In a game of automotive ‘hot or not’, Hyundai makes no bones about the fact that the new SR version of its i30 hatch is closer to the ‘warm’ side of the ledger.
Despite tucking a 2.0-litre version of the all-alloy (Nu) direct-injection four-cylinder under its bonnet, and bringing in global suspension guru David Potter to help tune the i30’s set-up, the unique-to-Australia SR is not gunning for GTIs of the Peugeot or VW variety.
Hyundai’s stated aim in producing the SR is to test the performance waters, build the brand’s ‘fun to drive’ credentials, and grab a bigger slice of the (growing) premium small car market. Boasting 129kW/209Nm, up 17 per cent on the Elite 1.8’s 110kW/178Nm, the six-speed manual i30 SR is claimed to run 0-100km/h in 7.7sec, a handy 1.4sec improvement over the 1.8, while the optional six-speed sequential auto is a few ticks slower at 8.6sec.
The short story is it’s all in the dampers, with the front spring rate only increasing four per cent (largely to accommodate the 2.0-litre’s extra weight) and no change to the rear or anti-roll bar. After evaluating 43 separate suspension arrangements, including 13 front and 23 rear damper builds, the team settled on a specifically calibrated ZF Sachs combination, with computer modelling validated via local running in four prototypes.
The ride/handling compromise is spot-on, the SR delivering sharp steering response and good feel, especially in the final Sport setting of the standard, three-mode ‘Flex Steer’ system. Despite running on bigger 17-inch rims, wrapped in 225/45 Hankook rubber, ride quality is excellent, as is body control and outright grip.
Although the 2.0-litre four develops maximum torque (209Nm) at a relatively high 4700rpm, more than 200Nm is on tap from 4000-5500rpm, and mid-range performance is strong. Slightly higher final drive ratios (manual and auto) help take advantage of the extra grunt on offer.
At $27,990 for the manual and $30,190 for the auto, the SR also picks up extra standard fruit, including Xenon headlights, alloy-faced pedals, partial leather trim, electrically-adjustable driver’s seat and an electrochromatic rear-view mirror.
Aside from the machined-faced alloys and Xenon lights, the SR is distinguished visually by a sports front grille with piano-black insert, rear diffuser, and LED rear combination lights.
If warm is good, hot must be better, right? Well, Hyundai is keeping a sharp eye on how the i30 SR goes before jumping in to more serious territory. But European markets are already interested in the car, and an Accent SR has joined the local line-up. It appears things are heating up.
Engine 1999cc 4cyl, DOHC, 16v
Power 129kW @ 6500rpm
Torque 209Nm @ 4700rpm
0-100km/h 7.7sec (claimed)
Click here to read the full range review of the Hyundai i30.
Get your free weekly report from the world of fast cars - subscribe to the MOTOR newsletter!