prius in 2021? A car that was once a technology trailblazer seems now to have become properly retro, even while it’s still being built and sold.
The awkward-looking wedge, an eco-punk icon, not only brought Toyota’s hybrid synergy drive to the masses, it also debuted the brand’s excellent TNGA architecture and set the scene for the company's absurd hybrid success, which now sees the RAV4 version topping the sales charts.
So, after all these years (25 to be precise), is the Prius’s time finally over? Or does this quaint hybrid hero still have more to offer? I took a top-spec I-Tech for a week to find out.
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|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Regular Unleaded|
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.
Toyota Prius 7.4/10
The Prius can rest its weary head. The Age of the Hybrid has begun. Even though this iconic eco car might have lost its ultimate purpose to more mainstream models in the last few years, it’s still the best execution of Toyota’s hybrid tech on the market and if you can look past its divisive-as-ever looks, it’s comfortable and practical, too.
The brand’s Australian division promises the Prius will stick around in one form or another, so we’re keen to see what its next iteration will look like. Plug-in? Fully electric? Time will tell.
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 Prius is the very visage of economic motoring. Derided by big-engine lovers, and adored by the eco-crowd, the fact that the Prius’s wedge-shaped frame is more about function than form tells you everything you need to know about this car.
What always surprises me about even this top-spec Prius is its dorky ride height. For a car with such a low drag coefficient, it sits so far off the ground! The 17-inch wheels look almost out of alignment with the body in those wheelarches.
Round the back, the Prius’s integrated spoiler and glasshouse bodywork are as divisive as ever, with more extreme pointed light fittings leaning into the effect created by its boxy, rear three-quarter view and mirroring the shape of the LED headlights at the front.
Of course, this car is less about being looked at as it is about its drag coefficient of 0.24 Cd, which is one of the lowest on any production car.
Inside, things again prove divisive, with a minimalist dash, a swoopy gloss highlight piece that frames the central vents and multimedia screen, and an odd, centrally mounted dash cluster, which is a usability faux pas.
In the case of the I-Tech at least there’s a holographic display which can put up useful information to help prevent your eyes from drifting too far from the road. Still, I can’t help but feel like this whole interior ethos is futuristic for the sake of being futuristic, with a little less thought given to how practical it is, compared to the brand’s other models.
The leather-appointed trim across the wheel and soft plastics in the door and dash-topper are appreciated, and there’s attention to detail in the little ‘Prius’ logos on the vents. However, I found the dull multimedia screen to be susceptible to glare during the day, and the big integrated panel in which it sits is made from a tinny gloss plastic, which will easily to get covered in fingerprints and scratches.
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.
If nothing else, all of the Prius’s edgy design gives it plentiful interior space. Toyota granted this generation of Prius a low seating position and tall roof, which combine with the distant dash elements to make for a spacious cockpit for the front two occupants.
The seat design in the top-spec I-Tech is also cushy, reminiscent of the seats in high-spec Camrys, and I had absolutely no trouble finding a comfortable driving position. If there’s one thing to be said for the annoying, centrally mounted instruments, it’s that you don’t need to consider the position of the wheel interfering with their visibility.
The Prius’s total glasshouse grants superb visibility out the front and sides, with large wing-mirrors, too. The only downside is that integrated spoiler at the back, which makes for a distracting view out the rear mirror that I’m sure any owner will quickly become accustomed to.
Soft trims across the doors and centre console, even in the back seat, make the Prius cabin a comfortable place to be, too.
Ergonomics have not been forgotten, with the multimedia screen and climate unit having useful and easy-to-reach physical dials and toggles for all the key functions. Even changing gear is a breeze in the Prius, with its odd little rosebud-shaped shifter simply a flick of the wrist from where your arm sits.
I do wish Toyota had made better use of the large area under the climate unit, however. The front part of the centre console is exclusively for the wireless-charging bay alone, and the rest of the space is constructed from a smoothly contoured gloss-finish plastic panel. It has looks to match the Prius aesthetic, but it’s no good for storing anything other than a single phone. It would have been better to make a large bay here with a rubberised finish.
