As Hyundai Australia chief operating officer John Elsworth introduced the latest version of the brand's successful i30 range to the press, he felt compelled to comment on the Federal Government's fringe benefits tax changes.
"More than a little disappointing," was his initial comment, followed by "a hand grenade to the industry", and "announced without a shred of consultation".
But he couldn't hide his enthusiasm for the SR version of the i30 hatch that has been conceived in Australia, with the key development of suspension tuning all done locally.
The vanilla version i30 is a sound, attractive hatch that serves as a comfortable and economical commuter. SR adds a new 2-litre engine with 129kW of power and 209Nm of torque, 19kW and 34Nm up on the current 1.8-litre. A longer stroke, higher compression ratio, and direct fuel injection provide the performance boost.
The gearbox is unchanged but the longer final drive ratio gives the SR longer legs. Add that lot up and the SR sparkles when you rev it, with 0-100km/h in 7.7sec. and 0-1400m in 15.6sec. Maximum torque is available from 4000rpm, which helps when the roads get twisty.
On the outside, Hyundai has struck a sensible balance between boy-racer bits and a themed but stylish improvement. The 17-inch machine-faced alloy wheels set the whole car off, and blacked-out side mouldings, sports grille with black insert and a sports rear diffuser add to the more serious tone.
Inside, i30 was already good but alloy pedals, leather upholstery and a power driver's seat contribute to the sporty feel.
The key difference, though, is under the wheel arches. Australian engineers tested more than 40 suspension component combinations to settle on an ideal mix of responsiveness and comfort.
Hyundai's shock absorber supplier, Sachs, was involved in the recalibration of the dampers, eventually changing all internal components, and new springs were developed that are 4 per cent stiffer than the standard car.
Our drive through the rural hill country inland from Byron Bay, NSW, revealed the changes to be more than a simple tightening up.
The SR retains a supple ride quality along with accurate steering and adhesion that begs for more power. Clearly the i30 chassis is already good but this package of suspension mods lifts the small Korean to the level of many European sporty hatches.
We managed to find a lot of broken surfaces on our drive but nothing disturbed the SR's poise. This is largely the result of development being done on everyday commuting and rural routes, dirt roads, country highways and freeways, followed by computer simulations rather than just test-track work.
Hyundai dealers have embraced the new model enthusiastically and it appears the weight of orders so far is heavily skewed towards the six-speed automatic. The six-speed manual and the auto were excellent in terms of ride quality but the manual felt more lively - a combination of a 24kg weight advantage and some slight hesitation as the auto's electronic brain indulges in some decision- making time.
Ultimately, the SR package means that whatever your gear-changing preference, you can enjoy a small, well-equipped and attractive sports hatch that puts some fun back into safer driving.
The SR manual is $27,990 and the automatic version an extra $2200 at $30,190. A sunroof on either will cost you an extra $2000.HYUNDAI i30 SR
Price: $27,990 (man); $30,190 (auto)
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: Six-speed manual or automatic
Safety: Five stars