It seems like an eternity ago that I drove the first i30.
It was 2007 and it became a game changer for the company. The right car, at the right time at the right price.
Friends bought the first, second and third generation i30 without bothering to shop for anything else — it was that good.
The Elantra, however, now called the i30 sedan, has been a problem child, struggling to make the same sort of impact as the hatch.
But this could change with latest iteration, introduced in October last year, because it includes something more — styling that will knock your socks off.
What’s it cost?
Prices for the sedan start at $25,190 for the entry Active model with a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission.
Next comes the Elite at $31,190, with the same engine, but this time an auto and a bit of other gear.
Then it’s on to a series of three N-Line models, all powered by a 1.6-litre turbo — N-Line special edition from $29,690, N-Line from $30,690 and N-Line Premium from $37,690 (on-roads extra).
Premium paint adds $495.
As well as the turbo, it also acquires a sporty seven-speed twin clutch auto with paddles.
We were scheduled to drive the Elite, but because of logistical problems associated with COVID — it morphed into the N-Line Premium (no arguments here).
Standard kit includes leather-appointed interior, dual-zone climate control, 10-way power adjustable, heated and ventilated front seats with position memory and a heated steering wheel
There’s also a rear view camera, front and rear parking sensors, LED head and tail lights, Qi wireless smartphone charging, a sunroof, sports body kit and 18-inch alloys.
A large 10.25 inch touchscreen houses satellite navigation, DAB+ digital radio, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with a BOSE eight-speaker premium audio system.
In addition to six airbags, the sedan features a comprehensive suite of safety systems, with Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA), Lane Keeping Assist (LKA), Lane Following Assist (LFA), High Beam Assist (HBA), Driver Attention Warning (DAW) and Blind-Spot Collision Avoidance Assist (BCA) with Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist (RCCA).
What’s it go like?
The 1.6-litre turbocharged engine made its first appearance in the two/three-door Veloster a few years back.
With 150kW of power and 265Nm of torque, it’a sweet thing and has since found its way into more and more models.
It’s hooked up to a seven-speed twin-clutch style automatic in the sedan, with gear change paddles and a variety of drive modes.
In fact, the drive mode selection button, circled in red and located to the right of the instrument binnacle — is humungous.
It’s so large in fact that I missed it at first (huh?) That’s because I went looking in the centre console where it is generally found and where it is located in the hatch.
From a design point of view, I can see why they put it there.
In the sedan, the touchscreen and instrument binnacle have been linked to create a more integrated look, with a second panel added to the right for balance.
Designers obviously needed to to fill that big empty apanel with something. Indeed, in the manual, the space becomes redundant.
The instrument panel is a smaller version of the one in the Santa Fe that we drove, although the smaller size may be an optical illusion.
It works the same, except the dials do not turn into side-view cameras when the indicators are activated.
Changing between drive modes changes the look of the instrument panel, but this can also be set independently — with Eco, Normal, Sport and Smart modes available.
i30 sedan is best described as a large small car, in the same vein as the Honda Civic and more akin to medium-sized sedans from a decade ago.
It long, wide and low and sits on cool, fancy dark-coloured 18-inch rims, with Goodyear Eagle F1 in 235/40R18 rubber.
It’s a decidedly sporty look that is guaranteed to attract buyers — after all that’s the name of the game.
Along with a turbocharged engine, twin clutch auto and sports body kit and wheels, engineers have also made changes to the suspension to make the car handle better.
Lesser models get a standard torsion beam setup, but this one boasts multi-link, independent rear suspension with larger front brake rotors for increased stopping power.
Australian spec sedans have also been further tuned with with different springs and damper settings to suit our roads.
To go with the sporty look, the cabin gets a leather-wrapped perforated N steering wheel with metallic spokes, N sport seats with leather bolsters, gearshift with metal accents and leather inserts and alloy pedals.
Performance is best described as warm rather than hot.
With maximum torque available from a low 1500 revs, it gets off the line and goes strongly — but lacks the pyrotechnics of a truly hot hatch.
Of course, if you’re looking for that kind of thing, there’s always the red hot i30 N — Fastback preferred.
While the transmission blips the throttle on downchanges, it lacks any real exhaust note which is such an important part of the sensory experience.