What is it?

The i30 five-door hatchback is the first in what Hyundai says will be a ‘family’ of C-segment cars and the ‘most important car Hyundai has ever launched’ in the UK.

It’s easy to forget that Hyundai is a global automotive powerhouse. It sold around 3.5m cars in 2006, half a million of them in the US. Hyundai admits its sights have been set on the US market, but now it wants to conquer Europe.

The i30 is based on the same all-new platform as the Kia Cee’d, but will be made in Korea until production switches to the Czech Republic in 2009.

What’s it like?

In the metal, although it’s 4.2m long, the i30 has a curious modesty about it, lacking the presence of the Golf or Focus. The styling is neat (and curiously reminiscent of the BMW 1-series from the rear) and the exterior is tightly made and well-finished.

The story is the same inside. All residual old-school ‘Korean-ness’ has been expunged. The mouldings are crisp, well finished and it all fits together beautifully. The all-important switchgear weightings are excellent, too.

Thanks to a long wheelbase, rear legroom is excellent. Boot space, though is a touch mean at 340 litres. Shoulder room is the front is fine and the overall sensation is of a light, handy, easy-going car.

The 107bhp 1.4-litre petrol engine is a smooth and very willing surprise, and the swift and slick five speed ‘box impresses.

We couldn’t get entirely comfortable with the electronic power steering, which, at high speeds, seemed to lack a linear response.

The i30 is certainly smoother-riding and a tad more refined than its Cee’d sister car. And spec-for-spec, it’s also very well priced against the 307, Astra, C4 and Megane, which it is targeting.

Should I buy one?

Casual drivers seeking safety, a generous spec, reliability and the comfort of a five-year warranty should take a close look. The Kia Cee’d, which rides a little harder and is a touch less refined, has a longer, seven-year warranty, though.

Hilton Holloway

Our Verdict

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

Driven this week