It's not fashionable being a budget car maker. Despite making an impact with its cheap and cheerful models, Hyundai wants to shift upmarket - and has set its sights sky high.
With the genuine aim of becoming a desirable mainstream brand, the Korean company has a mountain to climb - and the i30 is arguably its most important model ever.
Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Hyundai i30
If the newcomer looks rather familiar, that's because it's the sister car to Kia's new Cee'd. A fresh grille, snappier headlights and tall rear lamps reaching all the way to the roof mark the Hyundai out, resulting in a modern and handsome, if rather bland, shape.
It's not as inspired as the surprising Arnejs concept seen at the 2006 Paris Motor Show, but is easily strong enough to force the firm's Accent and Elantra into early retirement.
The plain, but effective, design continues inside. The dashboard is clearly laid out, with neat blue-backed LCD screens for the stereo, while material quality is impressive. Soft-touch plastics also add to an upmarket feel.
Space is on a par with the Ford Focus and VW Golf, thanks to the longest wheelbase in the sector. There's decent room for adults in the rear, and the boot can swallow 340 litres of luggage with the seats up, and a healthy 1,300 litres when folded flat. Kit is also generous, with even entry-level Comfort models getting a socket on the centre console for USB sticks and MP3 players. And air-conditioning comes as standard, too. The range-topping Premium model adds climate control, 17-inch alloy wheels and heated leather seats.
Power for the i30 comes from the same range of engines as the Cee'd, which means 1.4 and 1.6-litre petrol units and 1.6 and 2.0-litre diesels. Our test car had the 1.6-litre oil-burner, and with 113bhp, plus 255Nm of torque, it's very flexible.
The 0-62mph benchmark takes 11.6 seconds, and with a well spaced five-speed gearbox - a four-ratio automatic is also available - there's plenty of overtaking punch, too.
However, what really sets the i30 apart from any other Hyundai hatchback is its chassis. Despite the fact the suspension is tuned more for comfort than the Ceed's, the i30 suffers no excessive body roll. You also get a surprising amount of feedback from the steering wheel, although there is still a slightly artificial feel.
At first glance, our model doesn't seem particularly cheap at £15,595. But when you add in the excellent equipment tally, a five-year unlimited mileage warranty and the fact that it's at least £1,000 less than the equivalent Ford Focus, it makes more sense... until you look at the Cee'd. The Kia gets a seven-year warranty and its top-spec model costs £14,245. Nevertheless, while the i30 probably won't set any pulses racing, it's still Hyundai's best hatchback to date, and well worth a look.
* Price: £15,595
* Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 113bhp
* 0-62mph: 11.6 seconds
* Top speed: 117mph
* Transmission: Five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
* Economy: 60.1mpg
* CO2: 125g/km
* Standard equipment: Six airbags, climate control, heated seats, USB/MP3 player connectivity, parking sensors, 17-inch alloys
* On sale: September