Comparison Tests

Hyundai i30 SR Premium Vs Honda Civic Hatch RS – Which is Best?

Are you looking for a small, sporty hatchback? Then the Hyundai i30 SR Premium and Honda Civic Hatch RS should be on your shortlist.

THE HYUNDAI I30 SR Premium and Honda Civic Hatch RS might line up very closely on price, but both vehicles take a slightly different approach to the ‘sporty hatch’ brief. The Hyundai, for instance, carries across all the connectivity and active safety gear with a locally-tuned ride and handling set-up, while the Civic Hatch RS is more of a cosmetic-only take on the theme. Let’s take a closer look.

What’s the price like?

The i30 SR Premium sits at the top of the i30 tree and lists from $33,950+ORC, but the non-Premium SR comes in at a very impressive $25,950+ORC with six-speed manual transmission. Sure, it misses out on some of the Premium’s bits and bobs, like LED headlights, front parking sensors, power driver’s seat and the panoramic glass roof as standard. But, it still gets the full active safety suite, SmartSense and, so, if you’re shopping on a budget that model takes some beating.

Indeed, if you’re shopping on price alone than the Civic Hatch RS ($32,290+ORC) is out of the running because unlike the i30 SR (and Premium) it doesn’t get an active safety system as standard, to get that you’ve got to spend more and buy the top-spec VTi-LX.

What do we think about the looks?

The Civic Hatch RS looks like it’s been digging clothes out of the Type R’s drawers with its scoops and skirts and contrasting gloss black bits. From the front, it looks like a mini supercar, to my eyes, anyway, while around at the back it looks like a spaceship. No doubt there will be those who find it fresh looking, but the rear-end design is polarising.

2017 Honda Civic Hatch RS Review

The i30 SR Premium, on the other hand, takes a more restrained approach to designing something ‘sporty’. The design is very much from the playbook of VW in its sophisticated restraint.

The Hyundai looks more understated than the Civic Hatch RS while the Honda is clearly going for that smack-in-the-face overtness. I think both make a strong case for themselves, but I’d love to hear what you guys think of the look of both cars. Is the Hyundai to conservative? The Civic Hatch RS just too much with its creases and scoops?

What’s the interior like?

The Civic Hatch RS offers an interior that, in general, is good with plenty of soft-touch surfaces and good quality leather used on the seats, but there are elements that let it down, like the fact that the centre console is made of thin, hard, scratchy plastic and, that when you close the doors they close with a slightly tinny sound.

2017 Honda Civic Hatch RS Review

That centre screen is only a seven-inch unit and it looks small. The system offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and is feature rich but the menu is fiddly to use and I’d stick to using your smartphone for maps and music.

Other key features include the mobile phone shelf at the back of the centre console with a hole at the back to pass the cables through… it keeps the phone out of reach so that you won’t be tempted to pick it up while driving. And the cup holders are nice and deep to keep you from bumping your cup of coffee over. You can remove the cup holders and liberate 7.2 litres of storage space which is enough space to hold an iPad.

If you’ve sat in any other new i30 then the interior will be utterly familiar to you. It’s a good-looking interior with nice, soft touch materials and good quality fit and finish. In the SR, you get contrasting red seatbelts and red anodized surrounds on the air vents and red stitching on the seats.

There are plenty of storage areas on the centre console, including a good size centre console storage box, two cupholders and a space to sit your phone beside it. There’s another bin at the base of the centre stack with USB and 12V outlets as well as wireless Qi-compatible phone charging.

The infotainment screen is eight inches (an inch bigger than the Honda’s) and, like the Civic, offers native sat nav and a decent amount of native functionality as well as both Apple Car Play and Android Auto connectivity.

What’s the practicality like?

You might expect the back seats to be smaller in the Civic Hatch than the Sedan but that’s not the case. the rear roofline is taller than the sedan by a little bit. I managed to sit comfortably behind the front seat that had been adjusted to suit me. The two outboard seats are well shaped while the middle one is a perch rather than a seat.

There’s only one pocket on the back of the passenger’s front seat and there are no rear air vents. There are ISOFIX mounts on the two outboard seats only.

Over in the front the seating set up feels good although the seats do feel rather low-slung which might feel a little odd for those not used to sporty seating positions. Of course, you can adjust the seat forwards, backwards and up and the steering offers reach and height adjustment too. The seats are well shaped and I found them to be comfortable on longer drives.

2017 Honda Civic Hatch RS Review

Vision out the front and sides is good although the rear three-quarter is slabby which makes Honda’s lane-watch camera system so very useful when overtaking or turning a corner. The camera is mounted in the wing mirror and activates when the indicator is turned on, or can be manually activated via the right-hand stalk.

2017 Honda Civic Hatch RS Review

The boot pips the i30’s space and offers 414 litres of storage space with a side-closing cargo cover. There’s a temporary spare under the boot floor which is the same as the i30 SR Premium, although in that car you can buy a full-size spare for $550.

