Hyundai i30 vs rivals

The new Hyundai i30 is aiming for the front of the family car field – and to get there, it has to beat challenging rivals from VW, Ford and Mazda

Hyundai i30 vs rivals

Is Hyundai about to make the transition from plucky midfield runner to game-changer in the family hatch market? The company has always relied on value to get its cars noticed, but that isn’t enough to beat the best.

The all-new i30 has lofty ambitions and adds a welcome dose of style to the Hyundai formula. If it can also introduce a dash of dynamic finesse it could cause an upset, as the 1.6 CRDi tested here emits only 97g/km of CO2. It’s exempt from road tax and, in mid-range Active trim, is also the cheapest car in our test.

And what a test! Vying for honours with the new i30 are three of the best family hatchbacks around. For starters, the Volkswagen Golf is the class leader and the 1.6 TDI Match promises decent equipment and performance. The BlueMotion Technology version also boasts low CO2 emissions.

Next up is our second favourite car in this class: the Ford Focus. In 1.6 TDCi Zetec trim it’s good value and great to drive. And the model completing our family car line-up is no walkover, either. The Mazda 3 was revised earlier this year and is set to give the i30 a tough work-out.

Verdict

Introductions don’t come any tougher, but on this evidence the new Hyundai i30 is going to make a big impact. The old car was smart, reliable and good value, yet its replacement adds style and practicality to the mix.

Is that enough to beat the three best family hatchbacks around? Not quite, but second place is no mean feat. In the end, our test team couldn’t ignore the VW’s capable handling and superior comfort. And while the Golf costs more than its rivals, solid resale values mean it will be the most cost-effective choice for private buyers.

There’s little to choose between the Focus and i30. The Ford is great to drive, but the Hyundai has the edge in the race for second with its great aftersales package, fine value and superior fuel economy. And what of the Mazda? Keen drivers are likely to prefer it to the Focus, and it’s well priced, but the cramped cabin, dated styling and inferior refinement relegate it to fourth.

Winner
VW Golf
★★★★★

The VW remains the class leader, but the margin of victory in this test is small, and it carries a substantial price premium. Low long-term running costs are the pay-off for buyers, while the Golf’s classy and spacious interior, as well as its highly capable driving dynamics, take care of everything else.

2nd
Hyundai i30
★★★★

A fine second-place finish is a brilliant result for the new Hyundai i30. The car combines fuel-sipping thirst, road tax-exempt CO2 emissions and generous equipment in a smart and spacious hatch body. Only the bumpy ride and weak resale values let it down here.

3rd
Ford Focus
★★★★

Third place for the Ford isn’t a disaster. It’s competitively priced, roomy and fun to drive, but the diesel engine in the car tested here lacks punch and couldn’t match the fuel-sipping economy of its rivals. The small boot could also put off family buyers.

4th
Mazda 3
★★★★

We're huge fans of the Mazda 3. It’s clearly been designed to deliver driver thrills, so you get livewire handling, a rifle-bolt gearshift and strong performance. And only the i30 is cheaper to buy in this test. On the downside, refinement, space and style are all at a premium inside.

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