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First drive: Hyundai i30. Image by Hyundai.

First drive: Hyundai i30
Classier and more refined than ever before, the sensible Hyundai i30 is a fine five-door hatch.


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Hyundai i30

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Hyundai targets the top end of the C-segment hatchback market with the third iteration of its always-competent i30 hatch. The newcomer is fitted with loads of kit and still comes with an alluring five-year unlimited mileage warranty, but now it has some additional quality mixed in. It's just a shame that Hyundai missed out on a vital pinch of excitement that might have transformed the i30 hatchback into a truly great-tasting recipe.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Hyundai i30 1.4 T-GDi Premium SE DCT
Pricing: i30 from £16,995; 1.4 T-GDi Premium SE DCT from £24,495
Engine: 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, seven-speed DCT automatic
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 125g/km (VED Band D, £0 first 12 months, £110 annually thereafter if registered before April 1, 2017; £160 first 12 months, £140 annually thereafter if registered post-April 1, 2017)
Combined economy: 51.4mpg
Top speed: 127mph
0-62mph: 9.2 seconds
Power: 140hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 242Nm at 1,500rpm

What's this?

Hyundai finessing its ever-impressive i30 mid-sized hatchback (or Volkswagen Golf, if you want the yardstick in this segment as an easier way of understanding the Korean's placing) for the third generation. The i30 first arrived in 2007 and it hit the showrooms after years of underwhelming, cheap-and-cheerful, never-mind-the-quality-look-at-the-quantity machines from this Korean carmaker; things like the Accent and the (shudder) Pony. Since the advent of the i30, Hyundai as a brand has just been getting better and better, and as the company's i10 city car and its Tucson and Santa Fe SUVs are some of the best machines in their respective classes, we have very high hopes for this latest i30.

It comes to the UK in a range made up of three engines - two petrol, one diesel, all turbocharged - and five trim grades. Entry point is the charismatic three-cylinder 1.0-litre T-GDi petrol unit with 120hp/171Nm, while the new 1.4 T-GDi driven here delivers 140hp and 242Nm; most sales in the UK, though, are expected to go to the 1.6-litre CRDi unit with 110hp and 280Nm. Both the 1.4 and the diesel can be optionally fitted with the seven-speed DCT automatic gearbox (£1,000), whereas the 1.0 T-GDi comes only with the six-speed manual that is standard fit across the line-up.

Of those top-selling diesels, the predicted best specification is the middling SE Nav (£20,645), but you can get into an i30 from as little as £16,995. That would be for the lovely 1.0 as an S. Above that is SE (+£1,700, and the CRDi is available from this point), then SE Nav (a further £950 for satnav plus voice recognition and Qi wireless smartphone charging, and this is the first stage at which you can bag the 1.4, as well as the highest grade available on the 1.0). Top grades are Premium (+£1,800 on an SE Nav) and Premium SE (another £1,300), while even the lowliest S cars come with 15-inch alloys, DAB radio with a USB socket and Bluetooth, a multifunction steering wheel, LED daytime running lights and electric windows all round. By contrast, top models are bells-and-whistles loaded, but you only have to step up to SE for a reversing camera and rear parking sensors plus the leather-wrapped steering wheel, while of course SE Nav is where satnav appears and the attractive centre screen in the dash gets boosted to the eight-inch item as a result. So equipment levels are generous across the board, certainly when you consider the list prices and the additional peace of mind brought about courtesy of the five-year, unlimited mileage warranty on all Hyundais.

That just leaves us considering the aesthetics, inside and out. In the former department, it's a big tick from us. Granted, it's not the most visually arresting dashboard and, if you really search hard enough, you might find some slightly substandard plastics, but in essence this is a spacious, comfortable, well-equipped and intuitively laid-out interior. It might not quite be Golf-rivalling in terms of haptics and finish, but it's certainly up amongst the best cabins of the chasing pack.

So what about that exterior? A bit derivative? Well... yes, it is, but there's only so much you can do with the basic hatchback shape of two blobs of metal, and although you'll see a lot of European vehicles in the i30's physical make-up (Peugeot 308 and Fiat Tipo in profile, BMW 1 Series and that bloody Golf again at the rear), it's worth bearing in mind the fact the Hyundai has been developed, styled and built in Europe, so it's bound to look a lot like its main rivals. It does have a distinctive face, with a new style of hexagonal grille the company is calling 'descending' and which is supposed to invoke two hands gently holding the Hyundai badge (hmmmm...), and some neat details like the small 'quarterlight' in the C-pillar and the blacked-out rear roof spoiler, but striking and daring to behold? No, not the i30.

