► Sensible hatchback updated for 2020
► Petrols and diesel with mild-hybrid
► Evolution rather than revolution
The Hyundai i30 has perennially been labelled as a competent Golf-rival that ultimately just falls short of Volkswagen’s stalwart.
Have things changed with a facelift? Maybe just a little bit. You see, with the latest Golf, Volkswagen has attempted to make it hyper-new, with innovations like its near-buttonless interface.
The i30 on the other hand, plods on with ergonomic and sensible designs. Not that there aren’t new things in this 2020 facelift.
Chief of the changes is the engine lineup. There are two petrols and one diesel, all of which come with a 48-volt mild-hybrid assistance.
Stat attack: the 1.0-litre petrol makes 118bhp. The 1.5-litre petrol is only found in N Line and has 158bhp. While your sole diesel option is a 1.6-litre with 134bhp.
If you pinch and zoom on your phone really hard you’ll be able to tell the i30 has also had a bit of a nip and tuck. There’s a new nose, LED lights, and a reshaped bumper. It does its job at making the i30 look a bit less old, but if you didn’t like the shape of the old one, you won’t care for this new one either.
In the cabin there’s now a 10.25-inch infotainment screen available. It’s slick and comes with the usual array of goodies, like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, as well as Hyundai’s BlueLink software that allows you to check out the car’s location and lock/unlock the doors via an app.
The 2020 refresh saw the addition of Hyundai’s SmartSense safety systems added too. This includes lots of acronyms. LFA (Lane Following Assist) will keep you in lane, and LFDA (Leading Vehicle Departure Alert) is a system that beeps at you when you’re in traffic if the car in front has moved off and you haven’t. Presumably that one’s aimed at people looking at their phones while sitting at traffic lights. Perhaps in the next i30 Hyundai could warrant some kind of minor electric shock? Just a thought.
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What’s it like to drive?
It’s in no way sporty, but it feels solid and dependable. Before long, even inexperienced drivers will be confidently slotting the short-throw gearbox between the ratios with ease.
The rear suspension is multi-link in the more powerful petrol and diesel, and torsion-beam for the 1.0-litre petrol – similar to the Ford Focus. And like with the Focus, if you drove them back to back you’d be able to detect the extra precision and comfort it affords you.
But take it out of context and you’d be hard pushed to tell much of a difference. The low powered i30 certainly rides well enough without it.
The steering is solid. Good, even. Very little in the way of feedback, but how much feedback is the typical i30 owner really craving? Diesel models have slightly heavier steering, but neither petrol or diesels feel overtly led-like.
There’s not a bad engine to choose from. We’d advise going with the 1.0-litre. The little three-banger returns up to 54.3mpg while never feeling too slow for a blast around a ring road. The 0-62mph time is 11.2seconds – but it never feels that glacial because of the turbo torque.
We’ve sampled the 160bhp 1.5-litre in a Fastback N-Line and found it to be much keener (with a 8.6 seconds 0-62mph time). But we also found the N-Line suspension so harsh, it begs the question why wouldn’t people just go for the N?
The sole diesel option is a 1.6-litre with 134bhp. It suits motorway journeys, delivering a 207lb ft worth of overtaking punch.
While we have you, we should mention Hyundai’s new iMT (intelligent Manual Transmission) gearbox. The six-speed manual is a sweet shifting ‘box with a pleasingly short throw. And it’s clever too. Coast in gear and it can decouple and essentially run in neutral, all without you needing to do a thing. This is smooth and seamless – although you do need to be in the ‘correct’ gear for it to work.
Can I get the kids and shopping in it?
There’s 395 litres’ worth of space in the boot, or 1,301 litres with the rear seats down. That’s slightly better than the VW Golf (381/1,237 litres) but less than the gargantuan Skoda Octavia (600/1,555).
The rear bench, while folding in the normal 60:40 split, doesn’t fold completely flat.
Very tall people (say, 6ft 4 plus) will feel a bit cramped in the front, while middle seat passengers in the rear lack a bit of leg room. But generally there’s lots of room, and it’s comfortable too.
Verdict: solid, if a little unimaginative
Don’t for one moment think the i30 has actually changed its place in the market. This update has made it slightly more appealing, but it’s ultimately a solid, dependable, fairly boring family hatchback with a solid five-year warranty.
While the i30 has remained statue-like, the Volkswagen Golf has moved on significantly because of its tech innovations. If you test drive a Golf and think Volkswagen has taken one evolutionary step too far, then the dependable i30 is worthy of your monthly payments.