In the lead up to the Hyundai i30 SR local launch, there was some excitement among performance hatchback enthusiasts. After all, Hyundai had just committed to the World Rally Championship, and its Veloster SR Turbo was a quirky, reasonably competent portrayal of the genre.
The fact the Hyundai i30 SR came with a 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine was applauded and derided in equal measure. The traditionalists harked back to the razor-sharp, aspirated throttle response of the Peugeot 205 Gti, and its 129kW posted output seemed entirely reasonable. But on the other side, with so many competitors (and, indeed, the Veloster SR itself) opting for downsized, turbocharged propulsion it seemed as if the Hyundai i30 SR would soon become a relic; especially when you spied its thin 209Nm torque peak, occurring way up at 4700rpm. For reference, the Veloster SR Turbo’s 1.6-litre turbo ‘four’ makes 150kW/265Nm.
Further curiosities emerged underneath, the five-door i30 SR using the torsion beam axle rear-end where the i30 Tourer and SE hatchback (both turbo-diesel, incidentally) used a sophisticated multi-link setup. And though it had a larger and more powerful engine, the Hyundai i30 SR made do with the same braking system (280mm vented front discs, 262mm solid rears) as found on the entry-spec 1.8-litre hatch.
At launch, Australian World Rally Championship driver Chris Atkinson was present, having signed up to develop the i20 World Rally Car. Now, a couple of years down the track, we thought it was time to explore this rally link a little further, especially as our on-road experiences of the Hyundai i30 SR have been mixed to this point.
As a daily, the i30 SR is comfortable and well-equipped, and Hyundai’s aftersales is unbeatable, which makes it a solid value proposition. But ask more of the chassis and (particularly) the engine/six-speed manual combination, and the SR feels lethargic in the face of some admittedly stiff competition. Vehicles such as the similarly-engined Ford Focus S have it dynamically licked. Throw in some wet tarmac, and the Hyundai i30 SR loses composure, the combination of light steering and low grip levels sapping confidence. It also reveals a loose rear, though the stability control soon enough sets things straight.
Trading tarmac for gravel, however, reveals a playful side to the Hyundai i30 SR. Call it ‘The Atko Effect’.
On well-groomed gravel the i30 relishes a quick bite of steering input on corner approach, allowing a fair degree of rear-steer to aid turn-in before the stability control intervenes. On this surface the relative lack of torque actually assists, enabling better traction through the apex and out the exit. Small right-foot adjustments are also enough to alter the chassis balance through this process, the rear towing the line obediently or dancing slightly beyond the prescribed line.
Returning to paved-road familiarity, we have a new level of respect for the Hyundai i30 SR. Stripped out, caged and with a limited-slip diff, it’d make a fun rally car. Now there’s an idea…