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A UK drive in the Hyundai i30 reveals a rounded and capable hatchback, but not one to challenge the class best

Our Verdict

Hyundai i30 Turbo

Can the second-generation Hyundai i30 challenge for class honours?

What is it?

Since 2008, the Hyundai i30 has been a cornerstone of the Korean manufacturer’s range with over 800,000 sold in Europe alone. Its success has been down to a simple recipe of affordability, reliability and good amounts of standard equipment. All very well, but Hyundai is aware that with such strong competition amongst C-segment hatchbacks, such as the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus, it needs to offer even more.

Cue the third generation i30, a car that's based on its predecessor, but said to be signifcantly improved. Thanks to a higher concentration of high-strength steel, ‘performance-oriented’ shock absorbers and 10% faster steering, Hyundai are promising a more dynamic drive without sacrificing ride comfort.

There’s also more room for people and luggage, as well as plenty of new technology. Wireless phone charging and the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring apps are all included on mid-range SE Nav models and above. With talk of the i30 being a car for everybody, does it rival the class best or is it a Jack of all trades, master of none? 

What's it like?

The most powerful engine is the 1.4-litre T-GDi, but we’ve already sampled that abroad. We’ve therefore opted to test the entry-level 1.0-litre T-GDi with 118bhp. This three-cylinder turbocharged petrol motor is also found in the nose of the smaller Hyundai i20, where it works pretty well.

The trouble is that even with peak torque arriving at a lowly 1500rpm, you have to work the i30 surprisingly hard to get it moving quickly. A downshift or two is required if you want to pick up speed while going up a hill, and if you try to follow what the gearshift indicator suggested, there was noticeable lag before the needle of the speedo climbed oh-so-slowly.

This sedate pace isn’t even rewarded with particularly stellar CO2 emissions or fuel economy. At 115g/km, the larger Skoda Octavia emits 11g/km less of CO2 when fitted with its three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol TSI engine, yet is more than a second quicker from 0-62mph. Even if you don’t care about the acceleration times (which you probably shouldn’t), it still means the Skoda will be a lot less tiring to drive with five passengers and with a boot full of luggage.

So, what about the i30's fancy new dampers, stiffer structure and their promise of excitement in the bends? To be honest, we didn’t find any. The ride is perfectly agreeable if maybe a little firmer than before, but not stiff enough to prevent noticeable body roll in corners. Importantly, it never feels agile like a Ford Focus, or even a Vauxhall Astra, would.

The speed of the i30's steering is nicely judged, although it is a little heavier than some may expect. Sadly, this doesn’t translate into any useable feedback when you’re pushing on. Overall, it’s nice enough to drive, but in no way entertaining. Hyundai has an awful lot of work to do for its upcoming i30N hot hatch model.

Moving inside, the areas you touch regularly do feel pleasant on your fingertips. There are plenty of soft-touch materials along with big, easy-to-press buttons that have a nice action to them. The top three trim levels all get an 8.0in infotainment touchscreen, and although it's not the most graphically rich system out there, it is easy to navigate, quick to respond and easy to connect your devices to.

Bluetooth pairing is a doddle and you get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus wireless charging for compatible devices. Even Billy Basic models get Bluetooth, a DAB radio and a USB port in the centre console. Even more importantly, all get lane departure warning with lane-keeping assist, a collision warning system with automatic emergency braking (AEB), front and rear parking sensors, plus the usual plethora of airbags.

As for the area behind the B-pillars, rear seat space is good enough to rival the Golf and beat the Astra, but not quite as impressive as the Octavia. The i30's boot is bigger than most rivals, although it is again trounced by the spacious Skoda. 

Should I buy one?

All that talk of the i30 being a car for everybody should have set alarm bells ringing immediately. In trying to keep every Tom, Dick and Harriet happy, you have a car that - while exceedingly competent - has no single area in which it excels.

The i30 is a car that drives nicely enough, has a decent amount of space and is pretty cheap for the amount of kit you get. Our issue is that just being nice isn’t really enough in such a hotly contested segment. 

2017 Hyundai i30 SE Nav

Location Cornwall; On sale March; Price £19,645; Engine 3cyl, 998cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 118bhp at 6000rpm Torque 126lb ft at 1500-4000rpm; Gearbox Six-speed manual; Kerb weight 1342kg; 0-62mph 11.1secs; Top speed 118mph; Economy 56.5mpg CO2/tax band 115g/km, 20%; Rivals Volkswagen Golf 1.0 TSI, Ford Focus 1.0 Ecoboost

Join the debate

Comments
7

17 February 2017
For £700 extra at £20,315 you can have a 1.4 Astra Elite Nav with full leather (heated back and front) 4g and if you want a 7.8 to 60 sprint and better handling. (British jobs too)

 

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17 February 2017
Is there a better way of spending £20k whilst telling everyone around you, you have absolutely no interest in a cars beyond A to B transport. Leave the i30 to Whatcar, its shouldnt be anywhere on Autocar

17 February 2017
[quote=artill]Is there a better way of spending £20k whilst telling everyone around you, you have absolutely no interest in a cars beyond A to B transport. Leave the i30 to Whatcar, its shouldnt be anywhere on Autocar[/quote] I'd anticipate it'll be a very small % of retail customers who will be spending £20k on one of these. Two words: (1) Motability (2) Rental.

17 February 2017
but I quite like these new i30s. Now, I don't want one but it's a lot more classy than the old model.

17 February 2017
It has been said before but a car is not just the sum of its parts and this looks to prove the point. Its a shame really as the bones are all there , a proper independent rear suspension, stiff chassis, decent visibility, well laid out interior. It does cast doubt on hyundai's ability to sort the new i30N chassis.

17 February 2017
The i30 is a very mature, refined, well engineered car (its chassis rigidity for example is class leading) with excellent reliability. These are the attributes that will garner popularity and sales, not the chavvy, humdrum appeal of a Vauxhall astra or ford focus with their rather low-rent me-too styling.

20 February 2017
Emm maybe they can just talk the talk "Importantly, it never feels agile like a Ford Focus, or even a Vauxhall Astra, would." To sell in big numbers in Europe it basically needs to be another £2000-£3000 cheaper

 

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