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Hyundai i30 2021 review: Elite sedan

The new i30 Sedan looks fantastic inside and out.

Daily driver score

3.8/5

Urban score

4.1/5

Twitter is full of people with bad opinions about everything and anything. Some people in the CarsGuide office say that this particular medium is perfect for me and laugh. I have no idea what that means. Some things are meant to stay a mystery, I suppose.

Anyway, one of the bad opinions I see on social media is people complaining that Hyundais are bland and/or not worth the money.

I guess if the only Hyundai you ever saw was either the axed and ancient Accent or the i30, you could say that they're bland. But everything else in the range is eye-catching one way or another - Veloster, i30 Fastback, Santa Fe, Venue. You get the idea. So do the people on the internet, eventually.

You're probably wondering why this review is headlined i30 Sedan. Hyundai has wisely ditched the Elantra nameplate to better align the booted car with its smash-hit hatch sibling (and therefore including the sedan in the i30 sales figures), while at the same time giving it a super-stylish facelift.

Price and features - Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

For the moment, there are two specification levels - Active and Elite - and only the Active is available with a manual transmission ($24,790) or a six-speed automatic ($26,790). The Elite is automatic only at $30,790 and overall you'll be chopped for another $3000 over the hatch. The sedan rolls on a different platform (known as K3), which has a longer wheelbase, so you are actually paying for more metal.

The Elite ships with 17-inch alloys, an eight-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, rear parking sensors, reversing camera, sat nav, auto halogen headlights, fake leather trim, powered boot lid, powered everything else, auto wipers and a full-size spare.

  • The Elite wears 17-inch alloy wheels. The Elite wears 17-inch alloy wheels.
  • Underneath the boot floor is a full-size spare. Underneath the boot floor is a full-size spare.

Hyundai's startlingly good new media system has a 10.25-inch screen (up from 8.0-inches in the Active) as well as DAB+ radio, BOSE-branded speakers and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The wireless charging pad is a very nice bonus, but to use the smartphone mirroring you still need to use USB.

I say the new system is startling, it's very similar to the one in the new Kia Sportage, but every time I see it, it feels like it's from a car that's triple the price.

Design - Is there anything interesting about its design?

As the sales of small sedans continue to fade like Rudy Giuliani's credibility, you have to do something to stand out, especially if you don't have a German badge on the grille. Hyundai has absolutely decided to stand out. The Elantra it replaced started out as fairly safe, got a wacky facelift a couple of years ago and with a new nose and boot, the metamorphosis is complete. Unlike the slightly ungainly Corolla sedan and the curiously dulled-down Mazda3 four-door, the i30 Sedan is not the dowdy version.

From the wild grille which looks like it sprouts new, slim headlights and its sharp creasing through to the chipped and ripped rear end, the new i30 sedan is a proper head-turner. Sometimes on weekends I like to sit on the front porch with a coffee and watch passersby react to cars on the driveway that I think are worth looking at. I lost count of how many people wandered past, stopped and checked the badge before saying something complimentary about it to their companion. I think it looks terrific. If the looks don't sell it, nothing will. It's arguably much more interesting than the hatch.

The new i30 sedan is a proper head-turner. The new i30 sedan is a proper head-turner.

And the same goes for the interior. In an odd twist, now it has the same badge as the hatch, it has a very different interior. Some of the elements are common, like the massive new 10.25-inch screen but there is a Lexus LC-style cockpit effect around the driver, an Audi-style four (or is it two?) spoke steering wheel. Behind that wheel is another 10.25-inch screen serving as a digital dashboard, a bit like the Mercedes twin-screen set-up.

There's an 10.25-inch screen serving as a digital dashboard. There's an 10.25-inch screen serving as a digital dashboard.

The two-tone effect in the front sounds awful but it really works. The only problem is the materials are a bit cheap-feeling on some of the touch points, which kind of defeats the purpose, particularly the sweeping passenger grab handle on the centre console.

Practicality - How practical is the space inside?

One good reason to buy the i30 sedan is the extra rear legroom over the hatch. With an extra 70mm in the wheelbase, space for your pins goes from marginal to actually quite spacious. 

