Hyundai i30's looks good and drives well
Mother Nature obviously didn't quite understand how important the Hyundai i30 hatch is to the Korean marque's business in New Zealand.
Or maybe she did.
Last week, Hyundai New Zealand held the national media launch of the new second-generation i30, a car that will take over from a model that since 2007 has achieved more than a million sales, 22 worldwide awards, and which has been the No 1 selling Hyundai in this country.
Plan was for journalists to gather at Napier then drive to Martinborough for an overnight stay before continuing on to Wellington.
But fog closed Auckland airport for most of the first day, which meant most of the media couldn't get to Hawkes Bay until close to dusk - which, in turn, meant a bunch of very impatient journoes had to drive down into Wairarapa. In the dark. And in road conditions that included flooding caused by very heavy rain.
But maybe it was all for the good, because it did give those behind the wheel the opportunity to try out some of the special things about this new Hyundai.
One of them, which debuts on the i30, is what is called Flex Steer. This is a steering wheel-mounted button which allows the driver to choose from three different modes that control the car's electronic power steering. There's a Comfort mode which lightens the steering around town, a Normal mode for ordinary motoring, and a Sport mode which adds more weight to the steering.
Another is a wide selection of ride and handling aids which constantly monitor roads conditions and adjust accordingly. They include Vehicle Stability Management, which detects grip levels on various road surfaces and applies steering and brake assistance, Electronic Stability Control, Traction Control, and ABS brakes with Brake Assist.
It was well into the night by the time the motoring writers eventually cruised into Martinborough after their journey down from Napier, and I suspect that by then the Hyundais had received a very thorough workout.
I had been able to bypass the foggy weather at Auckland and had travelled to Napier on time, which meant I'd had all day to experience the new i30 over a wide range of roads through Hawkes Bay and Wairarapa.
The immediate impression was that this new hatch is nice - particularly the 1.6-litre turbo diesel model, which made full use of a new six-speed automatic transmission for a flexible and easy drive.
Designed in Germany at the Hyundai Design Studio by a team headed by Thomas Arckle, whose career includes time with Toyota, Volkswagen and BMW, the car is the latest example of the 'fluidic sculpture' design philosophy that has already produced such product as the i45 sedan and i40 wagon.
Built on a modified Elantra platform, the hatch features pronounced wheel arches and a big sweeping character line for a dynamic look.
The interior looks nice too, with a well designed centre console that features fairly heavy use of alloy- look highlights.
There's good room front and rear, and the cargo area is a reasonably small 378 litres with all seats in use, growing to 1316 litres with the rear seats folded down.
Whereas the first-generation version was offered with a choice of 1.6 and 2.0-litre petrol engines and a 1.6-litre turbodiesel, this time the engine selection comprises the same 1.8-litre petrol unit as that aboard the Elantra, and the turbodiesel has undergone some minor improvements.
The range begins with an entry- level 1.8 petrol with six-speed manual for $34,490, and goes through to a 1.6 CRDi Elite for $43,990.
While these prices are higher than before, the new cars carry with them considerably improved specification. Every i30 has air conditioning, iPod/USB and Bluetooth, push-button brake, cruise control, and all those performance and safety-related items.
The Elite models also get leather upholstery, heated front seats, exterior mirrors that automatically fold away when the car is locked, 'welcome home' lights, and rear park assist, which includes a nifty reversing camera that pops out when reverse is selected.
This new i30 is marginally larger than the model it replaces. It is 24mm longer and with a wheelbase that is 40mm bigger, and while vehicle height has reduced by 28mm and width is down 35mm, the cabin space has increased and room in the boot has gone up from 340 to 378 litres.
The NU series 1.8-litre multi- point fuel-injected engine under the bonnet of the petrol i30 is new to this model and delivers 110 kW of power, which is five kilowatts more than the 2.0-litre unit it replaces. Its 178 Newton metres of torque is down by 8 Nm.
Meanwhile, the 1.6-litre turbodiesel has been slightly revised so it now has 94 kW of power and 260 Nm of torque, which is up on the previous model's 85kW/255Nm.
At last week's media event, Hyundai NZ chief executive Andy Sinclair described the i30 as an extremely important model for his company - and well he might, considering that up until now it has accounted for as much as one- third of all Hyundai sales.
He doesn't expect this new model to be quite so dominant, primarily because the previous entry-level 1.6-litre petrol model has been dropped, with those sales expected to be picked up by the Accent.
POWER PLANT: 1.8-litre 16-valve four cylinder DOHC petrol engine, 110 kW at 6500 rpm, 178 Nm at 4700 rpm. 1.6-litre 16-valve four cylinder DOHC turbocharged diesel engine, 94 kW at 4000 rpm, 260 Nm at 1900-2750 rpm.
RUNNING GEAR: Front- wheel drive. Six-speed manual and automatic transmissions. MacPherson strut front suspension, coupled torsion beam setup at the rear. Electric power steer. Full suite of handling and ride aids.
HOW BIG: Length 4300mm, width 1780mm, height 1470mm, wheelbase 2650mm.
HOW MUCH: 1.8 petrol manual $34,490, auto $35,990, Elite auto $39,990. 1.6 turbodiesel manual $38,490, auto $39,990, Elite $43,990.
WHAT'S GOOD: Good looks, beautifully built, high specification, sound drive.
WHAT'S NOT: Rear load area fairly small.
OUR VERDICT: New i30 has the goods to continue to assist Hyundai as it moves up the new vehicle market sales ladder in New Zealand
Taranaki Daily News