► New Hyundai i30 hatch tested
► Improved refinement and tech
► On sale in March for £22,195
If you’re looking for a distinctively designed hatchback that offers an adrenaline-fuelled driving experience, then the 2017 Hyundai i30 probably isn’t for you.
That isn’t to say it’s in any way poor, but you can’t help noticing the styling seems to have been modelled on its rivals. From most angles it does a good job of aping the Peugeot 308, while the new grille – which Hyundai’s PR team amusingly told us ‘looks like two hands cradling the badge’ – would be more at home on an Audi.
Clearly the interesting bits aren’t on the outside, then
It’s a far better story inside. There’s a noticeable step up in quality compared to the outgoing i30, with the overriding feeling being one of quality – all of the major touchpoints are made of decent materials.
There’s clearly been significant work on cabin refinement, too, because it’s a far more peaceful place to be – especially in versions with the petrol engine we’re testing here.
The multimedia system’s also been tweaked; it features a faster processor and it never once failed to instantly re-route when we took the wrong exit on a roundabout. This is simply not the case with many modern systems, so it’s a job well done.
What’s under the bonnet of the new Hyundai i30?
Of the three engines available in the i30 range, there’s one that’s brand new – a turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol, tested here, that delivers the biggest punch in the new line-up.
It’s as quiet and smooth as you’d expect a petrol motor to be, but the pleasing thing is how quickly the compressor whirls into action. Technically the difference seems retrograde – the twin-scroll blower on the outgoing 1.6-litre Gamma has been replaced by a smaller single-scroll unit – but in application it’s so well matched to the engine that the resulting performance makes the i30 pleasingly swift.
The only drawback is that it sounds about as interesting as a pair of grey Y-fronts, but we’re keen to see what it would be like in a smaller, lighter platform.
Hyundai’s new engine is coupled to a choice of either seven-speed dual-clutch auto or six-speed manual boxes, and here we’re trying the manual. The shift action was a little tight, which may be attributed to the low mileage of the test cars, but in the main it performed perfectly, albeit unremarkably, well.
What about the chassis set-up?
The MacPherson strut arrangement at the front of the i30 works well in conjunction with revised steering to provide just about enough communication to inspire confidence in the handling. It’s not brimming with feel, but not many front-driven hatchbacks are.
More interesting is the multi-link rear set-up, which is an expensive thing to engineer into cars at this price. Many of the MQB-based cars at lower ends of trim structures make do with torsion beam arrangements and thus suffer with poorer body control and a distinct lack of refinement. Not the case in the new i30.
This type of rear suspension was fitted in the previous version, but an extra control arm has been introduced and the geometry tweaked accordingly to hone the handling. What you’re left with is a car that corners in a measured and confident fashion. It’s not exciting, per se, but it suits the grown-up nature of the i30 well.
The ride quality is a fraction firmer than we remember, but we’ll have to wait to drive one in the UK before passing definitive judgement on this. The roads we were on in Spain were perfectly EU-funded-smooth, so hardly representative.
Is this the i30 to have, then?
For keen drivers, yes, albeit in lieu of the N model we’re going to clap eyes on in the second half of 2017. We’re expecting a far healthier 250+bhp from a 2.0 turbo engine driving the front wheels, complete with a chassis honed for keen drivers.
The N version will be Hyundai’s first proper hot hatch, and with ex-M division man Albert Biermann in charge of making sure it can handle a corner or two, it could give something for Golf GTI and Focus ST owners to think about.
Other desires may be sated with the i30 estate due to appear at the Geneva show in March, or the ‘fastback’ model that’ll appear towards the end of the year – potentially at the Frankfurt show.
President and CEO of Hyundai Motor UK, Tony Whitehorn, additionally told us that a hybrid model is in the pipeline as part of the firm’s plans to launch 14 alternatively fuelled cars over the next few years.
This new version of the i30 is a considerably better car than its predecessor. The main issue in our eyes is that it’s simply not very interesting, with derivative styling and a capable but not captivating drive. It’s solid and staid, and ideal for those looking for a straightforward car that’s effortless to live with.
Not a bad car, then – far from it – but it’s a difficult one to fall in love with. Roll on Geneva.
Read more Hyundai reviews