2016 Winner
Small under $35k

Hyundai i30 Active

The champagne corks are popping again at Hyundai with its win for the i30 in this class.


The series 2 model has settled in as a serious and consistent performer in the small cars sales race and is a regular in Australia’s Best Cars finals.

Quick specifications
  • Engine1.8
  • Transmission6A
  • Indicative drive away$26,582
  • Fuel economy7.3
  • Fuel typeULP
  • ANCAP5 star

Similar to other vehicles in the Hyundai clan and its sister brand Kia, the i30 started the race with a head start for pricing and then built on this lead with cheap running and repair costs. The better-than-average warranty and dealer coverage rounded out the deal. But it isn’t just the dollar equation that makes sense with modern Hyundais. The maturity of the brand is also starting to show in its designs, both externally and more importantly the interior design that you have to live with every day. The i30 cabin is spacious enough and the dash layout is relatively uncluttered. The centrepiece is the dash-mounted five-inch touch screen that controls the information and entertainment systems, eliminating the need for some mechanically operated switches.

The touch screen also displays the image from the rear-view camera, which is standard across the range and is a great safety and convenience feature. This simpler design contributes to the ergonomics of the i30, as the steering wheel – which is adjustable for both tilt and reach – carries the easy-to-access controls for the standard cruise control and audio system. Many buyers often have a nagging doubt about how safe a small car can be. Hyundai i30’s five-star ANCAP rating was achieved with the help of front, side and curtain airbags plus the bonus of a driver knee airbag and so this should go some way to addressing that concern. We took the volume-selling 1.8L direct-injection petrol version with the 6spd automatic to the Anglesea proving ground for the final judging. It is a very flexible engine with reasonable mid-range pulling power while at the same time achieving a very good score for its environmental performance. However it was not as quiet as the other two finalists when it was going about its business of delivering this sort of performance. And plenty of others equal or better its fuel consumption.

The i30 is popular in all parts of the country, so it has to be more than just a city car. We ran the i30 over every type of surface, from billiard-table-smooth bitumen to sweeping dirt road sections full of deep corrugated ruts, and the ride remained compliant and confident throughout. It also has Hyundai’s push-button three steering-tune settings – Comfort, Normal and Sport – which alter the amount of power assistance given. Although they did offer slightly different steering feel, most drivers will be happy with the Normal mode as it is the right compromise of on-centre road feel and steering effort. The small car market in Australia is the most competitive and fiercely fought, so to win in this category you need to have a well-balanced package. Although the i30 did not quite having the handling and performance of the two runners-up, Mazda3 and Ford Focus, it did match them for space. But it was its value that couldn’t be beaten and that’s what really got it across the line this year.