How does it drive?

Absolutely fine and we managed to try all three engines and both gearboxes on the launch, although each car seemed to be in a specification that was dripping with every conceivable toy. We have no issues with the seven-speed DCT auto, which didn't sequentially step down through multiple cogs when holding a constant throttle on mild inclines (we've recently found different in some Kias using the same transmission), and certainly no issues with the ride quality (magnificent) nor the overall refinement levels (excellent, if not quite approaching flawless) on all three powerplants, so for the simple act of transportation the Hyundai i30 is comfortably as good as anything in class.

What that conclusion doesn't explicitly state, of course, and something which speaks volumes about the Hyundai's reserved character, is that the i30 is not quite so impressive if you're after a keen steer. Much mention was made of that fabled development track in western Germany (you know the one - often informally called the Green Hell) and while there's a clean, unflustered cornering demeanour to the i30, it never at any point feels like it wants to entertain you. A resolutely inactive rear axle is one major factor in this safely-safely approach, although the three-mode steering (Eco, Normal and Sport) is the bigger bugbear; Hyundai and, by extension, Kia, has not yet managed to master this sort of feature. All you get from setting to setting are additional dollops of inconsistent, artificial weighting and nothing extra in the way of feel.

The uninvolving chassis and that numb steering therefore discourage hoonery, which is a shame because there's little body roll to report and a front end that's reasonably resistant to understeer. It also makes choosing your preferred motive power a bit of a non-event - the 1.0-litre is naturally the most appealing, what with its cheaper purchase prices, three-cylinder soundtrack and smoothness during revs, while the diesel will give you back the best economy of the lot (but it costs £1,000 more than the equivalent 120hp petrol option and it's not the finest compression ignition engine we've ever encountered).

You might therefore be tempted to think the freshly introduced 1.4 T-GDi would be the way to go, but it is found on the more expensive branches of the i30 family tree and it doesn't feel appreciably faster than either of the other two motors; it also sounds a little coarse when homing in on 6,000rpm, which is where peak power is delivered. And for getting on for 25 grand in the test car's specification, that seems a lot of money for a machine that you can't unequivocally say is on the class podium. We'd therefore advocate a 1.0 T-GDi SE Nav for £19,645 as being the sweet spot of the i30 MkIII range.


If you've read all of the above and wonder why we've given the Hyundai four stars, instead of three-and-a-half or even three, allow us to explain. It is not one of the finest driver's cars in the sector - not by a long chalk. Cycle through any of the engines and all you get is willing but modest performance, and no matter which one you pick, none of these motors can enliven the staid chassis nor negate the i30's rather lifeless steering.

However, consider comparative C-segment rivals - how many of them are genuinely fun to drive? OK, the Ford Focus, Mazda3, Peugeot 308 and SEAT Leon are all a touch sharper in the handling department, but in mid-spec diesel trim, or sporting one of their little three-cylinder motors? None of them are what you'd call thrilling. And other competitors, like the Renault Megane, outgoing Honda Civic, the Nissan Pulsar (yawn...) and - most crucially of all - everyone's darling of this segment, the Volkswagen Golf... none of these are any more exciting than the Hyundai (hot models notwithstanding, although there will be an i30 N performance derivative later this year).

So, as it has handsome looks, a really good interior, that five-year warranty and an absolute plethora of toys for a reasonable outlay, then unless you're actually going to head off to the Nürburgring in your Hyundai, there's very little to fault about the cultured way the i30 goes about its business. For those reasons, we therefore think it's one of the stronger cars in the class - but we are waiting for that N version for a scintilla more excitement from the Koreans.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

3 3 3 3 3 Driving Dynamics

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Powertrain

Matt Robinson - 18 Jan 2017    - Hyundai road tests
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2017 Hyundai i30. Image by Hyundai.2017 Hyundai i30. Image by Hyundai.2017 Hyundai i30. Image by Hyundai.2017 Hyundai i30. Image by Hyundai.2017 Hyundai i30. Image by Hyundai.

2017 Hyundai i30. Image by Hyundai.2017 Hyundai i30. Image by Hyundai.2017 Hyundai i30. Image by Hyundai.2017 Hyundai i30. Image by Hyundai.2017 Hyundai i30. Image by Hyundai.


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