Hyundai is trying to put the sexy back in sedan with its new i30 N-Line four-door.
Sharply creased panels, snug-fitting bucket seats and a turbocharged engine are all designed to get buyers’ pulses racing, although the brand admits it will be hard to break the spell of the SUV.
A decade ago sedans accounted for almost one in four new cars sold. Now it’s roughly one in 10 and that number is skewed by the large number of Toyota Camry hybrids bought by fleet customers and taxi drivers.
Hyundai says the i30 N-Line formula is already proving popular, accounting for roughly half the i30 sedan sales since its launch late last year.
Priced at a $5500 premium over the standard i30, the N-Line appeals to buyers who like driving. The standard 2.0-litre engine is replaced by a more powerful 1.6-litre turbo, the six-speed auto gives way to a quicker-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, the brake discs are larger for better stopping ability and the independent rear suspension improves cornering ability.
If you’re really serious about hands-on driving, a six-speed manual is available for $2000 less than the auto.
The N-Line also ups the ante on driver assistance tech. Blind-spot assist will pull you back into your lane if you stray, while rear cross-traffic collision avoidance will hit the brakes if you’re reversing out of a driveway into passing traffic. Other goodies not on the base model include LED headlights and tail lights, dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers and keyless entry and start. You can also turn the car on remotely using the keyfob to preheat or cool the cabin.
Another $5000 will put you in the N-Line Premium, which has more tech and creature comforts, including a sunroof, bigger centre screen, a digital dash, Bose audio system and heated and ventilated front seats.
All i30 sedans have wireless smartphone charging, while the N-Line has wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
On the road, the N-Line is a reminder of what Australian buyers are sacrificing for their obsession with high-riding SUVs.
It’s no hot hatch, but the turbo engine has more than enough oomph for spirited driving on a twisting road. Dial up sport and the throttle becomes more responsive, the steering is sharper and the auto shifts more decisively.
Hit the brakes on the way into a corner and the car with drop down a couple of gears to give you maximum thrust on the way out. There are paddles if you prefer to shift yourself, but the auto does an impressive job of picking the right gear for the occasion.
The locally-tuned independent rear suspension keeps the car planted through corners on rougher country roads, soaking up mid-corner bumps and ironing out corrugations without becoming flustered.
The set-up provides a good balance between comfort and cornering precision, although the bigger 18-inch wheels don’t soak up smaller road imperfections as well as the base model’s rubber.
The cabin is quiet and spacious, with a big boot that holds more luggage than its hatch sibling. An added bonus: the boot opens as you approach it with the key in your pocket – a much better solution than some rivals, which require a hit-and-miss swipe of your foot under the car.
The exterior styling is polarising – some will like the daring lines and abundant creases while others will baulk at them. For the extroverts there is a new colour called Lava Orange.
The interior design is well executed. Heavily bolstered leather seats with N-Line logos are complemented by a perforated leather steering wheel and gear shifter with red stitching, as well as alloy pedals.
For the price of a bland SUV, the i30 N-Line sedan gives driving enthusiasts a lot of bang for their buck. Whether that’s enough to wean Australians off their softroader addiction remains to be seen.
A refreshing alternative to the SUV — well equipped, fun to drive and reasonably priced.
HYUNDAI I30 N-LINE VITALS
PRICE From about $36,000 drive-away
WARRANTY/SERVICING 5-year/unl’td km, $1495 over 5 years
ENGINE 1.6-litre turbocharged 4-cyl, 150kW/265Nm
SAFETY 5 stars, 6 airbags, auto emergency braking, lane keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert
SPARE Temporary spare