DRIVER'S CARS
MOTOR Magazine Australia|October 2021
If it’s time to grow up, but not old: here are 10 unlikely driver’s cars that will still spark joy

01 UNLIKELY DRIVER’S CARS

HYUNDAI i30 N-LINE

PRICE: $29,420

PWR: 114kW/tonne

ENGINE: 1591cc inline 4, DOHC, 16v, turbo

IN ITS PRE-UPDATE SR-badged guise, the Hyundai i30 was seemingly the default answer to any warm hatch question. Today, the segment is as packed and as closely fought as ever, but Hyundai’s keenly positioned N-Line is still well worth your consideration.

Much of the winning formula remains, as the attractive list price affords you a gutsy turbocharged 1.6-litre inline-four, a segment-leading 150kW/265Nm, and generous levels of standard equipment.

Factory Michelin Pilot Sport 4s and 305mm front brakes signal real sporting intent and the Korean hatch follows through with excellent body control. Front-end grip is tenacious and ultra-progressive in the way its controls lighten to communicate when its limits of grip are tested.

Damping is firm, but it’s liveable and well-controlled. Steering, too, is nicely weighted, precise and direct; with a tactile front-end that firms nicely with speed.

Opting for the six-speed manual also sees the list price dip below $30k, but even the seven-speed dual-clutch is an effective and fun unit to engage with, delivering solid and decisive shifts through its paddles or tiptronic shifter. The full-fat i30 N is still the range’s enthusiast hero, but the N-Line captures a lot of that magic for a smaller price. It’s more accessible in its talents and will spur smiles on a challenging road while nailing the brief as a pragmatic hatchback.

02 UNLIKELY DRIVER’S CARS

BMW X3 M40i

PRICE: $113,900

PWR: 146kW/tonne

ENGINE: 2998cc inline 6, DOHC, 24v, turbo

SPORT UTILITY VEHICLES have never been sportier, but high riding haulers with straight-line performance aren’t exactly a new idea. In recent vehicle generations, however, real strides have been made in the development of SUVs that have spawned some genuinely fun and rewarding vehicles.

The outgoing BMW X3’s M40i was a great example of the astounding rate of progress within the fast four-by-four arena. A distinctly rear-biased xDrive system, variable torque split and rear differential make the most of the B58’s broad powerband. Also, 265kW and a 4.7-second sprint from 0-100km/h is nothing to scoff at from a full-size 1810kg SUV. A good useable chunk of the maximum 500Nm is on tap from as low as 1520rpm, too. It’s seriously rapid in a straight line with a crackling soundtrack that seems more M-badge than X-badge. You can’t overcome physics though and, close to the limit, the X3 will always give ground to an equivalent wagon or saloon. For some, however, life calls for an SUV and, if that’s the case, you’re no longer penalised in the fun or dynamics department in the way you once were. Need an SUV but haven’t given up on life? The X3 M40i is a charmer and one that makes even more sense as a nearly new purchase.

03 UNLIKELY DRIVER’S CARS

PEUGEOT 508

PRICE: $57,490

PWR: 115kW/tonne

ENGINE: 1598cc inline 4, DOHC, 16v, turbo

THE PEUGEOT 508 is an underrated car that definitely deserves more recognition from the driving cognoscenti.

Available overseas in 133kW or 169kW variants, Australia is treated to a single-spec range of the sportier GT. At $57,490, the 508 GT undercuts both the entry-level C-Class and 3 Series by about $13k. It’s lighter than all bargain options of the German Big Three and, in most metrics, is an objectively superior car.

Fighting from the weight class of a warm hatch (1430kg), the fashionable Frenchie feels sprightly and light on its feet. Peugeot steering is distinct in its light- and lightning-quick steering, and the 508 is no exception. Don’t let its front-drive layout deter you. Bolstered by the GT’s adaptive dampers, big brakes and Michelin Pilot Sport tyres, the front-end grip is immense. Body control? It’s as good as you’ll get with any sedan at this price point and the ride is so supple that the 508 will cover ground on so-so roads where others would be backing off. As a package, it feels costlier than it is.

If you’re after an accomplished and capable mid-size sedan that stands out from the crowd, we’d recommend checking out the Peugeot 508. Oh, did we mention you can get a wagon, too?

04 UNLIKELY DRIVER’S CARS

JAGUAR I-PACE

PRICE: $137,848

PWR: 143kW/tonne

MOTORS: Twin synchronous permanent magnet

WE KNOW IT’S an EV but, if you thought that an electric future was one of alien vehicles devoid of enjoyment and fun, the Jaguar i-Pace has some words for you.

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