As the downsized engine line-up shows, Hyundai’s economy-focused attitude to performance continues.

The latest 126bhp version of its 1.6-litre diesel engine is an indication that the manufacturer is prepared to invest in more energetic solutions (as its mainstream presence grows, so beefier options are likely to follow), but for now the 109bhp variant will probably be the bedrock of the range.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Chief tester
It would be foolish to expect sizzling performance from the Hyundai i30

Statistically speaking, the motor’s foundation is strong. It can deliver 76.3mpg in laboratory conditions, and in Blue Drive format its lowly CO2 output of 97g/km ensures that private buyers will not need to worry about paying road tax. 

If you go for the more powerful diesel then it breaks the crucial 100g/km CO2 threshold, and the official combined economy figure then drops to 68.9mpg.

Go for the most powerful petrol model, which is the 118bhp 1.6-litre engine, and it will equal the 126bhp diesel by completing the 0-62mph sprint in 10.9sec. However, again you’ll take the hit in fuel economy (44.1mpg) and CO2 emissions (149g/km).

Subjecting the 109bhp car to real-world conditions inevitably takes off some of the shine, though. We managed a more modest 59.7mpg on our touring run and 48.9mpg over the duration of our test, but it’s worth mentioning that both figures are a notable improvement on those we recorded in the Focus 1.6 TDCi (52.2mpg and 38.2mpg respectively).

It would be foolish to expect sizzling performance from the i30, but there’s no escaping the fact that it languishes almost half a second behind the Focus in the sprint to 60mph (11.1sec versus 10.7).

That deficiency is also reflected in the higher-gear acceleration that defines a car’s versatility and ease of use. From 40-60mph in fourth and 50-70mph in fifth, the i30 is at least 1.5sec adrift of the Ford, and its deliberately long final ratio makes for sluggish responses when overtaking is required on the motorway.

Of course, our stopwatch is unlikely to persuade the average Hyundai buyer one way or the other, but it’s worth remembering that a shortfall in tractability almost always translates into heavier use of the accelerator pedal, which inevitably handicaps an engine’s ability to live up to its claims of parsimoniousness.

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