2012 Hyundai i30 First Drive

by under Review on 30 May 2012 11:06:28 AM30 May 2012
2012 HYUNDAI I30
Price Range
$23,420 - $47,910
Fuel Consumption
7L - 8L/100km

Good looks; lots of kit means great value; sporty driving dynamics


Diesel auto sometimes slow to change

Trust Hyundai. Just when you thought the small hatchback market had everything covered, the Korean giant has lobbed an all-new i30 lineup which, while more expensive than its predecessor, is so jam-packed with equipment it challenges the value-for-money of all rivals.

On top of that you can add a well-tuned sporty chassis set-up, nice petrol or turbo-diesel engines and a very slick all-new look. 


2012 HYUNDAI I30

Hyundai is really motoring at the moment - since the GFC while many automotive industry big brands have been treading water, Hyundai’s sales have tripled. This year Hyundai will post global sales of 4.3-million vehicles (six per-cent up on 2011).

The company is just about to open its third plant in China and is the only automotive manufacture with its own steel mills. Hyundai Steel is a major customer of Australian coal and iron ore – in fact sometimes the turnaround (local iron ore sent to Korea, coming back as a completed car) is around six weeks!

Hyundai i30 Overview

For the all-new i30 hatchback, Hyundai has replaced the previous model’s 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre petrol engines with a new 1.8-litre with more power and reduced fuel consumption. The 1.6-litre turbo-diesel has been re-worked and it too provides more power and better fuel consumption.

Gone too are the ‘SX’, ‘SLX’ and ‘SR’ badges – new Hyundai i30 follows the Elantra sedan with a three model lineup comprising entry level ‘Active’, mid-grade ‘Elite’ and range-topping ‘Premium’.

2012 HYUNDAI I30

The full range is:

Active Elite Premium
1.8-litre petrol manual $20,990 $24,590 --
1.8-litre petrol auto $22,990 $26,590 $29,990
1.6-litre turbo-diesel manual $23,590 $27,190 --
1.6-litre turbo-diesel auto $25,590 $29,180 $32,590
Optional metallic/mica paint costs an additional $495.

That starting price is $1400 more than the superseded entry-level Hyundai 1.6SX and certainly isn’t the cheapest car in this segment but, as we said at the outset, value-for-money is a standout in the all-new i30. And don’t forget the new entry-level model is powered by a better 1.8-litre engine.

It boils down to standard equipment – and it must be said Scott Williams and his team in Hyundai Australia’s Product Planning Department have done a superb job with the all-new i30. For example, cruise control and seven airbags are standard across the range

On top of the well-equipped entry-grade Active, amongst the extras in the Elite are 16-inch alloy wheels, seven-inch touch screen satellite navigation and reversing camera, automatic dusk-sensing headlights, automatic windscreen defog, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control, proximity key with push-button start and extra trim features inside and out.

Over the Elite, range-topping Premium scores value-packed additions such as 17-inch alloy wheels, leather interior (including heated front seats), panoramic glass sunroof, electronic adjustment for the drivers’ seat and HID xenon headlights.

Hyundai i30 Engine

Unlike some big-name small car rivals, Hyundai i30 offers a choice of 1.8-litre petrol or 1.6-litre turbo-diesel engines. No surprise really as Europe is a major market for this vehicle and savvy European small cars buyers have been buying diesel-powered cars for decades. 

2012 HYUNDAI I30

The new all-aluminium 1.8-litre petrol engine is from Hyundai’s ‘Nu’ engine family and is a clear step forward from the previous 2.0-litre with 4.8 per-cent more power (110kW at 6500rpm, 178Nm at 4700rpm) and fuel consumption (six-speed manual) improved by 9.7 per cent to 6.5l/100kms.

The updated 1.6-litre ‘U2’ turbo-diesel is significantly better with 10.6 per cent more power 94kW at 4000rpm, 260Nm from 1900rpm) and fuel consumption as low as 4.5l/100kms. 

2012 HYUNDAI I30

Drive is via six-speed manual or automatic transmissions – Hyundai one of few automotive manufacturers to design and manufacture its own gearboxes.

Hyundai i30 The Interior

Look inside the all-new Hyundai i30 and you’ll be convinced Hyundai’s stylists working under chief designer Thomas Burkle are miracle workers – the transformation from the not unattractive current i30 is remarkable with stylish new looks, better instruments, and a V-shaped centre stack all accented by much better tactile surfaces and trim materials. 