Thanks to the lack of a physical handbrake in the centre or any other buttons or functions, there are two large bottle holders with variable edges.
A huge centre-console box and large door bins round out the Prius’s front-seat storage options.
Room in the rear seat is excellent, my 182cm tall frame had stellar amounts of space for my legs and head, as the roofline continues through to that raised rear spoiler. The comfy seat trim continues, although the padding in the base is notably not as good as it is in the front.
There are some useful pockets on the backs of the front seats and a drop-down armrest with cupholders for rear passengers, too.
Finally, the awkward rear of the Prius makes for a fantastic boot capacity, one advantage this car still holds over its hybrid Toyota stablemates. Capacity for the I-Tech is a mid-size-SUV rivalling 502-litres (VDA), which easily consumed our CarsGuide test luggage set and is even bigger than the base Prius, at the cost of the space-saver spare wheel. The I-Tech only has a repair kit to go with its larger alloys.
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.
This Toyota Prius in top-spec I-Tech form costs a whopping $45,825 before on-road costs, which is a tall order, especially given the fact that the technical advantage this car once had to help justify its price-tag has been lost to the rest of Toyota’s range.
An equivalent Corolla hybrid, even in top ZR trim, can be had from just $34,695, and even the much larger Camry in its highest hybrid SL trim is more affordable, at a suddenly cheap-looking $42,790. All three Toyotas are sourced from Japan.
Not a good start in the value battle, then, especially since those other Toyotas are not just hybrids, but great cars in their respective segments.
The Prius I-Tech’s most direct rival is the similarly shaped and sized Hyundai Ioniq Premium, which can be yours from $40,390 with competitive equipment. Hyundai is not only hunting Toyota with this car, but flexing its deep pockets by selling the Ioniq in Australia as not just a hybrid, but a PHEV and a full EV, too.
Thankfully, the I-Tech comes with some decent gear, sporting 17-inch alloy wheels, a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, digital radio, a 4.2-inch digital information display, a holographic head-up display, full LED lighting with auto-levelling, leather-appointed seat trim, auto dimming rear vision mirror, wireless phone charging, 10-speaker audio, and improved interior trims over the base car.
The I-Tech also scores a larger boot capacity and an improved safety suite compared to the base Prius. More on that in later sections of this review.
Is the Prius “good value” then? It's still a no, as all of this equipment can be had in bigger, more mainstream Toyota models, and far more affordable rivals. It’s a shame Toyota hasn’t brought the Prius’s cost down in the five years since this generation launched, because in today’s market it makes less sense than ever.
That said, there is a certain niche audience for this car. One that will always love its little innovations, like the fact that it has one of the lowest drag coefficients on the market, its stellar fuel-consumption number, and its claimed 40 per cent thermal efficiency.
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.
It wouldn’t be a Prius without Toyota’s signature hybrid synergy drive technology. In this most original case it consists of a 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which uses the more thermally efficient but less powerful Atkinson combustion cycle, producing 72kW/142Nm, paired to a set of electric motors on the front axle, which can produce up to 53kW/163Nm.
Combined system output is rated by Toyota at 90kW, driving the front wheels only via a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). This system is the same one now also employed in the C-HR and Corolla hybrid grades.
The Prius’s electric motors source their power from an older design nickel-metal hydride battery (instead of the more modern lithium-ion setup) located under the boot 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 Prius’ sandpapered hybrid drive, low drag number, weight reductions, and low-rolling-resistance tyres add up for a stellar official/combined fuel-consumption figure of just 3.4L/100km. While its signature hybrid tech might be available on other Toyota’s, it’s here where the Prius still shines, undercutting the others by almost a whole litre every 100km.
