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2021 Hyundai i30 Sedan N Line Premium review

By Curt Dupriez, 05 Mar 2021 Car Reviews

Edgy Elantra successor gets the flagship N Line treatment. But does the warmed-up small four-door have enough substance to warrant buyer enthusiasm?

2021 Hyundai i30 Sedan N Line Premium review

What is the Hyundai i30 Sedan N Line Premium?

Hyundai is out to make small sedans sexy and the new i30 Sedan N Line Premium is the figurehead charged with pulling your heartstrings the hardest. 

With its ‘unfold macramé’ sheetmetal and achingly stylised cabin design, the regular i30 Sedan’s late-2020 arrival has already given its competent if dowdy Elantra predecessor a swift shove the way of obscurity. Foreign markets persist with old nomenclature for what’s a considerably reimagined ‘CN7’ four-door proposition in style and vibe, if still humbly competent and with a somewhat dowdy naturally aspirated, torsion beam-suspended package under its attention-grabbing skin.     

Read next 2021 Hyundai i30 N-Line Premium review 

Enter the sport-infused N Line, turbocharged and multilinked, in your choice of manual or dual-clutch base or exclusively self-shifting Premium specifications. The latter carries the torch for optimum performance and luxury for now, until the properly stove-hot N arrives later this year. It’s hit the ground running – if not necessarily sprinting – outselling the regular Active and Elite in its first two months on sale.   

Hyundai Australia wanted the i30 Sedan badly enough that the local market’s right-hand-drive CN7 is exclusive to us. That’s before you account for the considerable effort the technically unique N Line versions demand to get right, not just against their bread-and-butter Sedan kin but compared with the i30 Hatchback N Line that bears little resemblance to its logical four-door alternative outside, inside or under their distinctly different facades.

Compared with the Korean-sourced ‘PD4’ hatch offered in Australia, the CN7 has a newer-generation K3 platform and an entirely different SmartStream engine. Wrap that in an inimitable package flaunting a more adventurous New Hyundai vibe, in everything from driver’s screen format to switchgear, and clearly the warmed-over sedan is not merely an N Line Hatch with more length and a square bum. Nor, obviously, is it Elantra – as Aussies have known it – draped in leisurewear.  

READ NEXT Hyundai i30 Sedan N-Line revealed

While it’s warm and fuzzy that Hyundai Australia is keen to maintain richness in range diversity, the Sedan N Line will need some substance behind its somewhat flamboyant pitch to lure even brand devotees away from opting for the popular five-door or the recently launched Kona N Line small SUV.   

Price and Value

The N Line Premium is, at $37,290 before on-roads, the flagship of the six-variant i30 Sedan range that kicks off at $24,790 list for the manual Active. A fair spread then, but from bottom to top the i30 four-door varies significantly in powertrain, chassis and equipment.

Read Hyundai details new i30 hatch

Too rich? The regular, non-Premium N Line takes a five-grand haircut ($32,290 list) in dual-clutch form, dropping a further two grand for six-speed-manual ($30,290 list), which is the only conventional cog-swapper of the trio.   

In Hyundai’s blossoming N Line fold, there are other options at a sideways gaze. The new Kona minted in an N Line Premium formula ups the outlay to $42,400 list if you fancy all-paw traction with its SUV format. Meanwhile, the recently updated i30 Hatch N Line is offered a choice of manual ($34,220 list) and dual-clutch ($36,220 list) transmissions in Premium trim, though key technical spec – engine, platform – isn’t shared with its four-door kin.          

As it extends its reach across more Hyundai model lines, the N Line effect is solidifying itself as less a warmed-over sporting gloss and more of an all-round bells-and-whistles format for the high-grade stuff. In the small-segment ranges, opting for N Line steps up from natural aspiration to turbocharging and from torsion beam to fully independent suspension. More spirited, yes, but N Line and flagship N Line Premium increasingly pitches a range’s highest levels of equipment, luxury and, to some extent, comfort.     

     

The i30 Sedan applies an N Line formula similar to that found in Hatch and Kona. It fits larger 18-inch wheels, 25mm-larger 305mm front brakes, distinctive exterior front and rear styling, dual exhaust outlets and blackout highlights. Interestingly, though, the four-door fits 245mm Goodyear rubber, whereas it’s Michelin (Hatch) and Continental (Kona) rubber for other small-stature N Lines.

