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We get early access to the third-generation Hyundai i30 1.4 Turbo. Does this prototype show promise?

What is it?

This is the newest version of the Hyundai i30, the Korean brand’s C-segment hatchback. As you may have guessed from the black tarpaulin and lumpy disguise, this third-generation model is so new that it hasn’t been fully revealed yet.

Read more: Hyundai RN30 concept previews i30N at the Paris motor show

Hyundai has now revealed the 2017 i30. Click here to view it.

Even so, Hyundai was keen for us to try the brand new platform and equally new 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine. While a manual gearbox will be available, this example was fitted with the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that can be found on the existing i30.

Regardless of engine, all models get a fully independent multi-link rear axle that trumps the likes of the Vauxhall Astra and the more lowly versions of the Volkswagen Golf and Seat Leon. Hyundai is rightly proud of this fact and suggests it should allow for a good balance between comfort and handling, although Hyundai's accompnaying slideshow talked a lot about improving agility and nothing about improving comfort.

The suspension is bolted to a monocoque that contains more high-strength steel than before in order to improve rigidity for safety and handling benefits. There’s also the promise of improved quality inside at a price point that should still prove to be competitive against mainstream rivals.

What's it like?

Before we begin, a caveat. Although the third-gen i30 will be officially launched at the Paris motor show a few short weeks from now, Hyundai will be busy optimising this car right up until we drive the finished article in early 2017. This means that while the basics are in place, there are inevitably a few rough edges that need filing off.

Up close, it’s clear to see that there’s a fairly conventional five-door hatchback hiding underneath the camouflage. Although we can’t make out much in the way of surface detail, there are some aggressive-looking lights up front flanking the latest take on Hyundai’s grille.

There’s a bit of a crease on the front wing that looks like it carries on up the flanks, while the 17in wheels are said to be the largest on offer at launch. We can also just about spot the chrome door handles that seem in keeping with the high level of equipment fitted inside.

I30 proto asd 293

Not that you’ll notice the panoramic roof, heated electric leather seats with memory, heated steering wheel and other trappings of luxury at first. Like the exterior, the cabin is heavily disguised with a black cover over the dashboard and camo tape on the door cards.

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Although we’re not allowed to take pictures of what's hiding under the cover, we are allowed a peek. This reveals heater controls that look very Kia-like, a large cubby at the base of the centre console that easily swallows an iPhone Plus and an infotainment display perched high on the top of the dash, Mercedes-Benz-style.

There’s plenty of hard shiny plastic that will be replaced with textured stuff, but crucially, the dash, tops of the doors and other areas you interact with a lot are nice and squishy. The steering wheel and gear lever are wrapped in leather and feel nice to hold, too.

I30 proto asd 296

Press the start button and the engines fires cleanly and settles into a barely audible idle. This is especially impressive when Felix, the engineer chaperoning us, reveals that not all of the sound deadening material is in place. We slide the car into drive and smoothly pull away.

At modest throttle openings, the engine remains refined while the gearbox shifts between ratios smoothly. Only when the throttle is pinned do things get a little jerky, and Felix confirms that the software still requires some tweaking. Still, there’s no doubt the 138bhp engine offers a decent amount of thrust when needed. It does get loud at the top of the rev range, but it’s a pleasant enough noise.

Sadly, our test route had far more straights than it did corners, so handling impressions remain limited. What we can say is that the steering offers nice weighting and is precise enough to make placing the car’s nose easy. There was a Sport mode but this added a barely perceptible amount of weight.

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I30 proto asd 298

Body roll was well contained but the streaming wet roads ensured we couldn’t really get the i30 loaded up that much. We can certainly believe that agility was high on the agenda, though; riding over potholed roads revealed some jostling of occupants. Saying that, the 17in wheels won’t have helped.

Still, body control felt tight, especially at motorway speeds, and the i30 has yet to see UK roads. Felix confirmed that other models had been driven across Britain, so there’s hope that it will work well over here, too. Hyundai recognises that our roads present a unique challenge, so UK-specific damper settings are certainly not an impossibility.

Should I buy one?

It’s far too early to give a meaningful verdict on the i30, but there’s some real promise from the engine and chassis while interior quality does seem to have received a lift.

The team we spoke to pointed out the progree Hyundai made with the original i30 over its predecessor and the subsequent improvements made to the second-gen model over the first. With similar gains promised for this incarnation, the C-segment looks to be more closely fought than ever.

2017 Hyundai i30 1.4 Turbo

Location Germany; On sale Early 2017; Price na; Engine 4 cyls, 1.4-litre, turbocharged, petrol; Power 138bhp Torque na Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic Kerb weight na; 0-62mph na; Top speed na; Economy na; CO2/tax band na

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Join the debate

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squelchuk 30 August 2016

Ride and body control

"We can certainly believe that agility was high on the agenda, though; riding over potholed roads revealed some jostling of occupants. Saying that, the 17in wheels won’t have helped."

I'm sorry, but if a car manufacturer is going to offer models on relatively large wheels - compared to the standard wheels for a model - then it should make sure the vehicle rides well on said wheels. Jag do it. They make it work for the biggest wheels on offer and then tailor it down.

Andrew 61 30 August 2016

Wait and see.

Jostling on German roads with relatively small, by today's standards, 17" wheels does not sound too promising on a family hatch with modest performance aspirations. Or was this the N model in disguise.
5wheels 30 August 2016

Solaris copy

Hyundai are very crafty at using different markets for different names and segments. This i30 is the hatch version of the Hyundai Solaris which is Russia only and made in St Petersburg. That said the fact they have finally changed engine gearbox and suspension which were all pretty poor, is only good news for the punter. With 5 year warranty and what has proved here to be a top seller ultra reliable everymans car bought by millions who once owned a Lada !