Front-seat passengers have very comfortable seats, lots of headroom, two cupholders, a centre console bin and bottle holders in the doors. Under the climate controls is a Qi wireless charging pad for your mobile and access to the USB ports.

  • Front-seat passengers have very comfortable seats. Front-seat passengers have very comfortable seats.
  • There's extra legroom in the sedan compared to the hatch. There's extra legroom in the sedan compared to the hatch.

The cupholders are intended to be clever - you pluck out a removable section and twist it 180 degrees, changing the depth to cater for long or shallow cups. Only problem is, the latter move around and when full, might spill. Top marks for the idea, though. More marks for the pocket on the side of console in the passenger footwell.

The boot is a whopping 474 litres with a wide-opening boot aperture for easy loading. Fold the 60/40 seats down and you have 1350 litres.

  • Boot space is rated at 474 litres. Boot space is rated at 474 litres.
  • Fold the rear seats down, cargo capacity grows to 1350 litres. Fold the rear seats down, cargo capacity grows to 1350 litres.

Engine and transmission - What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

Hyundai's 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated engine soldiers on, with 117kW at 6200rpm and 191Nm at 4500rpm. Those better-than-average figures find their way to the tarmac via the front wheels and a six-speed automatic transmission.

The 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine makes 117kW/191Nm. The 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine makes 117kW/191Nm.

If you're keen, you can tow 610kg unbraked and 1200kg braked.

Fuel consumption - How much fuel does it consume?

When run through the government-mandated fuel economy testing, the i30 Sedan returned 7.0L/100km on the combined cycle. With a week in my hands under its belt, the dashboard told me it used 8.3L/100km, which was roughly half urban running and a return trip down to Wollongong from Sydney.

It's slightly tight 47-litre tank means a real-world range of about 550km between fills of 91 RON petrol.

Safety - What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The i30 Elite Sedan has six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, junction assist, lane keep assist, lane following assist, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, exit warning and rear-cross traffic alert.

The new i30 sedan has not been tested by ANCAP and won't be - ANCAP has struck again with the requirement for a centre front airbag to score five stars. So Hyundai is going to skip the assessment and live without an ANCAP rating, which would most likely come out at four stars.

Ownership - What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

Hyundai set the pace with a five-year warranty a few years back but now everyone is at it - at least at this level - but it's still good going. You also get 12 months roadside assist, with an extension of 12 months when you service with Hyundai.

You'll be doing that every 12 months/15,000km and you can either pre-pay your servicing or stick with the lifetime capped-price servicing.

Driving - What's it like to drive?

Getting into a Hyundai is becoming an exercise in fulfilled expectations - there's a consistent feel all through the range. Driving position is right and if it isn't, seating and wheel adjustments get you there in a few moments of fiddling. The 2.0-litre engine settles into a barely-registerable idle and the transmission shifts into drive with an assuring action.

There's a proper feeling of quality in the i30, a bit lift from the Elantra. That's partly to do with the design and the very German twin-screen layout (and steering wheel) but it also come from the way it drives. When you're driving around normally, the ride and handling are very smooth and competent, with light easy steering.

The 2.0-litre is quiet when you're not pedalling it along and many owners will never discover that it gets a bit rackety when you floor it. The car makes a terrific argument for not spending any more money than this, because it's that good.

It's not particularly quick, but for a family of four - particularly as a second car - it is a very comfortable get-around-town machine, as well as a very pleasant long-distance cruiser. If you want or need more, the N-Line is coming, but it won't ride as well in return for sharper handling and its more powerful 1.6-litre turbo.

The new i30 Elite sedan is a lot of car for the money, especially when you see what some Japanese companies are charging for small hatchbacks. The Elite's extra spec over the Active is mostly comprised of Nice Things, but they're things worth having. 

Small European sedans would struggle to hold people and stuff as well as the i30 and Hyundai does it all for a lot less money.

$30,790

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.8/5

Urban score

4.1/5
Price Guide

$30,790

Based on new car retail price