2012 HYUNDAI I30

Thanks to slightly larger exterior dimensions, they had more space to work with and up-front this has delivered 27mm extra headroom, 11mm more legroom and 14mm more shoulder room.

Cargo capacity is up by 11 per cent (38-litres) to 378-litres.

Hyundai i30 Exterior & Styling

Hyundai calls the exterior style of the all-new i30 “Aero Active” – an extension of its ‘Fluidic Sculpture’ design language. Created at the company’s European styling centre in Russelsheim, Germany the latest i30, while all-new, is clearly a member of Hyundai’s ‘new’ family which also includes Accent, Elantra, i45 and i40. 

2012 HYUNDAI I30

It’s an athletic look no doubt, characterized by strong character lines incorporating the headlights and running rearwards from the hallmark hexagonal grille.

The wheelbase (2650mm) is identical to the previous Hyundai i30 but longer front and rear overhangs increase length to 4300mm and the newcomer is also wider at 1780mm

Hyundai i30 On The Road

Hyundai sent us out on the very familiar roads from Melbourne’s CBD via Kinglake to the Yarra Valley and back to Tullamarine Airport. Overnight rain made for some slimey conditions in some parts and the chilly ambient temperature out of the city never bothered the thermometer north of 12°C.

Hyundai, like sister company Kia, undertakes extensive Australian suspension calibration – to the extent of having its own in-house shock absorber dynamometer and getting Sachs shock absorber engineers to wing-in from Germany. And in the testing, winding conditions no doubt both our Hyundai i30 test cars (Elite petrol manual and Premium diesel automatic) were impressive with noticeable firmness in the shock absorber and spring rates for a flat, connected ride (in the European way).

2012 HYUNDAI I30

Refinement levels were also impressive with little tyre and wind noise and excellent suppression of mechanical noises – Hyundai’s 1.6-litre turbo-diesel is one of the least-noisy non-European diesel passenger car engines.

We liked the responsiveness of the 1.8-litre petrol engine with strong acceleration in all gears (the six-speed transmission was nice too) while the turbo-diesel was generally good but its six-speed automatic was sometimes left looking for the correct gear when under pressure.

Overall, a segment-best-challenging showing from the all-new Hyundai i30.

Hyundai i30 Challenges

Points deduction in just two areas.

Our diesel-powered six-speed automatic Premium model Hyundai i30 was sometimes reluctant to change gears when pressing on hard in the twisty stuff. Steering wheel paddle shifters for slick manual changes would have been nice and we know how to pay for them… 

2012 HYUNDAI I30

We’d ditch the gimmicky ‘Flex Steer’ system. It works - changes in steering effort are noticeable - but doesn’t really impact the driving dynamics.

Hyundai i30 Verdict

In recent years we’ve come to expect the unexpected from Hyundai (‘Exhibit A’ - the three-door Veloster) and the Korean giant has done it again with the all-new i30. Good as the previous i30 was (and it played a significant role Hyundai’s sales explosion during the last four years), the all-new model raises the bar in every department.

We like the all-new looks inside and out, we were very impressed with its taut, sporty chassis and the level of standard equipment in all three model grades - which makes the value-for-money equation so impressive - will certainly have rivals scratching their heads.

Hyundai i30 The Competition

When comparing makes and models in any market segment, Car Showroom always recommends you very carefully check individual items which are important to you and without doubt, Hyundai i30 has ramped-up that requirement with its extensive kit across all three grades.

Ford’s German-sourced Ford Focus is a Car Showroom favourite for its European style, classy interior and top-notch driving dynamics. Focus starts at $21,990 for the 1.6-litre petrol ‘Ambiente’, while the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel starts at $30,500. 

2012 HYUNDAI I30

Honda’s all-new British-sourced Civic hatchback is about to arrive priced from $22,650. No diesel alternative but the new Civic is a looker.

Kia Cerato is great value priced from $19,640 to $24,040 but again no sign of a diesel version.

Holden locally-built Cruze hatchback is very easy on the eye with it European-inspired style. Cruze kicks-off at $21,490 for the 1.8-litre petrol CD model and $25,490 for the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel CD.

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