MORE Hyundai announces new i30 engines for Europe

Worth noting is that opting for N Line Premium as tested here doesn’t bestow hotter or sportier equipment. The extra five-grand investment for the flagship is entirely compensated for in creature comforts.

   

The Premium goodies include the dual 10.25-inch digital instrument and infotainment touchscreen combination, proprietary sat-nav, Bose audio, DAB+ radio, 10-way driver’s seat adjustment, front seat heating and cooling, a tilt and sliding glass roof, front parking sensors and subtleties such as LED ambient lighting and an auto-dimming mirror.   

You also get full exterior LED lighting, N Line specific seats with partial leather trim, an N Line wheel and shifter trim, dual-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, wireless phone charging and the expected stuff such as reversing camera, rear sensors and rain-sensing wipers all featured on the regular N Line versions.

Frankly, digital window dressing and glass roof apart, it’s tough to argue that the regular N Line doesn’t pitch value a little harder, particularly if you’re in it for primarily for the driving experience.       

     

Living with the Hyundai i30 Sedan N Line Premium

In conspicuously creased metal, glass and plastic, the i30 Sedan N Line is striking, borderline fussy and carves out genuine presence on the road. More interesting than handsome, perhaps, and it’s certainly easier on the eye viewed from some angles than others, but it certainly has more impact than its forebears and is at its most fetching when finished in a bold colour.       

There’s also a fair argument that, as the roofline slopes in a fairly clean arc beyond the B pillar to the trailing edge of the fetching concave tail, it’s a four-door coupe.  

The cabin is bold if somewhat more restrained than the adventurous fit-outs found further down the i30 Sedan range, where the stylised four-spoke wheel and colour combinations look inspired – if somewhat conspicuously lifted – from the book of, ahem, Genesis.

It’s a darker and broodier take, with a neat three-spoke paddle-shifter wheel, thick-bolster seating and predictably sporty red-stitched flourishes, tempering an interior that remains quite radical for a mainstream sedan, lifts liberally from the contemporary premium European design book and somehow gets away with it with confidence. It’s nothing like the convention found in an i30 Hatch, for better or worse. 

That overt ‘wraparound driver’ theme is the cabin showpiece, accentuated by orienting the dual 10.25-inch displays towards the driver’s seat. It brings a lot of ‘gee-whiz’ factor but the manner in which it almost cocoons the driver pretty much ostracizes the front passenger from practicable access to air-con adjustment, infotainment control and even cup-holder access. It not so selfishly arranged to the point of dysfunction, just a bit impractical.         

Both of the display screens are richly satisfying, the driver’s instrumentation bringing an array of clearly Euro-inspired skins than alter their appearance in tandem with drive mode switches. The Premium’s larger 10.25-inch infotainment system – regular N Line gets 8.0-inch – is sharp and crisp if lumbered a little by a slightly complex submenu system that’s distracting to use and demands a bit of hunting around for simple operations, such audio tone adjustment. The gimmicky Sounds Of Nature ambience effects are tucked away inside, if you ever have the misfortune to stumble across them… 

Execution is mostly good, with lots of texture variation, decent quality to the controls and a nice sense of solidity for a mainstream offering. Letting the team down, though, is the quality of the seat trim fitment, with unsightly waves and creases along the stitched edges. The seating itself is excellent, with supportive cushioning and ample lateral support from the thick side bolsters, the only leather-trimmed surface across the seat face.

The roominess in row two is excellent. Hyundai claims the i30 Sedan offers 58mm more legroom than its forebear and the new platform affords between 20mm- and 25mm-lower seating. The upshot is rear accommodation is as spacious as you might expect in a mid-sized sedan and it’s vastly roomier than the cramped second row of a Kona N Line … if you’re interested in cross-shopping the two stablemates with a view to practicality. Rear air-vents are a decent inclusion, but the absence of rear USB ports and 12-volts outlets in a flagship variant is a glaring oversight.

Further bolstering the i30 Sedan’s family friendliness is the boot space, measuring a generous 474 litres – over 100 litres more than Kona, over 75 litres more than Hatch – thanks to sizeable width and depth.       

