Head to head: Volkswagen Golf 110TSI Highline vs Hyundai i30 SR

By Daniel Gardner, 15 Jul 2017 Car Reviews

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Head to head: Volkswagen Golf 110TSI Highline vs Hyundai i30 SR

Hyundai is having a pop at Volkswagen’s sub-GTI Golf with a warmed up version of the i30 dubbed the SR, but does the South Korean stand a chance against the affordable small hatchback benchmark?

VOLKSWAGEN GOLF 110TSI HIGHLINE

Price & Equipment

At $34,490 before on-road costs, the most premium sub-GTI VW Golf is straying into serious prestige contender territory occupied by the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series, but for those who are willing to look past a badge are offered a generous list of kit by comparison. Automatic dual-clutch transmission, panoramic sunroof and AEB are a handful of the standard features. A so-called 7.5 mid-life update has also freshened a look that wasn’t dating. 18/20

Interior & versatility

The Golf cabin has been upgraded with a larger 8.0-inch central screen, while an optional Infotainment pack boosts it to a 9.2-inch version with gesture control, complemented by a fully digital Active Info Display, which swaps conventional gauges for a 12-inch screen. The top-shelf Golf Highline gets part-Vienna leather interior which can be dressed up with R-Line sporty bits as another option. A 380-litre boot is expandable to 1270 litres with 60/40 folding rear seats. 18/20

Performance & economy

Under the bonnet of the Golf, a diminutive 1.4-litre turbocharged TFSI petrol knocks out 110kW and 250Nm, which is good for zero to 100km/h in 8.2 seconds, says VW. The golf is therefore not particularly fast but has more punch than simply adequate. Economy is its strong point with an average fuel consumption of 5.4L/100km. 14/20

Ride & refinement

There are more cosseting rides to be found in the small hatchback segment especially when the Highline is riding on optional 18-inch alloy wheels, but the Golf manages a decent balance of comfort and performance. Larger wheels also translate to more cabin noise on coarse surfaces but the embience is generally on the more serene side. An honourable mention must also be given for the Golf’s interior quality, which is of a standard rare if not completely non-existent in its class. 17/20

Steering & handling

Independent rear suspension is by no means a given in this segment and a feather in the Golf’s cap, although the Hyundai also has the more sophisticated arrangement. VW has tailored the chassis for a more rewarding driving experience and the Golf has a sporty nature on driver’s roads. Steering is smooth and precise and offers the driver lots of feedback when on the move but light effortless manoeuvring when about town. Regardless of the specification, the Golf range is equipped with among the most ergonomically perfect and comfortable steering wheels in the business. 18/20

Verdict

The Golf really didn’t need an update to maintain its strengths in the small hatch market but the 7.5 is a sharpened package of quality and value that makes sense. Sporty looks and dynamics will keep driving enthusiasts happy, while room for five, a decent boot and a frugal but not soporific engine enhance its proposition as a day-to-day drive. 85/100

HYUNDAI i30 SR

Price & equipment

There are not many small hatchbacks that are powered with 150kW for under $30,000 but the hottest Hyundai i30 until the i30 N comes along will give you $1050 in change when fitted with the optional dual-clutch automatic transmission. Go for the manual and you’ll save another $3000. The i30 SR is also decked out with a serious amount of kit including heated and cooled seats, large glass roof, part leather interior and 18-inch rims as standard. 18/20

Interior & versatility

The Hyundai can’t touch the Golf’s sheer excellence in terms razor-sharp interior quality and design but still scores highly with good quality materials and a roomy cabin that is dusted with reminders that it is a higher-performance variant. At the back, a 395-litre boot trumps the Golf as does the expanded volume of 1301 litres. 15/20

Performance & economy

With a whole 40kW and 15Nm more engine output than the Golf, the Hyundai wins in the power stakes hands down thanks to a 1.6-litre turbo engine and a zero to 100km/h acceleration time of 7.3 seconds as tested by our friends at wheelsmag.com.au. The South Korean contender does sacrifice some economy for the more impressive poke with an official combined economy of 7.5L/100km. 15/20

Ride & refinement

Like the Golf, the Hyundai’s independent rear end imparts a more mature ride and road-holding than character than many vehicles in the segment. While the Golf must be optioned to ride on the largest 18-inch wheels, the Hyundai has them as standard but the ride is a little more forgiving than the Golf for a marginally more relaxing cruising nature. Down low, the Hyundai’s engine note is the pick but is beaten by the Golf engine refinement higher up in the rev range. 15/20

Steering & handling

It’s a close fight between the two cars when it comes to handling and driving fun with both models offering a hugely involving character. The Golf edges out in front with outright grip and confidence, but the Hyundai wins for steering feel, turn-in positivity and front-to-rear weight balance. 18/20

Verdict

As a performance proposition, the Hyundai i30 SR marginally draws out a lead on the Golf with more power and sophisticated handling, but the Golf fights back with champion road manners, coupled to class-leading build quality and looks that haven’t aged a day since its introduction four years ago. The 7.5 update has only enhanced its cause. Look past a badge though, and the Hyundai offers the value pick of the pair. 81/100