In the i30 SR Premium the leather front seats are well shaped and supportive enough to keep you in place even when pushing the car on a twisting road. The seats are heated and ventilated and there’s good electric adjustment both up and down and fore and aft, with good adjustment on the steering wheel too. Vision from the driver’s seat is good right around the vehicle.

2018 Hyundai i30 Review

Over in the back seat, there’s plenty of room for six-foot tall adults to travel two up; someone smaller could squeeze into the middle seat at the back.

2018 Hyundai i30 Review

There are net storage pockets on the hard-plastic backs of the front seats (being hard plastic means they’ll be more resistant to foot scuff, something anyone with children will be thankful of). There’s also a rear-mounted vent at the back of the centre console – something the Civic misses out on.

2018 Hyundai i30 Review

Hyundai wanted all its variants to have the same size boot (395 litres) and because the i30 SR gets a multi-link rear suspension set-up, which takes up more room than the torsion beam set-up on other variants, there’s only a space saver hiding beneath the boot floor (a full-size spare is available for $550).

What are they like on the road?

The i30 SR Premium runs a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that makes 150kW and 265Nm of torque. This is mated to a seven-speed DCT which is designed and built by Hyundai. The gearbox is quick to respond to the throttle and offers a decent creep ability when you come off the brake but haven’t nailed the throttle. And the steering mounted paddles work well, but in a car like this, I feel they’re a bit of cosmetic frippery.

The engine offers plenty of grunt from down low and feels strong right through to the top end with a rapid gear shift that helps to keep the thing on the boil. The steering tune, which is about twice as fast as what it is on the i30 in other markets makes this thing quick and easy to tip into corners with good feedback. And the suspension tune is such that mid-corner bumps are dismissed with ease; sure, you’ll feel the suspension take the hit, but so fast is it to gather itself back up again that there’s no thump through into the cabin or through the steering wheel. This is a properly fun little car to drive.

2017 Hyundai i30 SR Premium Review

Like the i30 SR, Honda has fitted the Civic with a new multi-link rear suspension setup that’s been rigidly mounted to the rear sub-frame to improve lateral stability, and it’s also fitted, to the front and rear, hydraulic compliance bushings which are usually only fitted to more expensive cars, but are great at insulating against steering wheel shake and road noise transmission.

Honda’s handling work reveals itself at the first corner you tip the thing into with a resistance to bodyroll and impressive grip. The ride is impressive with even hard-edged hits heard rather than felt. Now, I haven’t driven the rest of the range, but the RS gets 17-inch alloys and slightly grippier rubber than others in the line-up on 16s, and so grip is as good as is the noise insulation across a range of surfaces. But it’s not quite as quiet as the Hyundai.

2017 Honda Civic Hatch RS Review

The engine is a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder making 127kW at 5500rpm and 220Nm of torque from 1700prm to 5500rpm. This is mated to a CVT which, on par with the CVTs from Subaru, sets the benchmark for just how good a CVT can be.

The Civic Hatch is not going to snap your head off with acceleration but it’s got enough grunt to keep up with traffic but it falls behind the i30 SR Premium because of that car’s extra torque. The Hyundai has the ability to grunt its way out of situations in comfort where the Civic Hatch will come off feeling strained.

What about safety features?

The Civic Hatch shares the Sedan’s five-star ANCAP rating. Civic Hatch gets airbags, traction and stability controls, as well as clever front seatbelts with automatic tensioners and load limiters which work in conjunction with the airbags and so will immediately tighten in the event of a collision, but then relax tension slightly to avoid causing injury to the occupant via the seatbelt. The new Civic gets an electric park brake with automatic brake hold function, which is handy in stop-start traffic. All models get a multi-angle reversing camera which offers a wide-angle view, a narrower view a top-down view, front and rear parking sensors are also standard from VTi-S up.

However, disappointingly, only the top-spec VTi-LX gets Honda Sensing which includes AEB, lane departure warning, road departure mitigation, forward collision warning, lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow.

The i30 SR premium gets a five-star ANCAP safety rating, like the rest of the i30 range. And while ActiveSense isn’t available across the range; something that will happen by the end of this year, or so Hyundai is hoping; the SR Premium does get Active Sense. This includes autonomous emergency braking, blind spot detection, driver attention alert, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert and smart cruise control.

Beyond this the i30 SR Premium gets traction and stability controls, reversing camera with dynamic guidelines, tyre-pressure monitoring and parking sensors front (SR Premium only) and rear parking sensors across the range. The range also offers airbags covering the front and rear, ISOFIX, seatbelt reminders, and more.

So, what’s the verdict?

For the money, it’s impossible to go past the Hyundai i30 SR Premium. It gets a slightly smaller boot but it adds active safety, rear air vents a panoramic glass roof and heated and ventilated front seats. It’s more powerful and its handling is a step ahead of the similarly set-up Civic.

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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober