Hyundai i30 review
Bold styling, a classy interior and decent dynamics make the Hyundai i30 a genuine rival to the VW Golf
Hyundai is no longer the budget brand it once was – owing most of its success to the i30 hatchback, which remains a strong challenger in the family hatchback class thanks to its blend of space, running costs and standard equipment.
Previously available as a three or five-door hatchback, the former was dropped from the standard range at the start of 2015. Buyers can still opt for a more practical i30 Tourer if practicality is a priority, while if three doors is a must, Hyundai still offers it as an option on the flagship i30 Turbo.
Designed to rival cars like the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf and Kia Cee’d, all i30s come with a five-year, unlimited mileage warranty. There is a range of economical yet responsive petrol and diesel engines, and the high quality interior is a big step up from Hyundais of old.
Trim levels range from basic S, through mid-range SE and SE Nav to top-spec Premium. Entry-level cars get a 1.4-litre petrol engine, though we’d recommend the 1.6-litre diesel or 1.6-litre petrol for their improved performance and motorway refinement. All cars get Bluetooth, keyless entry and tyre pressure monitoring, with top-of-the-range Premium cars boasting 17-inch alloys, automatic lights and leather effect seats.
Our choice: i30 1.6 CRDi Blue Drive SE
Today, even mainstream five-door hatchbacks have to make an impact, and the Hyundai i30 is arguably one of the better-looking models on sale. All cars get bright LED daytime running lights, a hexagonal grille and sculpted lines that flow along the body to the high-set tail. As a result, it’s a lot more cohesive and attractive than the Nissan Pulsar.
The standard three-door model was dropped in 2015 due to poor sales, but you can still buy an i30 Turbo three door, if practicality isn’t a top priority.
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 or even the new Ford Focus for upmarket appeal, but it’s more than a match for the Renault Megane or Toyota Auris.
There are four trim levels to choose from. Gone are the Classic, Style and Style Nav cars, replaced by S, SE, SE Nav and Premium.
Basic S models are well equipped, but we’d step up to the SE, which adds 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, leather trim for the steering wheel and gearknob, and rear parking sensors. Premium cars get bigger wheels, auto lights and wipers, as well as dual zone climate, heated front seats and leather-effect tirm.
Inside, the dashboard centre console design is stylish, with its two-tone silver trim and quality materials. Yet while the switchgear has a quality feel, the driver has to stretch to reach some of the buttons on the left of the centre stack.
From behind the wheel it’s comfortable, the engine is relatively smooth and it’s easy to drive, if not particularly exciting. 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, you’ll struggle to notice the difference in each mode, and even Sport 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.
There’s a 184bhp i30 Turbo for performance fans, but it’s more of a warm hatch than a hot. It’s good to drive, with plenty of grip and very little body roll, but if you want strong performance too we’d recommend stepping up to a Ford Focus ST or VW Golf GTI.
Hyundai is gaining a reputation for making reliable cars, and its five-year warranty helps. It goes one better than Toyota’s 100,000-mile package by not having a mileage limit, and five years’ breakdown cover is also included.
The Driver Power 2015 survey saw Hyundai fall to 21th out of 32 manufacturers - a three place fall on its 2014 result, which amounts to a 14-place fall in recent years. The current i30 did not feature, but the old model finished a slight disappointing 103rd out of 200 cars.
Euro NCAP awarded the i30 the standard five-star crash test rating, and the hatch features six airbags, stability control, hill-start assist and emergency stop signalling as part of its list of standard safety kit.
The 378-litre boot capacity rises to 1,316 litres with the back seats folded - 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 – though it’s worth noting that only the i30 Turbo is available as a sleeker three-door.
There’s plenty of room up front for the driver and passenger, while the rear bench will easily accommodate three adults. This is helped by the fact that the middle seat benefits from a flat floor - freeing up space in the footwells. However, the small rear windows and black fabrics and plastic make it feel claustrophobic.
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 78.5mpg and emits only 94g/km of CO2, making it free to tax.
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 138g/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 most versions only holding onto around 39 per cent of their value after three years. But fixed-price servicing over three years of £349 for the petrol cars (£449 for the diesels) is competitive, and that standard five-year warranty is a big plus.