2021 Hyundai i30 Sedan N-Line review
Our independent 2021 Hyundai i30 Sedan N-Line review in Australia, including price, specs, interior, ride and handling, safety and score.
After years of indifferent Elantra sales and a fading presence in the company of the hugely successful i30 hatch, Hyundai Australia has gone out on a limb by naming the seventh-generation Elantra the ‘i30 Sedan’.
Odd as that may seem, this car’s comprehensive re-engineering and all-round ability deserves greater exposure and so by badging it ‘i30’, maybe it’s time for the ignored sedan cousin to enjoy some of the limelight.
That certainly applies to this new turbocharged variant, the i30 Sedan N-Line, because not only does it offer decent bang for your buck, it also rides on a newer-generation platform than the circa-2017 i30 hatch for greater dynamic excellence.
Its value-for-money pricing and generous equipment levels were revealed at the launch of the regular i30 Sedan (Active and Elite) last October, but the N-Line didn’t land in showrooms until December and has now finally made it onto the press fleet.
Arguably the Achilles heel of the standard i30 Sedan is its modestly powered 117kW/191Nm 2.0-litre direct-injected four-cylinder engine, so perhaps the N-Line’s substantially reworked mechanical package can finally provide the i30 Sedan with the grunt its chassis deserves.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
The N-Line sits above the regular i30 Sedan models – Active ($24,790-$26,790) and Elite ($30,790) – and is available in two spec levels.
The entry-level N-Line starts at $30,290 (before on-road costs) for the six-speed manual, and $32,290 (before on-roads) for the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. A more lavishly equipped N-Line Premium sits at the top of the entire i30 Sedan line-up (until the even hotter i30 Sedan N arrives in the third quarter of 2021) and commands a $5K premium, meaning $37,290 before on-road costs.
Both models share a fairly comprehensive standard-equipment count, including 18-inch alloy wheels, full-LED headlights and tail-lights, a subtly styled bodykit, perforated leather trim, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, rain-sensing wipers, wireless phone charging and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.
The N-Line Premium adds front parking sensors, a glass sunroof, a 10.25-inch full-LCD instrument cluster, a larger 10.25-inch multimedia touchscreen (up from 8.0-inches) with navigation, Bose premium audio, heated and ventilated front seats, an electric driver’s seat with two-position memory and an electrochromatic interior mirror, as well as a few extra pieces of trim garnish for the interior.
Given you get all that for $5000 extra, that’s plenty.
WHAT DOES IT COST TO OWN?
Unlike Korean bed-fellow Kia’s industry-leading warranty of seven years/unlimited kilometres, Hyundai is sticking with its five-year/unlimited-mileage coverage. If you service your car at a Hyundai dealer, you also get 24-hour roadside assistance and free sat-nav software updates.
Recommended service intervals for the i30 Sedan N-Line are every 12 months or 10,000km (compared to 15,000km for the standard 2.0-litre i30 Sedan), with every service for the first five years (or 50,000km) being capped at $299 each.
That means the i30 Sedan N-Line’s three-year servicing total is a very competitive $897, or $1495 for five years.
WHAT’S THE EXTERIOR LIKE?
Intriguing, because there are so many creases on the i30 Sedan’s bodywork that you can’t help but be drawn to them. While that may make photographing one something of a nightmare, it certainly helps the i30 Sedan stand out among the hordes of dull, unadventurous four-doors.
Gifting the N-Line version even greater presence are its sporting enhancements. Handsome five-spoke 18-inch alloys, high-tech lights and a very cool red light band across the entire back end at night time make the i30 Sedan dazzle like a glitter ball. Sure, it’ll date faster than more conservative designs, but there’s so much of interest here that I reckon the i30 Sedan will retain its appeal into the future – especially this sporting N-Line version.
The i30 Sedan isn’t really a small car though. At 4675mm long, 1825mm wide, and riding on a 2720mm wheelbase, it would’ve once passed for a fairly sizeable medium sedan. But in 2021, that potentially makes it the sedan sweet spot for size and space.
WHAT’S THE INTERIOR LIKE?
Much like the outside, the i30 Sedan’s cabin is a wealth of interesting shapes, combined with loads of texture and surprising cohesion.