But can it live up to that promise in the real world? Over my week of what I would consider to be reasonable ‘combined’ driving conditions; with plenty of traffic, freeways, and suburban driving, the Prius returned a stellar figure of just 4.0L/100km. This is not just one of the lowest figures I have ever achieved on a test car, it is even lower than the Corolla Hybrid that I tested over a three-month period. I couldn’t get that car below 4.9L/100km, despite by best attempts.
For a true rival comparison, my week-long test of the Ioniq hybrid in 2019 had the Korean managing a fuel number of 4.6L/100km.
You need not worry about kWh energy consumption for the Prius, as its hybrid system’s software manages the state of battery charge on the fly. It will simply run the engine to charge the battery if levels drop too low, although it always feels good to make the most of the motor’s regenerative braking to keep the battery topped up.
It’s clear that the Prius is still the king of hybrid, then. At least for the time being. All Prius models have 43-litre fuel capacities and are able to consume base-grade 91RON unleaded.
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 Prius was responsible for popularising Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive, and fittingly, it still feels like the best execution of the technology on the market. That instantly available torque from the electric motor is sleek, quiet, and easy. It feels as though the Prius can make more extended use of purely electric drive than not only its rivals, but all other Toyota and Lexus hybrid products.
Despite its awkward exterior looks, the ride and handling of the Prius are excellent, thanks to its robust TNGA-C underpinnings (in fact, the Prius was the car to debut this platform for Toyota). It tilts into corners nicely, despite a frumpy ride height, and deals with bumps in its stride. This is a comfortable car, and the Lexus influence here is undeniable. The steering characteristics are also smooth and responsive. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the Prius is fun to drive, but it is certainly comfortable and compliant.
What the Prius lacks is the lower, firmer, and more aggressive ride and handling characteristics of its Hyundai Ioniq rival, perhaps a telling insight into the trajectory of each brand.
These characteristics add up to an around-town driving experience that really is a breeze. It’s quiet in the cabin and at times genuinely hard to tell whether the car is using its electric motors or the engine. When it comes to bursts of acceleration, the Prius might surprise you. Using both the motor and engine in tandem, I found that the Prius can sprint from the line with an alarming urgency, more so than its Corolla sibling. With the same tech behind the accelerator pedal, it’s hard to imagine why.
Once the electric motor has reached its strictly defined limit, though, the engine breaks in with a vengeance, and this car does have an anaemic follow-through when the electric components fall to the wayside. As in other applications of this drivetrain, the 1.8-litre Atkinson-cycle petrol engine can be thrashy and noisy when a lot is asked of it.
Of course, driving in such a sporty manner is hardly the point of the Prius, and where it really excels is in that day-to-day traffic grind, where the hybrid system works largely in the background to maximise the time spent with the engine off. The best part? While you can really fall into the hybrid system’s addictive fuel-saving displays, which really encourage hypermiling, this is a set-and-forget system. You can drive the Prius like any other car, and it will be trim on fuel consumption anyway. It’s not like I was trying awfully hard to attain my weekly figure of 4.0L/100km, so I’m sure it can do better over the long term.
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 Prius wears a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating to the 2016 standards, although even in today’s market it has a great active-safety suite.
Standard modern active features on all Prius models include freeway-speed auto emergency braking with pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection, lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, traffic-sign recognition, and auto-high beams. Our top-spec I-Tech adds blind-spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, for an overall excellent suite.
All Prius varaints are also equipped with seven airbags consisting of the standard front, side, and head, as well as a driver’s knee airbag, and the standard array of electronic stability and brake controls are also present.
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!
Annoyingly, however, the Prius needs to adhere to six-monthly or 10,000km service intervals. Said intervals are capped to $165 per visit for the first six visits under Toyota’s “service advantage” program, after which time you fall back to Toyota genuine servicing with significant price hikes to $221.97, and $425.47 for the next two services covering four years or 80,000km.
A year of roadside assist is included, after which time you will need to subscribe to Toyota’s program, from $89 a year.
While Toyota’s offering is on par with many, it’s hardly the cheapest or most comprehensive we’ve seen.