IT HAS taken a while but Korean cars no longer have to rely solely on razor-sharp pricing to successfully compete with Japanese and European rivals.
A stunning example of how far they have come is Hyundai’s new i30 hatchback.
Value for money still is a big drawcard, but now there’s no compromise on refinement, style, safety or comfort.
Hyundai has been steadily improving the build quality of its products and this hatchback version of the Elantra is wonderfully crafted.
Its name doesn’t make a lot of sense and it has a small boot, but apart from that we struggled to find anything to grumble about.
There are three variants offered _ base model SX, mid-specification SLX and range-topping SR _ that range in price from $18,990 to $28,490.
Each has a 2.0 litre petrol engine with a choice of 5-speed manual or 4-speed auto transmission.
A new turbo-diesel with 5-speed manual gearshift is available in SX and SLX models, and soon will be available with an automatic transmission.
All SX models come with ABS, dual front airbags, air-conditioning, power windows, heated door mirrors, remote entry with alarm, variable driver’s seat height, tilt-and reach adjustable steering wheel, deluxe centre console with armrest, a quality sound system, and 15 inch wheels with 55 series tyres.
SLX adds front side and cabin side curtain airbags, 16 inch alloys shod with wider 205 tyres, fog lights, cruise control, automatic climate control, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise control, a leather and alloy-look gearshift knob, trip computer, rear seat fold-down centre armrest with twin cup holders and additional twin tweeter speakers.
The super-sporty SR has all this plus standard ESP and TCS, 17 inch chrome finished alloys fitted with 225/45 performance tyres, a body kit comprising side skirts and rear roof spoiler, leather trimmed seat bolsters, door trim inserts and alloy sports pedals. The audio unit is an in-dash 6 stack CD player.
Created in Hyundai Motor Europe’s design studio in Russelsheim in Germany, the i30 is a great looker, with its smooth and modern lines resembling BMW’s 1 series hatch.
The cabin is intelligently designed and all controls are close at hand.
Leg and head room are surprisingly good and all passengers comfortably catered for.
The i30’s suspension and steering have been specially calibrated for Australian driving conditions, which involved refining the hatch’s European settings to accommodate our lumpier, bumpier local roads.
A relatively long wheelbase and wide wheel tracks give the hatch plenty of poise on the road.
Front and rear disc brakes are large at 280mm and 262mm respectively
The 2.0 engine, which produces peak power of 105kW and 186Nm of torque, is a willing customer that can be easily stirred for safe overtaking or effortless hill climbing.
Hyundai has also put plenty of effort into ensuring little noise finds its way into the cabin.
Fuel consumption for the petrol engine is a sound 7.2 litres for every 100km covered and those looking for even better economy will be snapping up the diesel version, which produces the miserly figures of 4.7 litres/100km.
The i30 is proof of just how far Hyundai has come.
It has the goods to upstage a fine list of traditional small car contenders, including Toyota Corolla, Mazda 3, Ford Focus, Mitsubishi Lancer and Holden Astra.