Compared to the drab conventionality of the superseded Elantra, the i30 Sedan is in another galaxy. Defined by an asymmetrically structured dashboard that partially angles some of its controls towards the driver and separates the front passenger’s compartment with an oversized central grab handle, it neatly treads that fine line between striking design and satisfying functionality.
While many of the cabin plastics aren’t really premium in their soft-touch look and feel (they’re mostly hard and inexpensive), there’s so much design interest going on that it compensates. And while the front seat adjustment in the base N-Line is negligible (no height adjustment for the passenger and rudimentary lever backrest adjustment for both buckets), the nicely upholstered leather front seats are surprisingly comfortable – no doubt helped by a 20-25mm reduction in hip height compared to the previous Elantra.
Rear-seat space is huge for a small car and comfort is more than competitive. You also get rear air vents, a centre armrest, and a 60/40 split-fold backrest. About the only potential black mark is the Sedan’s fairly steep rear roofline that could see the anthracite headlining brushing against the hair (or scalp) of six-plus footers.
HOW SAFE IS THE i30 SEDAN N-Line?
ANCAP are yet to test the new i30 Sedan for crash safety, though you can rightfully expect that it will receive a five-star rating.
Safety equipment wise, the core stuff is all there – forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking (AEB – including pedestrian and cyclist detection), junction assist, lane-keep and follow assist, driver attention warning, adaptive cruise control (DCT only – regular cruise for the manual), rear-view camera and rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring and avoidance assist, rear cross-traffic collision warning and avoidance assist, and safe-exit warning.
The Premium goes a bit further though with front parking sensors and rear collision avoidance assist (or rear AEB).
WHAT’S THE INFOTAINMENT LIKE?
There are two grades – the base N-Line, which shares its 8.0-inch touchscreen and six speakers with the i30 Sedan Active, and a higher-quality 10.25-inch touchscreen combined with eight Bose speakers that the N-Line Premium shares with the i30 Elite.
There is wired Apple CarPlay/Android Auto in both models, and the N-Line Premium also offers factory sat-nav. In pretty much all areas, both systems are easy to use. And while the Bose version is the one to have if you’re an audiophile, the six-speaker stock version is still reasonably tuneful and can handle a degree of volume-cranking.
As for USB ports, the DCT versions feature a slot inside the lidded centre-front bin, and another pair (alongside a 12-volt outlet) at the base of the centre stack, above the wireless charging pad.
Interestingly, only the slot marked ‘USB’ works for the Apple CarPlay/Android Auto – the other is simply for phone charging. And if you buy the N-Line manual with its regular handbrake (as opposed to the electric park brake of the DCT cars), you forego the USB port inside the centre bin.
WHAT IS THE STORAGE LIKE?
Respectable, but nothing more. The i30 Sedan does what it needs to do but brings little in the way of surprise-and-delight.
You could potentially class the horizontal slot running along the centre console in the front passenger’s footwell as ‘more than expected’ but it doesn’t hold much. Otherwise, it’s just two centre cupholders (with a removable smaller insert), with the charging pad and another flat section ahead of it and a fairly deep lidded bin behind.
The front doors have fairly thin pockets and room for barely a one-litre plastic bottle (if you shove it right in) while the rear doors can only take 600ml bottles or cans. There’s also a netted map pocket on the backrest of the front passenger’s seat.
In terms of boot space, the i30 Sedan’s 474 litres is pretty vast (with a space-saver spare beneath the floor). You can extend the luggage volume by folding the rear backrests down, though that leaves a substantial step-up from the boot.
We should also point out that there’s no grab handle to close the boot with, which means that grubby fingermarks on the outer boot will be unavoidable.
WHAT ENGINES ARE AVAILABLE?
While the N-Line’s power and torque outputs of 150kW at 6000rpm and 265Nm from 1500-4500rpm are virtually identical to what a Veloster SR Turbo was putting out a decade ago, the reality is those numbers are deceiving.
Now dubbed ‘SmartStream G’, the N-Line’s 1.6-litre direct-injected turbo-petrol four-cylinder is an all-new engine. Compared to the ‘Gamma’ T-GDi engine it replaces, the bore and stroke are different – previously 77.0mm x 85.44mm (for 1591cc), now 75.6mm x 89.0mm (for 1598cc) – and even though outputs haven’t changed, the engine’s power and torque delivery definitely have.
