WHAT started out as a brief and exciting overseas fling on the freezing streets of Hyundai’s native South Korea way back in February, and became a blossoming long-term relationship with the i30 SR Premium, has all too quickly come to an end.
It wasn’t just the fact that I continued to see other cars, spending time intimately handling their interior parts, or the fact the Hyundai spent many happy hours getting to know other Wheels staffers, including the odd weekend away enjoying the company of strangers.
The keys always came back to my bowl.
Some relationships simply run their course and when it’s time to go your own way it’s best to do it with maturity and dignity.
But the truth is the i30 SR and I got along famously. Over the last four months, I have found far more positive words to say about Hyundai’s i30 flagship variant than negatives.
So it’s no secret I have enjoyed the engaging performance of its taut chassis tune and surprisingly powerful 1.6-litre turbo engine, and always looked forward to spending time in its well-appointed cabin, whether the trip was for official reasons or no reason at all. But what are we to look for as a barometer of the Hyundai’s broader nationwide reception?
With a small sample size, a majority of the people I have introduced to the i30 have been complimentary but you’ve probably never told someone their newborn is fantastically ugly right? Perhaps they were just being kind. What Australians really think of the i30 ultimately remains to be confirmed by long- term sales figures, but a final trip away in the SR cemented my opinion that it’s a brilliant all-rounder.
As I loaded up the boot with my swag, some decent booze and all of the paraphernalia necessary for a bush party just down the road from the Heathcote Dragstrip (where we performance-test cars), it drove the point home that the i30 competes with the best for small-hatch practicality.
With a crew of just one on board and a couple of podcasts plugged into the USB port, I was again reminded how effortlessly the SR devours uninspiring freeway cruises. It also left me time to ponder the comprehensiveness of the SR Premium package and just what Hyundai offers for the money.
There had been times the combination of excellent handling and tractable power had made me instinctively reach for a manual gear selector, but the three-pedal option doesn’t exist in range-topping Premium trim.
It’s a shame as a shift-it-yourself gearbox would enhance driver involvement while eliminating the qualms I’ve had with the DCT’s sluggish low-speed behaviour. Before I knew it, the rolling hills of central Victoria were all around.
Friends and frequent visitors to the little riverside oasis in Redesdale are used to a different car accompanying me to each party, but despite the less exotic badging, the little Hyundai continued to draw praise.
In a vineyard full of mid-sized SUVs and mock-roaders, it seems you can still pique some interest with a well-rounded, practical and wholly liveable warm hatchback. It’s a little perplexing to observe the rise of SUVs in the Australian automotive landscape, when there are some excellent passenger vehicles that make infinitely more sense for the majority of day-to-day motoring.
If you need an example of exactly that and how much car you get for $35,000, you needn’t look any further than the current i30 range-topper.
From a first meeting in a frozen far-off land, to one last balmy night of fun, I can confidently say I know the i30 SR Premium intimately. I’m already hoping for a platonic reunion somewhere down the road.
Read part three of our 2017 Hyundai i30 SR Premium long-term review here!