After years of promise, Hyundai has finally delivered a family hatchback that can fight for class honours. The latest i30, launched earlier this year, combines decent driving dynamics, a spacious cabin and an excellent five-year warranty. Further highlights include an efficient diesel engine, loads of standard kit and a great-value price.
It looks the part, too. With its mix of sharp creases and bold curves, the Hyundai attracts more attention than the conservatively styled Golf, while a gaping, chrome-trimmed front grille and distinctive LED daylight running lights add to the car’s visual appeal.
Inside, Hyundai has tried to be equally daring. However, while the angular dash design is eye-catching, it’s not as well laid-out as rivals’ – you need to stretch to reach some of the stereo and sat-nav controls.
Still, the cabin is solidly built from quality materials and comes packed with standard kit, including sat-nav and climate control. You’ll pay an extra £1,665 to add these features to the VW.
Like both of its rivals, the Hyundai will accommodate five adults at a pinch, with those in the back getting a decent amount of head and legroom. And with deep door bins, a lidded centre console cubby and a large, air-conditioned glovebox, the i30 isn’t short of useful storage space. There’s also a generous 378-litre boot, which extends to a respectable 1,316 litres when the standard 60:40 split rear seat is folded flat.
Under the Hyundai’s bonnet is the same smooth and punchy 126bhp 1.6-litre diesel that’s used in the Kia. However, as the i30 we drove had higher mileage than our Cee’d test car, it put on a stronger display at the test track. Even so, it needed 10.6 seconds to complete the sprint from 0-60mph, which is only two tenths quicker than the less powerful Golf.
In the real world, you won’t really notice the difference between our contenders, as the Hyundai feels keen and responsive, while its six-speed manual box benefits from a precise gearshift action. The i30 also delivers a composed and confidence-inspiring performance through a series of corners.
There’s plenty of grip and decent body control, while the steering is direct and accurate. However, as with the Kia, the different steering modes are a bit gimmicky. Comfort feels too light and Sport is artificially heavy. Normal is best for most situations, as it offers the most natural responses.
The payoff for the Hyundai’s agility is an extremely stiff ride. At low speeds it thumps and jolts its way over potholes and expansion joints, while it constantly fidgets on the motorway.
At £20,295, the i30 undercuts the Golf by £150, while its 43.8mpg fuel economy was the lowest on test. Yet it’s backed by a generous five-year warranty and buyers can choose a great-value pre-paid servicing pack.
Factor in the attractive styling, long list of standard kit and practical cabin, and the Hyundai makes a strong case for itself.
Chart position: 3WHY: Impressive new i30 shares much of its underpinnings with the Kia, plus is attractively styled, practical and very cheap to run.