Our verdict on the new, high-quality Hyundai i30 hatchback – can it compete with the Focus?
The i30 can compete with the best on space, style, quality and value. Low emissions and high mpg from the diesel both impress, even if performance is a little flat. Comfort is prioritised over handling, but the i30 is an interesting and tempting alternative to a Focus or a Golf. Hyundai is taking a more daring approach with the new i30 – whereas the current car is dull, but worthy, the new model remains worthy, but with a great deal more pizzazz.
From the fancy LED driving lights, through some striking and pronounced curves around the front wheelarches and down the flanks, to a pert and attractive rear end, the look is smart and very European. Which is spot on for a car that’s built in Europe – the Czech Republic to be precise.
It’s a similarly stylish story inside, where high-quality, soft-touch plastics adorn an attractive cabin that’s a lot like Hyundai’s bigger Mondeo-rivalling i40.
And there’s much to like – the layout is clear and the driving position is good, but the view over your shoulder is challenged by the narrowing window line, a victim of those curvy lines.
It’s a good job the top two trim levels (Style and Premium) will have a standard reversing camera, with the pictures displayed on the standard sat-nav system.
In fact, standard is a word you tend to use a lot when talking about Hyundais – leather and a glass roof were also on the Premium car we drove. Even entry-level Classic and level two Active will come generously kitted out for the cash.
The range will kick off at around £14,000 when the i30 goes on sale in March, starting with a 1.4 petrol. There’s also a 1.6 petrol plus two 1.6 diesels – we drove the more powerful 128bhp diesel rather than the 110bhp version, but they share excellent economy and CO2 figures of 76mpg and 97g/km, so are exempt from road tax.
The diesel impresses with its refinement on the move and the smoothness of its power delivery, but there’s not too much of it – it’s not especially punchy. Nor is the car a great handler, with quite a bit of body roll and steering that turns the car well enough, but fails to provide much feel of the road.
This isn’t a sports car, though, and for most people the handling and steering will be just fine. They’ll be more interested by a ride that just edges on to the firm side of comfortable.
What everyone will enjoy is the amount of space – the i30 has room for five and one of the biggest boots in the class.
* Price: £14,000 (est)
* Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 128bhp
* Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
* 0-60mph: 10.9 seconds
* Top speed: 122mph
* Economy: 76mpg
* CO2: 97g/km
* Equipment: Bluetooth, cruise control, heated seats, reversing camera, xenon lights
* On sale: March