Road test: Hyundai i30 SR gets the blowtorch treatment
EVOLUTION has been a long road for Hyundai - and the Koran carmaker is now welcoming corners.
The marque has stepped back from the Excel poverty-pack era from two decades ago to develop a range renowned for quality and value…the next step is sporting credentials.
Hyundai this week launched the i30 SR, what it describes as a "warm hatch" which features a more powerful engine and substantial Australian-honed suspension changes.
It's the first of its kind worldwide and is collaboration between Hyundai Australia and the parent company.
"Hyundais are much more dynamically capable than people would suspect. But having a badged warm hatch variant demonstrates clearly to people we are in the game," Hyundai's marketing director Oliver Mann said.
"Fundamentally it is because we could make it happen and thought we could do it well.
"How we go from here will depend on how successful our seller is but we would like to think it is the start of a journey and there will some more exciting developments down the pipeline."
An Ascent SR is already in the works. As for a turbo variant, using the same engine found in the Veloster, that is a distinct possibility.
On the road
This is a surprise-packet and outstanding fun when the bitumen gets bendy. While it's the same 2.0-litre four-potter found in Kia's Cerato, Hyundai has raised the bar even further in terms of suspension tune.
Brimming with confidence courtesy of more grip and poise than anything we have seen wear the flying "H" badge previously, it does a resounding job of balancing comfort with performance.
It's firmer than your standard i30, as expected, but it doesn't rattle your kidneys.
Substantial work on finding the right springs and damper (which controls the compression and rebound of the suspension) settings have delivered a car which is great fun to drive.
This helps provide excellent steering feedback for the driver and you can use the lightest setting on the Flexsteer system to tackle the toughest corners with assurance.
Our best experience was with the slick six-speed manual, and despite a light clutch feel it offered the greatest performance with steady power under your foot.
It's even happy to rev above 4000rpm and is still willing to give as you push toward redline.
We found the automatic was too willing to change up a cog and tended to want to understeer more than the manual. Steering wheel mounted paddles for manual control would be a handy addition.
Based on the i30 Elite variant, the SR gains a few bits and pieces inside like leather/leatherette seat trim and alloy pedals.
Most of the changes are under the skin so it's an essentially mainstream feel inside.
Some of the finishes are beginning to look a little dated, like the metallic sliver dash treatments and hard plastics scattered around the place, although it all works well and the ease of use is applauded.
The seats offer reasonable support in the right spots, while fitting two adults in the back can be done as long as those up front don't slide too far back.
What do you get?
Based on the i30 Elite which already has reasonable a feature list including sat nav with a 17.7cm screen, dual zone climate controlled air con, six-speaker stereo with USB and AUX inputs, auto wipers, seven airbags, five-star ANCAP safety rating, cruise control and push button start.
But the SR adds some go-fast bits, like alloy pedals, a rear diffuser, sports suspension, leather trim, 17-inch sports alloys and Xenon headlights.
The key benchmarks for the SR were the Mazda3 SP25 ($31,490) and the Ford Focus Sport ($31,690), but also worth looking at are the Nissan Pulsar SSS ($29,690), Suzuki Swift Sport ($23,990) and Holden Cruze SRi-V ($26,490).
Fuel consumption is what you would expect for a car around this size, and we achieved just over eight litres for every 100km with some heavy work on the right pedal.
Capped priced servicing is peace of mind, while insurance should be fairly cheap and you won't have to pay hefty premiums given it's not a "hot hatch".
Hatchbacks offer awesome cargo carrying ability, courtesy of the lift-up door and split-fold seats. The i30 boot is quite deep despite having a full-size spare.
There are some useful storage spots in the cabin, including a great area for phones and other gear in front of the shifter.
Apart from the SR badging, massaged rear end and 17-inch wheels, this variant doesn't look remarkably different from your standard i30. We'd appreciate a little more external prowess, nothing outlandish, but just enough to differentiate it from the range.
What matters most
The good stuff: Great fun to drive, so balanced you want more power, good specification list.
What we'd like to see: Sporty exhaust soundtrack, more external bling like a body kit to give it a lowered look.
Warranty and servicing: Five-year unlimited kilometre warranty. Capped price servicing, $219 for each service over the first three years. Servicing is annual or every 15,000km.
Model: Hyundai i30 SR.
Details: Five-door front-wheel drive compact hatch.
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol 129kW @ 6500rpm and 209Nm @ 4700rpm.
Transmissions: Six-speed manual or six-speed automatic.
Consumption: 7.2 litres/100km (manual); 7.5L/100km (auto).
CO2: 172g/km (manual); 178 (auto).
Performance: 0-100kmh in 7.7 seconds (manual); 8.6 seconds (auto).
Bottom line: i30 SR $27,990 (m); i30 SR $30,190 (m). Sunroof adds $2000.