A new Hyundai hatchback heralded as a breakthrough for the brand is proving too successful overseas for the New Zealand distributor's liking.
Heavy demand in Europe and South Korea in particular means the new i30 will be in short supply for at least a year after going on sale here in February.
New Zealand will also only have a four-stage automatic, 2-litre petrol and five-speed manual, 1.6-litre turbodiesel version of the top version, the Elite, for the first half of 2008. These will respectively cost $34,990 and $36,990.
Cheaper petrol models, a lowerspec 2-litre and an entry 1.6-litre in manual and automatic, will come toward the end of the year, followed by a Sportwagon. No prices have yet been set for these.
Just two examples of the i30 were on hand when the national motoring media gathered in Auckland on October 31, and neither was exactly to New Zealand specification.
Elites take leather trim, 17-inch alloys, climate air, rain-sensing wipers, reversing sensors, cruise control (petrol) and a six-disc CD player.
All i30s come with air conditioning, four power windows, remote keyless entry with alarm and an audio system that includes plugs for an iPod, a USB stick and an auxiliary jack. These are in the console between the front seats.
In addition to anti-skid brakes, the safety features run to six airbags and something many rivals, including the class sales-leading Toyota Corolla, do without: A stability control system.
From now on the ESP stability control will be standard for no extra cost on all Hyundai passenger cars - something the brand is claiming as a ‘‘mainstream maker'' first - though some examples of cars that previously did without (Getz, Accent and base Elantra) are still in stock.
The i30 is a car that is expected to fire buyer interest, and being low on the delivery roster is a frustration for the local importers; previously New Zealand has been among the first right-hand drive markets for new products.
This time Australia is given a higher priority. All but the automatic diesel is available there, and it will land in December.
However, the Kiwi branch was ‘‘pleased simply to have the car at all. Originally we were told not to expect to see it until 2009'', a spokesman said.
The i30 is chasing sales in the small-medium car sector, where the brand already has a strong presence with the Accent and Elantra. Indeed, it is essentially the hatchback version of the Elantra sedan, but with bolder, more cohesive styling.
The demand from Europe is not surprising; the car was styled in Germany and benchmarked against the Ford Focus, Opel (Holden) Astra and Volkswagen Golf.
Here, Hyundai wants to attract shoppers away from those cars as well as muscle in on the Corolla and Mazda3.
The 2-litre petrol makes 105kW and 186Nm and the common rail diesel generates 85kW and 255Nm. The 2-litre auto is claimed to use 7.6 litres of fuel per 100km travelled. The manual diesel has been officially tested at 4.7 L/100km. That means a range of more than 1000km from the 53-litre fuel tank.
For a pleasant change, Hyundai has produced a car whose design is just as alluring as the specification.
The i30 utilises the proven Euro-hatch formula of long wheelbase, wide wheel stance and short, high rear overhang, maximising interior depth.
The interior benefits from the Euro-touch, too: materials and plastics are of superior quality to those in the Elantra, and the control layout is also better considered, even though the basics are identical.
At 4245mm, the i30 is 260mm shorter and 10mm narrower and lower than the Elantra sedan, but retains the same 2650mm wheelbase.
The long wheelbase and internal width maximise cabin space, but Hyundai also adds clever interior packaging. There are 20 storage compartments around the car. Front and rear legroom and headroom are also good.
Hyundai says the ‘‘i'' in the i30 name is to represent innovation, inspiration and intelligence. But it also concedes it's a name designed to appeal to the iPod generation.
Eventually, all Hyundai sedans and hatches will become ‘‘i'' cars. Next year brings the i10 and i20, respectively the Atoz and Getz replacements. These will be sourced from India.
There is talk of the Accent becoming the i25 and the Sonata the i40.
The renaming does not affect the sports utilities or, it seems, the Tiburon sports coupe, which is also to be replaced by a more powerful - V6 and V8 - rear-drive car.
Meanwhile, there's also a stylish H-1 van to replace the H100 that fell out of the market almost five years ago.
There are two and five-seater commercial variants, plus a high-level eight-seat minibus, all with a 125kW/ 392Nm 2.4-litre turbo-diesel that outgrunts all the primary opposition. ESP, ABS, rear disc brakes, air conditioning and dual airbags are standard. They go on sale in March.
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