For genuine usability among the small-stature N Line crop, it certainly seems as though the four-door wins out in practicality stakes.   

Engine, transmission and driveline

It’s easy to presume that the 1.6-litre turbocharged four is the same unit as a Hatch N Line, given the common 150kW (at 6000rpm) and 265kW (1500rpm through to 4500rpm) output stats. They’re not the same engines.

The i30 Sedan N Line debuts the new SmartStream G1.6T-GDi, as it’s designated. It’s slightly larger in capacity (1598cc plays 1591cc), has higher compression, different bore and stroke, a different turbocharger arrangement and features continuously variable valve duration (CVVD) technology, rather than the older unit’s dual continuously variable valve timing (CVVT) smarts.

The new engine is also fitted to the Kona N Line, albeit four kilowatts shy for reasons Hyundai Australia execs weren’t privy to at the four-door’s local launch.   

It’s claimed that CVVD fattens low-rpm torque and offers superior fuel economy against a unit offering output parity. Result? The Sedan N Line auto’s combined consumption claim of 6.8L/100kms plays the old-engine hatch’s 7.1L/100km despite similar circa-1340kg weighbridge tickets.

Well, at least, that’s seven-speed 'dry’ dual-clutch auto for auto. Opt for the base manual Sedan N Line’s six-speed cog-swapper and consumption rises to 7.5 litres, which, while respectable, represents a formidable 10 per cent hike in combined consumption over the auto. Either format drives the front wheels exclusively.

Performance? The form guide states that the dual-clutch version will dispatch the 0-100km/h sprint in 7.6 seconds, while the six-speed manual is three-tenths slower. They’re decent and respectable, then, if far from properly red-misted.  

Driving the Hyundai i30 Sedan N Line Premium

Hyundai launched its small four-door N Line in tandem with its more-powerful, reimagined, mid-sized sedan debutant, the new Sonata N Line. Not company for the most flattering of first impressions, right?

READ How brands tune new car suspension for Aussie roads

But I just so happened to slide into the driver’s seat and point the i30 Sedan N Line up a particularly lumpy, twisty and unforgiving piece of regional hot-mix Hyundai Australia uses to develop its ride and handling packages, the very road the company once demonstrated to visiting Korean delegates from head office as to why locally developed tuning is, in its view, so utterly crucial for locally released product.

 

And, jeez, doesn’t it shine. Brighter than I’d bargained for. The suspension tune seems tailor-made for this sort of dynamic workout on this sort of road because, well, it most literally is.

There’s “a big difference,” says Hyundai, in our domestic tune to what is offered in overseas markets. 

The spring, damper and stabiliser settings chosen conspire to a middling, if slightly firm, character that really gets its mojo on carrying speed and inertia across uneven surfaces that really test wheel articulation. It’s not ‘N’ spec taut, but it’s not even vaguely flaccid.

The wheel control is such that the chassis remains impressively flat and composed, milking a surprising amount of lateral purchase from the Goodyears, and rewarding with a nice crisp dynamic edge and assertive body control that a tune with this much compliance really shouldn’t.

The Hatch N Lines have long offered a deftly struck balance between slightly soft around-town pliancy while returning just enough dynamic muscle-flexing for a decent athletic workout. This new Sedan, though, seems a bit more polished and resolved once you dig in and push on. Part of this might be the newer platform as better quality foundations; part of it might be a difference in the tuning and settings applied. Whatever the case, there’s no downgrade in fun factor or capabilities when opting for the four-door N Line format. 

It’s equally impressive carrying speed over flowing stuff, in this case the same roads used for the Kona N Line launch still fresh in my recent memory. Here, the sedan is impressively light on its rubber, tracks its line confidently, and eminently easy to place and adjust. Throughout, the steering remains clear and direct without any notable kickback or foibles bar the sense that, in Sport mode, the wheel gets a little leaden from under-assistance off centre when the front axle is loaded up.

If there’s a trade-off in the sport leanings of the chassis, it’s once you cool the jets and potter around town. The tyres tends to slap a bit across road imperfections, tyre noise across coarse chip surfaces is quite pronounced and ride across square-edge speed bumps can jar. For such a seemingly pliant ride on the move, it transmits its pain of dropping a wheel into a pothole directly through the cabin.   

