The Hyundai i30 ushered in a new era for the Korean brand, taking it from a cheap and cheerful alternative to the Japanese establishment to a serious rival. This was cemented with the current third-generation model that even dared to take on the hatchback-benchmark Volkswagen Golf in terms of styling, equipment and even hot-hatch performance.
When it arrived in May 2017 it was one of the better equipped small hatches for the price, but 18 months is a long time in an age of ever-improving powertrains, active safety and infotainment, so we took to the road to see if it still measures up against all-new and updated rivals - not least the 2018 Toyota Corolla.
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Priced at $23,390, the i30 Active 2.0-litre petrol automatic we’re testing here costs $2300 more than the manual version. The same grade can also be had with a 1.6-litre turbo diesel version in manual or automatic form, for $23,590 and $26,090 respectively, if you’re looking for a more fuel-efficient option.
However, if you’re looking for the most affordable i30 outright, there’s another variant below the Active called the i30 Go that starts at $19,990 for the manual, or $22,290. If feature-count matters not, then the Go is the one for bargain-hunters.
The vehicle we tested was standard, with the only extra on top of the six-speed automatic gearbox being the Marina Blue paintwork for an extra $495 that took the total retail price to $23,885.
The 2.0-litre engine’s claimed average fuel consumption is 7.4L/100km with the automatic, which is a little thirsty for a small hatch – the similarly powered Mazda 3, for example, sips unleaded at a rate of 5.8L/100km.
As for servicing, the i30 tested here has 12-month/15,000km service intervals. Scheduled services within the first five years are capped at $259 a visit, except for the 45,000km major service which will cost you $359. The i30 is covered by Hyundai’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.
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You’ll find things in the i30 Active that are options in far more expensive cars, such Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone pairing, satellite navigation and digital radio (DAB+), which are controlled via an 8.0-inch touchscreen.
It also comes with LED daytime running lights, power-folding electric mirrors, cloth seats and cruise control. 16-inch alloy wheels are standard, and you get a full-sized spare alloy wheel as well – something that’s often a cost option in this segment, or replaced by a space-saver.
The Hyundai i30 Active is a five-door hatchback that seats up to five people.
It measures just 4.34m length with a 2650 wheelbase that accommodates a spacious interior and practical 395-litre boot space that expands to 1301 litres with the rear 60:40-split seatbacks folded down.
The Hyundai i30 was awarded a five-star ANCAP rating in April 2017. It’s a safe car in terms of crash protection, with seven airbags including a driver’s knee bag and full-length curtain airbags to protect your head.
Other safety features include a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, auto-on headlights, LED daytime running lights, seatbelt reminders on front and rear seats, and electronic stability control that all cars are required to have.
Active safety features including autonomous emergency braking aren’t included on the standard spec sheet, however it available as part of Hyundai’s SmartSense package that for around $1700 adds active cruise control, auto-braking, lane keeping assist, driver attention alert, blind-spot detection, and rear-cross traffic alert.
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The i30 Active’s cloth seats are comfortable and there’s good leg and headroom throughout, though the rear seat is a little too narrow to comfortably seat three adults – though that’s common for this segment.
The smaller 16-inch wheels provide it with a better ride than the up-spec models that roll on 17s and 18s, and the locally-tuned suspension has a composed ride over bumps.
The conservative cabin design is a little bland and hard plastics abound, but the dashboard looks neat and uncluttered and the controls, particularly the switches on the steering wheel, are intuitively laid out.
The 8.0-inch touchscreen, which is a staple across the Hyundai and Kia range, looks good, works well and the infotainment system is very easy to navigate.
Rear-seat passengers miss out on their own air vents or USB/12v charging sockets, but if their phones go flat they can enjoy the view with good side and forward vision through the i30’s generous glasshouse.
ON THE ROAD
While it’s not intended to be as spirited or dynamic as the sportier i30 SR at the upper end of the range, the Active certainly feels nimble enough around town. Hyundai has honed its chassis and suspension for Aussie roads resulting in a great ride and body control on a broad range of road surfaces, which makes it feel like a bigger, more mature car.
Meanwhile, the 120kW/203Nm 2.0-litre petrol engine responds quickly to throttle inputs and the six-speed torque converter automatic gearbox shuffles smoothly between steps. It may be a comparatively thirsty engine, but it also produces more power than many others at its price point. For those that don’t like to dawdle, that’s worth noting.
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The Hyundai i30 Active may not push boundaries in any way, but it does everything you’d expect an affordable hatch to do while also standing up well against its rivals.
A strong list of standard features, particularly its smartphone-friendly infotainment system, make it good value, but the lack of standard-fitment of active safety gear like autonomous emergency braking lets it down at time when more of its rivals are including it as part of their entry-level price. Opting for the SmartSense active safety package would add much in the way of peace of mind.