Hyundai is about to set upon us its first proper hot hatch, the i30 N. The thing is, had Hyundai released its calmer SR brother a few years ago, they’d already have had a hot hatch.
With 150kW/265Nm, this surprisingly capable ‘warm hatch’ rivals the spicier five-doors of yesteryear. In the mid-2000s, a Mk V Golf GTI was putting out 147kW/280Nm from a 2.0-litre turbo four. The new i30 SR almost matches this while rocking just a boosted 1.6.
Once you’ve planted yourself behind the wheel of the SR, you’ll find little to complain about with the driving environment. Well laid-out controls and intuitive ergonomics make the car easy to get to know, while well-bolstered leather seats make for a comfy and visually pleasant space to steer from.
Pleasant, but not particularly exciting for enthusiasts, unless red stitching and trim highlights get your pulse racing. Starting the engine isn’t likely to raise the heart rate, either. The turbo four-pot doesn’t give off a particularly rousing note, nor does it initially feel like it’s got much grunt, despite developing full torque from just 1500rpm.
Switching to Sport and bringing the paddles into play helps matters, and there’s enough urge that a firm application of boot to pedal will result in a smooth, linear surge of turbo-assisted acceleration. There are no prizes for guessing it’s not mind-blowingly quick, but that’s not the point of the SR.
A windy road is its more natural habitat, with multi-link rear suspension offering a greater level of handling sophistication than its torsion-beamed predecessor. The base i30 SR impressed on track at BFYB and its top-spec sibling proves this talent applies to the road as well.
Attack a tight corner and even if you slightly overdo it the car will accept more steering lock with few complaints from chassis, tyres or ESP. The brakes are progressive and remain relatively unfazed at a brisk road pace, with even a proper mid-corner stomp failing to disturb its composure beyond the chirping of ABS and the hazard lights tsk-tsking their disapproval.
The only real dynamic shortfall are the Hankook tyres, which generated too much noise on coarse-chip surfaces and not enough grip in the wet. Unfortunately, the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox fitted to our Premium-spec test car let the side down somewhat with slow shifts and a refusal to allow full manual control.
It’s one good reason to opt for the base SR, which allows the choice of manual or DCT ’box, while the Premium’s price tag of $33,950 is another. It’s loaded with extra kit, including heated and ventilated electrically adjustable front seats, LED headlights and a panoramic sunroof, but most of the basics are present in the $25,950 base SR which offers a stronger value proposition.
For keen drivers spending a little more, we’d be recommending the likes of the Renault Sport Clio or Peugeot 208 GTi.
3.5 stars out of 5
Likes: Refined performance
Dislikes: Not that quick; not sporty enough
2017 Hyundai i30 SR Premium specs:
Engine: 1591cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power: 150kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 265Nm @ 1500-4500rpm
0-100km/h: 7.2sec (est.)