THE small car segment is a one of a select few holding its own against stampeding SUVs with the combination of reasonable pricing, technologically savvy inclusions lists and good on-road performances proving an irresistible mix.
Hyundai's multi-awarding-winning i30 is among the most popular choices, captivating buyers with what has always been a value-for-money possibility. But even a successful brand cannot rest on its laurels, and the current model, first launched here three years ago, was starting to look a bit tired, especially since rivals have brought much improved product to the market.
The new Series II has been timely for the i30 then, with subtle changes both inside and out, and the second-tier Active X, which Hyundai expects to account for more than 50% of sales, may just provide the impetus needed to make this new model as sought-after as the old.
The interior of the Series II i30 has been spruced up with a 5.0-inch infotainment touchscreen and reverse camera standard across the range.
The screen itself and the graphic quality lag behind competitors, but it does feature Pandora radio app integration for smartphones, which is always an advantage in a technologically advanced age.
The dash is uncluttered and user-friendly, but is looking a bit tired, lacking the sort of edginess that simply can't be accomplished with a few brush-metal highlights.
Button placement is good, though, especially on the steering wheel, and instruments are clear and easy to read. Seats are comfortable, with good support even in the rear, where a longish squab and tilted angle allow passengers to ride in comfort.
On the road
The 1.8-litre petrol engine standard in the Active X is an unchanged carryover, bar a few tweaks to make it Euro V emissions-compliant. The changes have, however, left it with less torque and power, and with slightly higher fuel consumption.
The numbers may be small, but the difference can be felt on the road, with the i30 labouring a bit, sometimes noisily, when exerted, especially up hills and when overtaking. The suspension, tuned for Australian conditions, is firm but composed, offering a consistent ride with its fair share of comfort.
It does well on far-from-perfect roads, and although you can feel some of the smaller bumps, the larger ones go unnoticed. There are no real delusions of sportiness here, the i30 lacking the fierceness around corners shown by some rivals, with the nose straying and some body roll when pushed quickly around bends. Hyundai's FlexSteer system allows you to choose from Normal (our pick), Comfort or Sport, with the steering more engaging than its predecessor but with limited feedback.
What do you get?
Aside from the aforementioned 5.0-inch touchscreen and reverse camera, the new i30 Active also gets a USB port, Bluetooth
connectivity and iPod compatibility, 16-inch alloys, heated electric-folding mirrors, leather-appointed seats, cooled glove box and cruise control with steering wheel mounted controls. Safety features include seven airbags, ABS with EBD and brake assist as well as traction and stability control.
Surprisingly, the i30 doesn't really impress in the frugality stakes with official figures at 7.3 litres/100km. We used at least a litre more than that in a week that consisted largely of urban driving.
Hyundai's after-sales package is strong though with a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty to sweeten the deal. There is free roadside assistance for a year and services are capped for the lifetime of the car with service intervals at 15,000km.
Sales in this small car segment certainly haven't been affected by the popularity of SUVs and while the Mazda 3 (from $20,490) and Toyota Corolla (from $19,490) lead the pack, the popular Volkswagen Golf (from $25,640), Ford Focus (from $20,290) and Peugeot 308 (from $21,990) are also definitely in the picture.
The appeal of small cars lies in their ability to negotiate the confines of a city, their lower price point and maintenance and now, especially, their compatibility with technology. It helps if they can carry a couple of kids, too.
Storage options in this i30 are both clever and generous. Not least of all among the storage features is the ample 378-litre boot that grows considerably to 1316l when the 60:40 seats are folded flat.
A rear centre armrest is conspicuous by its absence, and while this can be explained away as a cost-cutting measure, rear air vents, also absent, are really a necessity.
A new horizontal-slatted grille, more in keeping with the rest of the Hyundai family, and sleek Euro-inspired lines coupled with nicely shaped LED lights and smart alloys give the i30 a distinguished modern air.
Hyundai expects the Active X to be its volume seller, and has equipped it suitably for that mission. It is sharply priced, looks good, is extremely safe and has the on-trend technology required to attract younger buyers.
What matters most
What we liked: Comfortable interior, spacious for a small car, excellent warranty
What we'd like to see: Better fuel economy, rear air vents
Warranty and servicing: 5-year unlimited-kilometre warranty with fixed-price servicing for life
Model: Hyundai i30 Active X
Details: Five-door front-wheel drive small hatch.
Engines: 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 107kW @ 6500rpm and peak torque of 175Nm @ 4700rpm.
Transmissions: Six-speed auto
Consumption: 7.3 litres/100km combined
Bottom line: from $23,290 (Active from $20,990)
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