As with other turbocharged i30 models, the N-Line is available with either a six-speed manual (base N-Line only) or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
WHAT ABOUT FUEL ECONOMY?
Despite a significant power and performance hike over the naturally aspirated 2.0-litre, the dual-clutch N-Line is actually slightly more economical on the government combined cycle than the base auto (6.8L/100km versus 7.0L/100km).
In comparison, the six-speed manual N-Line uses 7.5L/100km. As with the 2.0-litre, the 1.6 turbo can comfortably drink regular 91-octane unleaded.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
Boosted engine aside, the main reason to opt for an N-Line over the regular i30 Sedan is its suspension.
Up front, both drivetrain variants share the Sedan’s re-engineered strut suspension with new lower control arms, greater structural stiffness and re-located steering gear for improved response and feel.
But at the rear the N-Line rejects the torsion-beam axle of the base i30 Sedan for a multi-link independent set-up that combines with the upgraded front end to deliver impressive dynamic fluency.
With a dedicated Australian suspension tune making the most of these hardware changes, the i30 Sedan N-Line feels much more dynamically cohesive than the Elantra Sport model it replaces.
The N-Line’s steering is crisp, with terrific response either side of straight ahead, an eagerness to turn in and ample feedback. This combines with a chassis that’s both sweetly balanced and confidence-inspiring, producing an amusing and rewarding warm sedan that drives like a much more expensive car.
The N-Line’s ride feels supple on the majority of roads, though it’s not quite capable enough to absorb larger bumps and potholes on rubbish country roads. Coarse surfaces also produce plenty of tyre roar from the N-Line’s German-made 235/40R18 Goodyear Eagle F1s, though it’s impressively quiet on higher-quality surfaces.
The N-Line also scores a fairly capable upgraded braking package – 305mm ventilated discs up front, 284mm solid discs rear (or 262mm solid rears on the manual) – that complements the i30 Sedan’s performance nicely on the road, though perhaps less so on a racetrack.
Engine-wise, compared to the superseded Gamma engine in the old Elantra SR/Sport, the new ‘SmartStream’ version packs more muscle from just off idle and feels more effortless in regular driving. Pushed harder, there’s an edgier and classier induction note, as well as a fruitier and more elastic top-end that’s way more refined and enjoyable. Finally, Hyundai’s 1.6 turbo feels like a donk for petrolheads, even in this warm state of tune.
Running the pleasant-shifting six-speed manual, Hyundai claims 0-100km/h in 7.9 seconds, though you often need to use plenty of throttle to keep it hauling.
The seven-speed dual-clutch N-Line feels noticeably perkier because it offers four Drive Modes (Eco, Normal, Sport and Smart) and, when driven in Sport mode, delivers much crisper throttle response. You can also flick the transmission lever to the right for ‘Sport’ mode, to similar effect.
Combine that spritzing of additional spirit with another gear ratio, steering-wheel paddles and slick shift quality and the N-Line DCT starts to make the manual feel kinda redundant. According to Hyundai, the dual-clutch i30 Sedan N-Line is also quicker (0-100km/h in 7.6 seconds).
WHAT ARE THE ALTERNATIVES?
For similar money to a $30-37K i30 Sedan N-Line, you’re looking at a Honda Civic RS sedan ($34,090), Kia Cerato GT sedan ($33,490), or the Mazda 3 GT or Astina sedan ($34,090-$38,590).
Neither the Toyota Corolla sedan, Subaru Impreza sedan or new-gen Skoda Octavia sedan are sporty enough to be considered true rivals for the i30 Sedan N-Line.
While the Honda Civic RS performs well and has loads of space, it’s not the driver’s car that the Hyundai is. And neither is Kia’s Cerato, which still rides on the old-generation platform used by the i30 hatch and is nowhere near as sophisticated as the new i30 Sedan to drive.
Only the Mazda 3 is a true challenger, with better quality than the Hyundai though perhaps less overtly sporting appeal.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you can cop the look (and I will say the i30 Sedan looks much better in the flesh than in pictures), then there’s plenty to like here.
The i30 Sedan looks strikingly individual but it’s also handsome, roomy, refined, generously equipped and fun. As a small warm sedan parading as an upmarket and sophisticated medium sedan, it scores. Big time.
Add in the prospect of a long warranty, a solid reliability reputation and affordable servicing and, really, besides not being a hatchback, what’s not to like?