         

The proper head-scratcher is that the i30 Sedan N Line pretty much eradicates some of the foibles we found with the Kona N Line. There’s no lethargy in initial throttle response, no lazy recalcitrance from the dual-clutch off the mark, and the powertrain happily provides assertive thrust as the needle swings towards its redline. 

It feels healthier on the march and it’s more linear and progressive around town and. for a dry-clutch design, the transmission is impressively free of stutters and jolts. If there’s one shortcoming it’s that, in Sport mode and on a decent punt, the gearbox likes to hang on to short gear ratios under a very light throttle a little too enthusiastically.

While certainly proving itself capable of dishing out talent fit for a wry grin or three, it’s awfully polite when it comes to mojo and soundtrack, which is next to nonexistent. If you’re hoping for fizz, pops and crackles, or a sense of purpose at a dull roar, this isn’t really 37-odd grand ideally spent. Rather, the i30 Sedan N Line fits the mould of a polite grand tourer or smart daily driver with dynamic talent tucked in its back pocket better than it does as a sporting device hell-bent on reminding you as much every moment of the driving experience.       

      

How safe is the Hyundai i30 Sedan N Line Premium?

The i30 Sedan is yet to be tested by ANCAP.

That said, our N Line Premium gets a very comprehensive suite of active safety and convenience systems as standard. The autonomous emergency braking system is an all-speed design featuring cyclist and pedestrian avoidance as well as junction turning assist, it fits both lane-keeping assistance together with its related lane following functionality, the blind-spot monitoring integrates collision avoidance protocols and both rear-cross traffic and reverse parking assistance offers both warning and braking.   

Regular, non-Premium DCT versions omit the reverse parking assistance, while the base manual version features blind-spot monitoring and rear-cross traffic alert smarts, if without actual avoidance assistance via steering or braking. 

All versions, though, do fit exit warning to prevent you swinging a door into traffic or cyclists, as well as rear occupant alert, driver attention monitoring and a complement of six airbags.

How much does it cost to run the Hyundai i30 Sedan N Line Premium?

Hyundai offers a reasonable $299 servicing price cap for the first five 12-month intervals on all i30s, though the 1.6 turbo stock demands 10,000-kilometre frequency rather than longer 15,000km conditions on the naturally aspirated 2.0-litre variants. 

It’s covered by Hyundai’s five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty.

As outlined above, this new SmartStream engine comes with an advertised 6.8L/100km combined claimed in dual-clutch form and a hike to 7.5L/100km as a conventional manual, claims tough to validate given the, erm, sporadic bouts of enthusiasm frequently conducted during the local launch program undoubtedly sullying the pursuits of optimum efficiency...or something.

It’ll happily run on 91RON or buck-busting E10.   

Verdict

The i30 Sedan N Line’s drawcards are its uniqueness and individuality, though its strengths are in its sporty driving and relative adult-friendly roominess and practicality against its N Line stablemates. And it’s a bold enough statement of where Hyundai is heading with design and smarts for reasonable money.

But it will remain the alternative rather than the default to a good many buyers wedded to the SUV or hatch formats. No harm, nor foul. Nobody is expecting the latest warmed-over i30 to set the sales world alight or dramatically change perceptions of the small-sedan genre, Hyundai Australia included.

Properly sexy? That’s debatable. But the i30 Sedan N Line certainly bucks conventional opinion that small sedans are all just boring and humdrum.

You do need to splurge on the Premium for the full techy effect, though sailing above the 40-grand mark on the road does unearth some fairly hot little machinery if that’s what you’re in it for. In a good many ways, the five-to-seven-grand saving you’d otherwise bank opting for the regular Sedan N Lines looks fairly compelling.

Rating 8.0/10

 

What you will like

Ride and handling balance, sense of adventure, spacious cabin

    

What you won’t

Small-sedan stigma, lack of vibe and soundtrack

 

Specifications – Hyundai i30 Sedan N Line Premium

Price: From $37,290 (7DCT)

Engine/transmission: 1.6-litre 4cyl turbo petrol/7DCT, FWD

Fuel consumption/CO2/tank size: 6.8L/100km, 157g/km, 47 litres

Safety: not rated

Seats: 5

Warranty/service interval: five years/unlimited, 10,000kms/12 months

Spare wheel (type): space saver

Weight: from 1340kg