The mid-size hatchback sector was once the busiest part of New Zealand’s new car market.
As recent history has served to prove, that has all changed since sport utility vehicles became popular, and in the last few years light commercial utes have been the new vehicle of choice.
However, there is still a valuable market for the quintessential hatchback, and it looks like Hyundai and Toyota are going to battle it out again for a major slice of that segment with the i30 and Corolla respectively.
Hyundai has just upped the ante in that battle with the launch of a brand new i30 hatchback, it lands here from $35,990 and is available in three variants, two with 2-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engines, and a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol model.
The latter lists at $43,990, but the focus of this evaluation is the 2-litre Elite and it sits at $39,990 which represents substantial value, and that from a manufacturer whose prices have risen incrementally over the years. Hyundai is no longer seen as a budget car offer, but one which prides itself on quality and high specification value.
In Elite specification it gets full leather trim (front seats heated), satellite navigation through a large central screen display, adaptive cruise control and dual zone climate control, which are just a few of the myriad of features in i30 and, of course, it is five-star safety rated through the Australasian New Car Assessment Program.
Under the bonnets sits an engine which has been widely proven through a host of Hyundai and Kia product; well, the same could be said now of the 1.6 turbo engine, but the point is that both are efficient engines and stand out for their performance and economy.
The 2-litre unit is rated at 120kW with 200Nm of torque available at 4700rpm. Power is channelled through a six-speed automatic transmission. The combination promotes a Hyundai combined cycle fuel usage claim of 7.4-litre per 100km (38mpg). The dash readout sat close to that during the evaluation process, constantly listing around 9l/100km (31mpg). At 100km/h on the highway the instantaneous figure is 4.9l/100km (54mpg), the engine turning over quite relaxed at just 2050rpm.
On the subject of figures, the i30 in this form will reach 100km/h from a standstill in 8.8sec and will complete a highway overtake in 5sec.
These are solid performance figures about what could be expected from a naturally-aspirated 1999cc engine. Take into account, too, the i30 is only a light weight model at 1382kg, the power-to-weight ratio is well biased towards a performance edge.
What I particularly like about the i30’s driveline is the way the engine doesn’t need to be working hard, the torque curve and transmission shift protocols are structured so that it works the bottom end and doesn’t overly stress the engine. Sure, there are driver-selectable sport and economy modes to suit each journey, but I generally just let the natural default mode take over and it provides realistic engine manners for most situations.
The i30 doesn’t get steering wheel-mounted shift paddles, but there is a sequential shifting system available at the main gearshift lever itself if the driver so desires to take control over that process.
When presented with a quick corner or two the i30 is capable and controlled. Interestingly, the non-turbo model gets a basic rear suspension package against a fully independent system of its turbocharged stablemate.
I’m a great believer in fully independent systems, and I’m disappointed both variants don’t get the upmarket system.
Nevertheless, the torsion beam set-up in the naturally aspirated hatch has spring and damper rates which provide a balanced, comfortable ride, and it does its best to arrest gravitational force. If mid-corner bumps are encountered the suspension does its best to absorb the hits without unbalancing the car or upsetting the steering.
The i30 rides on Korean-made Hankook tyres (225/45 x 17in), they are engineered to promote further steering feel, and that is an i30 quality, the steering is informative and positively directional.
While the i30 equips itself well between power and handling, it must be remembered it is the handy family-friendly hatchback which we have known through the generations. The elegant styling is pleasantly eye-catching, and its practicality unquestioned; rear load space equates to 395-litres, but if objects of awkward proportions need to be carried the seats fold flat to allow a carrying capacity of up to 1301-litres.
Rear load space doesn’t compromise occupant space for three adults while up front the seats are supportive and the layout of controls and gauges is designed for ease of use.
The i30 does little wrong as a practical and popular hatchback. For me, though, I’d be an entry-level buyer, the idea of a $36k model which doesn’t lose much in terms of specification would be a tempting proposition.
Price – Hyundai i30 Elite, $39,990
Dimensions – Length, 4340mm; width, 1795mm; height, 1455mm
Configuration – Four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive, 1999cc, 120kW, 200Nm, six-speed automatic.
Fuel usage – 7.4l/100km