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.
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.
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.
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.
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.