Hyundai i30 Elite 2012 Review

Hyundai i30 Elite 2012 Review

Hyundai is a brand in transition. Aiming for the Euro market, it has smartened itself up considerably in the past few years and is setting vehicles from VW group as its target. The obvious competitor to the i30 Elite is the 103kW Volkswagen Golf TDI. There’s only a couple of grand in the price difference, and the specifications are comparable.

On the outside, Hyundai’s new ‘Fluidic sculpture’ design language can be seen in a multitude of visual lines that begin at the nose and head towards a strongly creased flank with its prominent wheel arches right around to a very strong boot crease that integrates beautifully with the flow of the rear lights. The designers (housed in a studio in Russelsheim, Germany) packed in a lot of detail, to the point of risking a busy mish-mash, but they’ve pulled it off with only the

17-inch chrome/brushed aluminium alloys taking the detailing a step too far.

These wheels are shod with 225/R45 tyres and they provided plenty of grip on the winding tarmac between Napier and Taupo. I drove from Auckland to Napier and back to get a good feeling for how its 94kW 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine performs. My fuel economy worked out at 5.6l/100km on the round trip which didn’t see me sparing the horses. Conservative drivers should get this down into the low 5s on a longer journey, particularly seeing as Hyundai’s figures for combined (urban/open road) fuel economy is 5.6l/100km and open road economy is 4.5l/100km.

The i30 comes with three steering modes (Flex Steer): comfort, normal and sport. There’s not a huge variation between them, but I preferred sport which gives a slightly sharper turn-in feel and heavier weighting; the other two modes seemed a bit vague and light.

The return journey made excellent use of the fold-flat rear seats to move several boxes (which you can see in the photos). It’s a practical system, but requires a little bit of set up – remove the rear headrests, pull up the hinged seat squabs and position them behind the front seats, then fold the rear seats forwards.

The front seats are heated and the dual climate control has powerful fans. I found I needed the steering wheel pulled out as far as it would go to get the right seating position (the steering wheel adjusts for rake and reach). There’s a good amount of side bolstering in the seats and the lumbar support is comfortable. The squab is firm with good thigh support.

Keyless entry and start is convenient once you get used to just leaving your keys in your pocket. The i30 senses when you walk up to the car, turning on the puddle lights and opening the mirrors (they retract automatically when you lock the car). The mirrors can be heated – good for those frosty mornings.

On a long journey, you want multiple entertainment options. For me, that meant connecting my iPhone via Bluetooth and streaming internet radio from the phone straight through the i30s audio system – this worked flawlessly (until the internet signal dropped out on the Napier-Taupo highway). You’ll also be able to answer the phone using a button on the steering wheel (other audio is automatically muted). Of course, you can also plug your phone or MP3 player directly in so that you have control over folders and artists from the steering wheel, and it will charge the phone, too. I’ve got 3000 songs and the interface doesn’t allow for quick scrolling, so make sure you get the songs you want ready before you set off.

A reversing camera is integrated into the rear view mirror. The camera itself is hidden and pops out from under the rear Hyundai badge. There are bumper sensors, too. Headlights auto-sense dusk, and the front wipers auto-sense rain. The wipers seemed occasionally confused and would go full speed in light drizzle, so I eventually disabled this feature.

Other safety features include brake assist, and electronic parking brake with hill-hold, ABS braking, automatic windscreen defog function, electronic stability control, traction control and vehicle stability management. I never managed to push the i30 hard enough to feel any of these systems working, such was the grip from the tyres.

The i30 gets a 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating. Parents will like its perfect score for 18-month-old infant and 3-year-old child passengers. There are seven interior airbags (including a driver’s knee airbag).

I wanted a bit more power – that little bit extra that the Golf has would have been nice. Overtaking on the passing lanes required some thought, and if stuck behind a truck doing 20kph, the acceleration past it to 100kph, even at full throttle, couldn’t match a lot of other vehicles that were following, too. So, at times I felt I had other cars breathing down my neck, even though I pulled over promptly to let them past. This is a really minor thing, though because I’m rarely driving in those situations, and it’s possibly because I’m used to having more grunt in my own car.

Hyundai is nipping at the heels of the Golf with its coherently designed interior, plenty of leather and a swag of interior functionality, but it’s not quite there. In essence, it looks like it’s trying too hard, with some of the detail being a bit plasticky.

Overall, the i30 seems to strike a balance between low emissions (119g/km of CO2), sensible fuel economy, excellent warranty and overall performance. It is a step up again from the previous model rather than a gigantic leap. Its aspirations of usurping the Euro brands are not unrealistic and I would expect the next iteration of the i30 to continue the upwards climb as it gains more and more prestige as a marque that is setting its sights on the likes of Toyota and Volkswagen.

Price: from $43,990


  • Practical
  • Good warranty
  • Excellent interior storage


  • Nothing to worry about

Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

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