Hyundai i30

13 Feb, 2012 4:54pm Luke Madden

Is the all-new Hyundai i30 a genuine rival for the Ford Focus and VW Golf? We drive it to find out


The all-new Hyundai i30 isn’t the best car in this class – although the margins are extremely fine – but it certainly looks like it offers the best value for money. Avoid the automatic if you can, and you’ll be buying a great all-rounder.
The Hyundai i30 was released in 2007 and sold well because it was cheaper than other compact hatchbacks such as the VW Golf and Ford Focus, not because it was as good as them. Now there’s a new i30, and, just like before, it’s cheaper, but this time it’s promising to be just as capable as established rivals. 

While the old i30 didn’t create much of an impression in the flesh, the new car is a real head-turner. The headlights are intricately detailed, there’s a pair of smart LED daytime running lights and bold curves run down the flanks. 

Inside, the hard plastics found in the first i30 have made way for a premium interior trimmed with soft-touch plastics on the dashboard and door panels. Gloss black details and brushed silver inserts add a touch of class that shifts the i30 ever closer to the kind of interiors we expect from the VW Golf. 

And the driving experience is almost on a par, too. Refinement has clearly been improved, with the 1.6-litre diesel in our model proving to be immensely quiet and rattle-free at low revs. 

Our first complaint though, comes with the power delivery of the 126bhp 1.6 CRDi engine. While most diesels can create the illusion of fast acceleration with a punchy mid-range, this unit doesn't quite have that punch – despite the 10.9 second 0-62mph time. The optional six-speed automatic worsens this problem but provides smooth and hassle-free progress.

But that's not the only reason you should opt for the manual over the automatic gearbox. The manual-equipped 109bhp and 126bhp diesels are both congestion charge and road tax exempt, thanks to CO2 emissions of 100g/km. The six-speed automatic – which is only available with the 109bhp engine –emits 145g/km. It shows in the fuel economy figures, too, which worsen from an incredible 74.3mpg to an average-for-the-class 51.4mpg. 

On the plus side, the i30 doesn’t do much else wrong. The ride is comfortable, the cabin is spacious for tall passengers, the boot is big enough for their bags and the handling is good – although not exactly thrilling. That’s despite Hyundai's new Flex Steer system being fitted to our car, which allows drivers to switch between Comfort, Normal and Dynamic modes. The latter simply adds more weight, but not really any more feedback.

So the Hyundai i30 is closer than ever in performance to cars like the Golf and Focus, and it's getting close on price, too. Our fully-specced 1.6 CRDi Style Nav model costs £20,295, while a 1.6 TDI Golf Match costs £20,305. The equipment lists are virtually identical too, but the i30 offers sat-nav, a reversing camera and automatic climate control as standard. 

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VW boss Mr W spotted some things the i30 does better than the golf.

Old hag old boss Piech also did this many years ago when he touched the gap in the hardtop in the M3 cabrio, saying it was too big until he found out it was aluminum for weight save.

£21k for a small hyundai hatch? ok, its well equipped, but just try telling someone that in 3yrs time. performance looks dismal as well, 0=60

0-60 in 12.3sec? CO2 145/km, 51.4mpg from a small ''modern'' diesel? scrap this auto version, its an utter failure. waste of time & money.

to buy second hand

Looks good undercuts rivals and has a 5 year warranty,it's a no brainer sooner have this (Manual Version) than an overpriced Vauxhall or ugly Ford. what's the point then?

It will depreciate more than the VW so you may as well buy a Golf & be done with it.

At that rate it would be more expensive than a Golf - surely some mistake?

Hi @penncv3 - we're afraid the price is not a typo. But as we've put in the copy, an equivalent Golf would be around £900 more expensive than the i30 we've driven here.

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It's better than most Hyundais - not bad at all from the outside. But why oh why the alien dash? Have the designers been watching too many 'B' movies? The invasion of the car-body snatchers!

It's a shame that value auto makers decide to compete with the Germans, it makes them far less attractive and so not many people would pay almost the same price for a Hyundai as a VW, I wouldn't that's for sure!

While the mystique of VW quality endures (whether this quality is real or simply a perception reinforced by hype and clever marketing?) then I don't see anyone paying out the same amount for a Hyundai as a Golf - no matter how good it is?
Always stikes me as starnge that "so called" quality cars from folks like VW aren't backed up by better warranties? Surely if VW really thought their cars were that good they'd put their money where their mouth is and provide a 5 year warranty such as that provided by Hyundai??

Key specs

* Price: £20,295
* Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl diesel, 126bhp
* Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
* 0-62mph: 10.9 seconds
* Economy: 74.3mpg
* CO2: 100g/km
* Equipment: Bluetooth, cruise control, heated seats, reversing camera, xenon lights, sat-nav
* On sale: March