2012 Hyundai i30 Diesel Automatic Review

The last generation i30 was a game changer for the Korean car manufacturer. It took Hyundai from a cheap and nasty brand (Hyundai Excel anyone?) to a serious contender in the mainstream car market. It set a new standard for the company, in terms of design, quality and performance.

The new Hyundai i30, which comes in three variants – Active, Elite and Premium, is set to continue that trend. Benchmarked against the Volkswagen Golf in many areas, the new hatch promises even better built quality and driving dynamics.

So, is the i30 a Korean Golf? Read on to find out.

Design & comfort

The maturity in Hyundai’s design is obvious. The new car looks much more cohesive and sleek. The front facia is dominated by the company’s signature hexagonal grille in dark chrome (Active model is painted in body colour) flanked by a pair of swept back headlights.

The deeply creased, fast back shoulder line, which cuts through the door handles, gives the hatch a dynamic profile, while the rear end has a sporty, fat squat look. Some elements like the slight indentation in the outside door handles are not only designed to look good, but promote aerodynamics and reduce wind noise.

The new i30 is certainly a better looker than its predecessor, and one of the best looking in its class.

It’s the same story inside, with a beautifully designed dashboard that is contemporary and uncluttered. A high quality touch screen display (5” for the Active and 7” for the others) sits proud in the centre and all the buttons and controls are nicely weighted with good tactile feedback.

The seats are nicely bolstered with good lateral and under thigh support. The driver’s seat also comes with a full range of adjustment, including lumbar support. Together with a reach and rake adjustable steering wheel, driving position in the i30 is excellent.

At the back, there are ample room for two adults, three at a squeeze when the cup holder equipped centre arm rest is stowed away.

However, it still trails the Volkswagen Golf in terms of perceived quality and fit and finish, let down by some hard scratchy plastics on the lower dash and door trims. It also couldn’t match the Golf’s classy cabin feel.

Score: 8/10

Handling and performance

While the cabin lacked the finesse of the VW Golf’s impeccable interior, the i30 made up for it in its engine. The turbo diesel tested here is both torquey and refined. Paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission, the little 1.6-litre engine dishes out an almost hot hatch like 260Nm of torque between 1,900-2750rpm. It is also quieter both in the city and on freeway cruising compared to the Golf 103TDI.

For the eco-warriors out there, there is also an ECO mode fitted to automatic transmission variants which dampens throttle response and cuts engine revs in exchange for better fuel economy.

In terms of handling, this is one of the best handling cars from Hyundai to date – a result of Hyundai tuning its chassis to suit the demanding Australian conditions. The suspension is well judged, with a good compromise between soaking up dimpled bitumen so characteristic of our roads, and carving up corners.

However, there is a small amount of body roll on the limit due to the softer suspension settings, not helped by the cheaper and less sophisticated torsion beam rear suspension. Nevertheless, the i30 remains composed in most situations. The steering though, remains the Hyundai’s Achilles’ heel. Although available with three assistance settings – Normal, Comfort and Sport, it is overly light and devoid of any useful feedback in both the Normal and Comfort settings. In Sport, there is a perceptible increase in weight, albeit artificially so.

I left the setting in Sport for the entire week long test, as the other two settings are just too vague for my liking.

Score: 8/10


As we have come to expect from a Korean car manufacturer these days, the Hyundai i30 is impeccably built. Soft touch dash plastics abound and all the switches and buttons have a solid, quality feel to them.

What impresses most is how solid in general the car feels. The doors shut with a reassuring ‘thud’, while panel fitment and gap are one of the best I have seen in a modern car.

It is in this area that the Hyundai i30 matches the Volkswagen Golf.

Score: 8/10


Hyundai claims the i30 diesel will return 5.6L/100km. We averaged 7.6L/100 on test according to the car’s trip computer, with 80% city commute. The result was also not helped by my heavy right foot, an excuse to test the car’s performance.

Driven gently, we have no doubt that the car will return close to the manufacturer’s claimed fuel economy.

Score: 8/10


The i30 tested was the top of the range Premium model and came fully loaded with features that not long ago were the domain of luxury cars.

First up on the safety front, all i30s are equipped with seven airbags (fronts, sides, curtains and knee), seatbelt reminder for all seats, rear park sensors and all the safety acronyms known to mankind, including ABS with Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA), Vehicle Stability Management (VSM) with Electronic Stability Control (ECS) and Traction Control System (TCS).

On top of the extensive standard features on lesser models, the i30 Premium also gets rear view camera, push button start with proximity smart key, satellite navigation with 3 years live SUNA traffic updates, heated leather seats with electric drivers adjustments and panoramic glass sunroof, just to mention a few.

Rear seat occupants also get their own ventilation outlets in the Premium variant. The Elite and Premium models include a full size spare alloy wheel, compared to a temporary spare in the Active.

Family shoppers will be happy to know the i30’s luggage area pips the Volkswagen Golf’s, with 378 litres against 350 litres.

Score: 9/10


Our Score: 4.0/5

Is the i30 a Korean Golf? Almost, but not quite yet. While it matches the German in areas such as built quality, refinement and comfort, and trumps it in equipment, it can’t match the Golf in terms of driving dynamics.

However, with excellent reliability backed by an industry leading 5 year warranty and capped price servicing, the Hyundai i30’s value is unrivalled and should be on the top of anyone’s shopping list.

Price (Excl. On-roads):From $20,990 – $32,590. As tested: $33,085
Metallic Paint: $495.00
Warranty: 5 years/unlimited kilometres
Engine:1.8-litre, 4-cylinder petrol, 110kW/178Nm
1.6-litre, 4-cylinder turbo diesel, 94kW/260Nm (as tested)
Transmission:6-speed manual
6-speed automatic (as tested)
Body:5-door hatchback
Safety:5-star ANCAP
Dimensions:Length: 4300mm, Width: 1780mm, Height: 1470mm, Wheelbase:2650mm
Kerb Weight1225kg – 1413kg

Car reviewed is based on Australian Specified model and may differ to that available in your country of residence

Visit > Hyundai Australia

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