SOME like surprises. Especially good ones.
The better half likes flowers. I'm more of practical gift kinda fellow. Given flowers die, choosing bang for you buck most often takes precedence.
Which is why the Hyundai i30 has been winning hearts of late. Spending nearly a month in the garage, it's been the small things which have cemented the compact hatch's popularity.
When the fuel gauge gets low, the satnav offers to navigate you to the nearest station. On crisp winter and spring mornings, the butt heaters take the edge off. Transversely, when the day warms up you can cool the leather with the fan function - and there are three settings for each depending on how rapidly you want to cool or heat your rear end.
Traffic is no longer quite the same frustration. The smart cruise control automatically maintains a safe distance from the vehicle in front, so essentially you can just sit and steer.
These kinds of features aren't new, and have been around on high-end models for a few years, but it's rare to see such an impressive specification list on a car priced less than $40,000 drive-away.
With a retail price of $33,950, it's not the most costly small hatch getting around but it's far from the least expensive.
Some still wince at paying bigger bucks for a Hyundai, but given buyers of the large Santa Fe SUV have gravitated to the circa $60,000 Highlander model, it proves the cheap and cheerful past is in the rear view mirror.
Basic expectations are met via rear view camera, automatic lights and wipers, eight-inch colour screen with satnav and full Apple Carplay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring, alloy wheels, electric park brake and dual zone air con, but it also comes with extras like a panoramic glass sunroof, power adjustable driver's seat, front and rear parking sensors and alloy pedals.
One cool function which comes standard is a Qi wireless charging pad near the shifter for smartphones. A great idea, it primarily works with Android phones such as Samsung, Google, Nokia and Motorola, while many others need a third-party case accessory (it might change for Apple with the iPhone 8).
As for optional extras, there really are only two: metallic paint costs $495, while you could also have a beige interior for $295. Factory tailored floor mats can be bought for $320 as part of an accessory pack that also includes a dash mat and rear boot protector.
There's a lifetime service plan, but maintenance is annual or every 10,000km - which is annoying given other i30s are 15,000km. That's price you pay for the turbo petrol, with the first three services $269 and then it jumps to $309 and $409. That means an average price of $305 for the initial five services.
It's still a good deal on maintenance, with servicing including annual checks, lubricants, filters, plugs and labour, but there are extra charges for brake fluid change every two years.
Sporting seats have extended bolsters with more lateral support. That's testament to the improved sporting credentials of the SR variants, especially handy if you want to explore the boundaries in the bends.
Striking red seatbelts set the tone for its athletic appeal. Red piping and stitching on the seats, steering wheel, front armrest and gear shifter hood helps break up the black colour scheme, while there are also some nice red highlights around the air con controls and side air vents.
Our car's external colour is a vibrant orange, so the red doesn't quite match...those looking to fulfil colour co-ordination would be better served by the red, black or white external hues.
Operationally everything is straight-forward with well-labelled buttons. The digital instruments display which sits between the tacho and speedo is useful with a range of information available at the driver's thumbtips.
Cup holders in the console and bottle holders in the door are handy, along with the space in front of the shifter where you also find the Qi charger.
Maintaining aspects of the previous model, this new i30 possesses an air of European maturity.
It's not a wholesale change, but the five-door hatch typically has utilitarian runabout appeal over style. Coupes and the like typically come with big compromises. The legendary chief design officer Peter Schreyer, who almost single-handedly put Kia on the map with its sleek offerings, also oversaw this model (Hyundai and Kia are sister companies).
There is ample space in the rear for adults, as long as those in the front don't shift too far rearward, while a weekly family grocery shop can also be handled by the boot.
With a quiet cabin and good ride across varying road surfaces, the i30 SR Premium is quite the performer.
Lively with a nice turn of speed which is surprisingly fun when making use of the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, it's ability outweighs the intentions.
Keen drivers test the limits of the rubber, which will give up before the chassis and suspension reaches its potential, although most owners will never get close and anyone chasing real performance should wait until the arrival of the N derivative which will have more power and additional tweaks to rival the likes of Volkswagen's Golf GTI.
With a 0-100km sprint ability of just under eight seconds, the i30 is no sloth under power, and bigger brakes than its siblings ensure the anchors also do a fine job of bringing the fun under control.
Some around-town activities has seen the average consumption climb to above nine litres for every 100km. That's with the bride maintaining she's "taking it easy” compared to our usual Kia Sportage SUV. No wonder I'm a VIP at the local tyre distributor.
One blessing is that the turbo can run on standard unleaded, and it's E10 compatible.
Overall it's a rewarding drive for your money. Feedback through the wheel increases as the steering angle increases so it feels more rewarding on winding roads, and with about 2.5 turns lock-to-lock it also means parking is simple.
This model gets the gamut, and gear you'd expect from the German big guns.
Tick the five star safety box with seven airbags, stability and traction control, three top-tethers for child seats and two Isofix points, but you also get lane change assist, autonomous emergency braking which can help avoid or lessen a frontal collision, blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert.
Sporty feel and impressive gadgets.
Reckon it could go faster with better tyres... although the fuel consumption can get thirsty by hoofing the right pedal.
Quiet, composed, yet with a sporting edge, the i30 SR Premium manages to combined the daily grind with perky performance.
While not setting the benchmark in terms of refinement, where the hatch surpasses competition is the combined value offering.
This models deserves to sell on its merits with an excellent specification list and driving dexterity. Collectively for the money, it's a package near unbeatable in the genre.
AT A GLANCE
HYUNDAI I30 SR PREMIUM
PRICE $33,950 plus on-roads
ENGINE 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol 150kW/265Nm
TRANSMISSION Seven-speed automatic; front-wheel drive.
SAFETY Five star, seven airbags.
THIRST 7.5 litres/100km (combined average).
SPARE Space saver (full size can be optioned).