A good little ‘un is always better than a good big ‘un, in this writer’s book.

Our tastes have trended dramatically toward small cars in the past decade and that’s what has led to the imminent demise of the traditional big Aussie Holden and Ford.

Give me the bells and whistles such as reversing camera, auto transmission, central locking, good power-to-weight and a decent standard of safety equipment and I’m happy if they come in a compact, nimble and unobtrusive package.

The case was proved during two weeks of hard use in a Hyundai i30 CRDI hatchback during the recent World Rally Championship event in Coffs Harbour. I needed a car that would provide comfort and economy during relentless and unforgiving use in town and country.

The i30 was trumps. With the rear seats folded, it swallowed two weeks’ luggage, photographic equipment, computers and a pile of office gear.
As the Media Manager’s transport in Coffs, it was ideal for nipping from venue to venue with a load of bodies or gear.

Key to this nippiness was its 1.6 litre turbodiesel engine, matched to Hyundai’s own six-speed, twin-clutch auto transmission.

With 94 kiloWatts of power and 260 Newtonmetres of torque it has abundant grunt for a 1300kg hatchback. It’s also available instantly under the right foot, delivering strong acceleration and great pulling power out of corners or up hills.

The twin-clutch ‘box, like all of its type, is extremely efficient and fast-changing on the move, but in low-speed manouevring can have an on-off feel to its engagement in first or reverse.

Nonetheless, driving the i30 diesel can be highly enjoyable if you’re unaccustomed to having this much torque in a small car.

The SR version I drove is a ‘plain Jane” in the i30 line-up, but was fitted with everything most drivers would need.

This includes a reversing camera with decent screen clarity, seven airbags, cruise control and audio controls on the steering wheel and even a packet of Hyundai tissues in the glovebox.

The i30, now in Series II form, has become of Australia’s most popular cars. In June it beat showroom stalwarts like the Toyota Corolla and Mazda3.
Buyers are no doubt drawn by the i30’s specifications, price – the diesel hatchback costs from a recommended $23,590 plus on-roads – and easy driveability.

Running costs are an additional incentive. The i30 topped an NRMA survey of running costs, including all factors from fuel consumption to insurance and depreciation, with a calculated total cost of ownership of $156.90 per week.