A warmed-over, locally developed version of Hyundai’s best-selling hatch prepares for its final fling.
WHAT IS IT?
Hyundai's last-gasp effort to spice up the showroom appeal of its i30 SR hatch before the second series is superseded by an all-new model.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
The Hyundai i30 is the best-selling car in Australia so far this year, and this revision ups driver involvement by adding flappy paddle shifters to auto versions. Right now, the SR is as close as we get to the impending i30 N Performance, and it's worth reminding ourselves about how far Hyundai has come.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
A little extra fruit should help move the last batch of warmed-over i30 SRs. The peppy, practical small hatch does a believable rendition of a fun to drive, every day car.
PLUS: Ride and handling balance, well-appointed interior, five-year warranty
MINUS: Dull steering, out-powered by competitors, about to be replaced
THE WHEELS REVIEW
In just a few short weeks the best-selling car in Australia will be old news. A younger, fitter i30 that renders the current Series II obsolete will head Down Under next year after a reveal at October’s Paris motor show.
Rather than let the current car leave quietly, Hyundai has upped the allure of its sporty i30 SR warm hatch with cosmetic interior and exterior upgrades, and paddle shifters in automatic models.
Pricing stays at $26,550 for a six-speed manual version, with a six-speed auto costing $2300 more.
Momentum comes from the same all-alloy “Nu” engine as before – a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol unit generating 124kW and 201Nm. It's satisfyingly eager spinning to redline and has a good serve of useable torque, although slight top-end buzz lacks refinement.
The output of the Hyundai i30 SR dropped 5kW and 8Nm in the switch from Series I to II after engine mapping tweaks that brought torque delivery earlier in the rev range. That said, the engine is livelier and more responsive even if its ultimate grunt is overshadowed by both the Mazda 3 SP25 (138kW/250Nm) and Holden Cruze SRi Z-Series (132kW/230Nm).
It's no couch potato, though. The development credo for i30 SR was “fun to drive” and the car does quite a respectable job of fulfilling it. The locally calibrated suspension is a standout element, offering a ride that is firm and well controlled, and sending road surface feedback to the driver without letting bumps become intrusive. Over patchy rural roads the package feels expertly screwed together.
New paddle shifters for the auto model raise driver involvement even though the box is a little lazy on downshifts. It does a fine job otherwise, and is well suited to the i30's urban home ground. Ratios are shorter in the auto and it feels marginally quicker with the throttle pinned.
The original SR in 2013 was an initiative of Hyundai Australia, allowing the local engineering team to exploit the i30's suspension. Hyundai’s Korean head office took notice of the second iteration in 2015 and developed a similar version for its home market, but took the concept a step further. The heavily bolstered black and red leather sports seats, contrasting red stitching around the cabin, black headlining, metallic grey interior panels rather than silver, and unique 17-inch alloy wheels they added are now part of the updated i30 SR sold here, along with an exclusive paint colour called Phoenix Orange.
The interior feels convincingly upmarket, especially when fitted with the panoramic glass sunroof available as a $2000 option on SR models and as standard on SR Premium. For an extra $4700, the SR Premium adds HID headlights and satellite navigation.
With the new model so close, this minor update doesn't address the i30's flawed steering or lack of safety tech such as autonomous emergency braking and blind spot monitoring. What it does is make an already popular warm hatchback a sharper proposition for buyers.
Model: Hyundai i30 SR
Engine: 1999cc, 4cyl, dohc, 16v
Max power: 124kW @ 6500rpm
Max torque: 201Nm @ 4700rpm
Transmission: 6-speed auto
Fuel economy: 7.7L/100km
On sale: Now