► Hyundai i30 Turbo reviewed on UK roads
► Cautiously pitched, quick-ish warm hatch
► 183bhp, 8.0sec to 62mph, from £22,500
Quite sensibly, the Hyundai i30 Turbo is not being touted as a proper hot hatch. Hyundai’s pitching it instead as a brisk but easy to live with warm hatch, and very much not a GTI on a budget. But it is the sportiest iteration of the i30 yet, and one that acts as a stepping stone to hotter Hyundai models in the near future.
How warm is the Hyundai i30 Turbo exactly?
Under the bonnet is the 1.6-litre four-cylinder ‘Gamma’ engine found elsewhere in the i30 range but, as you may have guessed, with the addition of a turbocharger to boost power to a relatively modest (in hot hatch terms) 183bhp.
It also gets a quicker steering rack than the more laid-back setup in the regular i30, firmer suspension and bigger brakes, nestling inside 18-inch wheels wearing 225/40 section tyres.
In line with the understated marketing pitch, it doesn’t shout too loudly about the upgrades on the outside, but there is a prominent Turbo badge, two tailpipes and new, (mildly) angrier-looking bumpers.
A few splashes of red inside (stitching, gearknob and bits of the seats are all scarlet) do a decent job of enlivening the interior, in a slightly '80s kinda way. There’s one equipment level: jam-packed with plenty of standard kit, and you can choose between three- or five-door bodies.
How do the changes stack up on the road?
It’s a bit of a compromise, the i30 Turbo. The firmer suspension robs it of the standard i30’s commendably fluid ride quality, making it a whole lot more jiggly, but doesn’t quite translate into fun handling. It’s grippy and predictable but not all that involving, partly the fault of overly light control weights and uncommunicative power steering.
Although the steering’s a relatively eager 2.7 turns lock to lock, it’s still a bit numb and the i30’s ‘Flex-steer’ variable weighting system doesn’t bring much to the party, with three settings from light to heavy, each as anesthetised as the last.
It’s brisk enough, though, piling on the speed more swiftly than you might expect without ever quite feeling properly fast. Ironically, excellent noise insulation and general refinement levels mean it often feels slower than it really is. When the engine does make itself heard, it sadly doesn’t sound particularly inspiring; more whirry drone than rorty growl.
Just as the handling doesn’t quite seem a fair trade for the firm ride, nor does the performance for the engine’s relatively high thirst (a quoted 38.7mpg combined) and CO2 output (a taxman-pleasing 169g/km).
Hyundai isn’t really about performance cars though, is it?
Maybe not right now, but that’s about to change. Not for nothing is the company ploughing budget into a World Rally Championship programme, nor signed a prominent engineering talent from BMW’s M division to get stuck into a new range of hotter Hyundais, likely to be branded under a new ‘N’ performance banner.
So perhaps it’s best to think of the i30 Turbo as a bit of a warm hatch warm-up for livelier, hopefully more engaging models in the near future.
The Hyundai i30 Turbo is a decent warm-ish hatch package but it’ll be too tepid for most. It somehow feels a little more subdued than its closely related (and more powerful) Kia Ceed/Proceed GT cousins and while its £22,500 asking price seems reasonable on paper (especially given the amount of kit thrown in) it’s right in the firing line of the Seat Leon FR, arguably the cream of the warm-hatch crop. The higher-temperature Ford Focus ST is similar money, too.
Pricier to run and less comfortable than the regular i30 without being quite fun enough to justify the compromise, there are better performance-hatch propositions out there. But don’t bet against Hyundai making up for lost time before too long.