Hyundai i30 review
Bold styling, a classy interior and decent dynamics make the Hyundai i30 a genuine rival to the VW Golf
Hyundai has progressed from a budget manufacturer to a mainstream front-runner, and the i30 is a strong challenger in the hatchback class, thanks to its quality, space, efficiency and range of well equipped models.
The Hyundai i30 is the Korean brand’s rival to the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf and Kia Cee’d. Its high-quality dashboard, practical interior and efficient engines make it a rival to all three – and are proof of just how far Hyundai has progressed in the past 10 years.
It’s available with a choice of three body styles, with the five-door hatchback accounting for the bulk of i30 sales. However, if you want something with a bit more youth-appeal, Hyundai will offer you a three-door version, with a decent boot and the same range of efficient petrol and diesel engines.
If space is key, take a look at the practical i30 Tourer estate. This version offers a 528-litre load area, which can be expanded to 1,642 litres when the rear seats are folded.
Unlike the Kia Pro_cee’d, the i30 three-door uses the 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
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 three-door model is even better looking, with improved proportions, a new front end and lots of sporty touches like tinted windows and alloy wheels 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 Renault Megane or Toyota Auris.
There are four trim levels to choose from. Entry-level Classic cars get LED running lights, air-conditioning 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 front centre armrest.
Style models get larger alloy wheels, front parking sensors and dual-zone climate control, while Style Nav trim brings sat-nav and a rear view camera.
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.
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 2014 survey saw Hyundai fall to 18th out of 33 manufacturers - a four place fall on its 2013 result, which followed a seven place tumble the previous year. The current i30 did not feature, but the old model finished a not-too-shabby 58th out of 150 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.
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 76.3mpg and emits only 97g/km of CO2, making it free to tax.
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 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.