This is the new Hyundai i30. And it was only in late 2007 that Hyundai launched the first i30, so the fact another one is already upon us rubbishes the industry standard of 6-7 year lifecycles.
The first Hyundai i30 (along with its sister, the Kia Ceed) made us start taking the Korean brand seriously, and from ix35 to i40 via Veloster, Hyundai is on a bit of a roll. Read on for our first drive review to find out how good the new Hyundai i30 is.
So what’s the new Hyundai i30 like to drive?
However much Ford has moved the character of the Mk3 Focus away from dynamism and towards comfort and refinement, it remains the driver’s benchmark in the hatchback class. And the i30 can’t match it.
We tried three models, automatic and manual versions of the 1.6 CRDi diesel, and the 1.6 petrol (only available with a manual). Don’t demand anything too strenuous of the auto (there’s no Sport mode, no paddles) and it’ll slur along happily, but as it’s only available with a 108bhp version of the 1.6-litre diesel, it’s not what you’d call quick. Or brisk. Or anything else that might indicate a decent turn of pace. There’s no obvious mid-range kick from the turbocharger either.
It doesn’t turn into corners with the alacrity of the Focus, and on dusty Spanish roads its defaults to understeer pretty quickly – and we’re not talking about silly speeds either. Over the same roads the petrol is more entertaining, its smaller (205/55 R16 Continental ContiSportContact 2s versus the diesel’s 225/45 R17 Hankook Ventus Prime 2s) finding more grip and eradicating some of the early understeer.
Best is the manual version of the 1.6 CRDi. We tested the more powerful 126bhp variant, which was quick enough, the ‘change was light if a little notchy going through the gate, and overall it’s the most appealing model.
All the cars we tested share a predominantly comfortable ride (the secondary ride can occasionally be a little stiff) and strong refinement levels, the latter only spoilt by excessive wind noise at motorway speeds.
All i30s bar the base Classic model feature Hyundai’s new Flex Steer system, with a button on the wheel to switch between Comfort, Normal and Sport modes. Comfort is too light, and while the latter two progressively add a little weight, all three still feature too much slack through the first degrees of turn. We’d use Normal for the majority of life, and Sport if you’re thrashing around, but it’d be better if Hyundai had just developed steering that was direct and incisive.
Should you care that the i30 can’t quite excite like a Focus?
No, because there’s much to commend. Let’s start with the exterior. You’ll see ideas pinched from the bigger i40 in the front and side styling, and hints of sister company Kia in the rear, but besides the gorgeous Alfa Romeo Giulietta it’s one of the better looking hatchbacks. We like it.
And it’s even better inside. That bloody Golf still offers up a more obviously classy and restrained cabin, but the majority of the i30 interior materials are top-notch. The silver trimmings are obviously painted plastics rather than actual metal, and the indicator stalks are shiny and bright, but everything else is impressive. The dials are clear, the buttons are big, everything is intuitively laid out, and the touch-screen sat-nav screen is as good (if not better) than the Golf’s.
There’s plenty of space up front, and more than enough headroom for a 2m tall road tester even with the optional panoramic sunroof is fitted. Great seats too, with good lateral support from hip to shoulder. Back seat space is a little tighter, for both knee- and head-room, and although the rear seats fold flush with the boot, they don’t fold entirely flat.
Hyundai’s i30 won’t entertain like a Focus, but that’s never been the be all and end all in this class. It majors on good looks, and a stylish and quality cabin, plus strong on-paper fuel consumption and emissions figures.
The only thing that needs to change is the badge. No, we’re not talking about any outdated connotations of what brand Hyundai means because there’s not a bad car in its range, but that the ageing italicised ‘H’ badge appears out of place both inside and out on a car that deserves our praise and your attention.
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