Hyundai i30 review
Bold styling, a classy interior and decent dynamics make the Hyundai i30 a genuine rival to the VW Golf
The latest Hyundai i30 has been tasked with toppling the VW Golf and Ford Focus from the top of the family hatchback class. It’s not a class leader but it does get an upmarket interior, a great-value price tag, low CO2 emissions and an excellent five-year warranty. In fact, it’s so good that our sister title CarBuyer.co.uk crowned it its inaugural Car of the Year in 2012. As well as the five-door hatchback, Hyundai also offers a larger i30 Tourer estate model, which offers a 528-litre load area, which can be expanded to 1642 litres when the rear seats are folded. A three-door model joined the line-up at the beginning of 2013. Unlike rivals like the Kia Pro_cee’d, the i30 three-door uses the exact same platform as the standard car but it does get a more steeply raked beltline for a more dynamic look and longer doors to aid access to the rear seats.
Our choice: i30 1.6 CRDi Blue Drive Active
The sharp new look is influenced by the firm’s dramatic ‘fluidic sculpture’ design language that debuted on the larger i40. And compared to the old car and its conservative styling, the latest model has bags of kerb appeal. The three-door model is even better looking, with improved proportions, a new front end and lots of sporty touches like tinted windows on most models. On the inside, build quality is impressive but there are still some hard plastics and shiny surfaces. It can’t quite rival the VW Golf for upmarket appeal, but it’s more than a match for the Ford Focus and Mazda 3. There are five trim levels to choose from. Entry-level Classic cars get LED running lights, steering-wheel-mounted controls and Bluetooth, but do without alloy wheels and the bold chrome grille seen on every other model. Active models get 15-inch alloys, cruise control, rear parking sensors and an adaptive steering system. Style models get larger wheels, front parking sensors and automatic headlights, while Style Nav trim brings sat-nav and a rear view camera. Range-topping Premium cars come with new 17-inch alloys, chrome door handles, electric mirrors, leather upholstery, an electric driver’s seat, heated front seats and keyless starts.
The latest i30 is much more enjoyable to drive than the old car. It offers decent handling but lacks the dynamic polish of its more popular rivals. And while the three-door model looks sportier, it doesn't feel any more dynamic from behind the wheel. There’s a decent amount of grip, and while there’s some body roll in corners, it’s largely kept in check. Active versions and above get the brand’s new Flex steer system, which allows drivers to choose from Comfort, Normal and Sport settings. Accessed via a button on the wheel, it alters the weighting of the steering to suit road conditions and your mood. However, although the set-up is direct, it lacks the feedback you get in a Ford Focus or VW Golf. The ride quality is good, although it can’t iron out imperfections as well as the VW. It thumps into potholes at low speed, while motorway expansion joints resonate through the cabin. As with the old car, buyers have a choice of 1.4-litre and 1.6-litre petrol and diesel engines. The pick of the range is the 1.6-litre CRDi, as it’s a smooth and punchy performer in both 108bhp and 126bhp guises. All models get a slick six-speed manual gearbox, while a six-speed automatic is available as an option.
Hyundai has earned itself a great reputation for reliability over the last couple of year. The previous-generation car took the overall honours in the 2010 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, and there’s no reason to doubt the new version won’t prove to be just as trouble-free. The latest was still too new to have made an appearance in the 2012 results, but the old car finished 15th, while the manufacturer finished just ahead of Mercedes and Porsche to take seventh place. As for safety, it has a five-star Euro NCAP rating. All versions come fitted with ESP, six airbags and Isofix child seat fixings, while a driver’s knee airbag is available as an option.
The five-door i30 has a 378-litre boot, which means it’s well up to the class standards - it’s just 2 litres less than the VW Golf and 62 litres more than the Focus hatch. The boot is a good shape on both the five and three-door models, and it expands to create a respectable 1,316-litre load area with the rear seats folded. There’s plenty of room up front for the driver and passenger to lounge around, while the rear bench will easily accommodate three adults. What’s more, the flatter transmission tunnel means the middle seat is less restrictive. There’s also plenty of cabin storage, with all models getting deep door bins, an air-conditioned glovebox and useful lidded cubby between the front seats.
The most efficient i30 is the 1.6 CRDi Blue Drive. The 108bhp model promises to return a city car-rivalling fuel consumption figure of 76.3mpg and emits only 97g/km of CO2, making it free to tax and exempt from the London Congestions Charge. A more powerful 128bhp unit delivers equally impressive figures of 74.3mpg and 100g/km, thanks to a standard-fit stop-start system. But all versions should be quite cheap to run, as even the entry-level 1.4-litre 98bhp petrol engine manages to return average mpg of more than 47 with CO2 emissions of 139 g/km. Every i30 comes with a decent haul of equipment, as well as Hyundai’s excellent five-year warranty and free breakdown assistance package. Low prices means it will cost you less to buy than many of its more premium rivals, too. One of the i30’s biggest problems, though, are its poor residual values, with even the best performing versions only holding onto around forty per cent of their value after three years.