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Road tests

New Hyundai i30 prototype review

The Hyundai i30 has been facelifted for 2020. We hit the road in a prototype model ahead of its official arrival

Verdict

The new engine and trick transmission work well in the i30, so we’re keen to see certified numbers and try a longer test to rate its real-world economy. The rest of the car, though, remains somewhere around the middle of the family hatch pecking order. Pricing and finance deals will be key.

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The current Hyundai i30 has been with us for more than three years now. So this Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus rival has received some timely mid-life updates, and we’ve been able to try a prototype on UK roads.

The exterior tweaks to the i30 are minor, with a slightly wider front grille, slimmer headlights, different daytime running lights and a fresh rear bumper. Inside, there’s a seven-inch digital instrument cluster and a widescreen 10.25-inch infotainment system.

The big news comes under the bonnet, where there’s a new 1.5-litre petrol engine, called T-GDI, that has a 48-volt starter/generator which stores energy under braking and then uses it to aid acceleration. This 158bhp unit will be available with either a six-speed ‘intelligent’ manual gearbox (tested here) or a seven-speed dual-clutch. Hyundai UK says it will be available only in sporty N Line trim.

The engine feels punchy enough in a car of the i30’s size, and the mix of ISG and turbocharger gives it a fair amount of low to mid-range shove. The best work is completed by 2,500rpm, which is just as well, because it starts to sound a bit coarse at 3,000rpm.

The manual gearbox has a pleasingly mechanical shift and a well judged throw. But behind the scenes, the new transmission is able to decouple the engine from the gearbox when the driver lifts off the accelerator – in effect, to activate coasting, either by bringing the revs back down to idle or by turning off the motor altogether.

It works well; you’ll notice the rev counter jump around as the transmission works its magic, but it never compromises the driving experience. It just saves you fuel, in theory – although we’ve yet to see any official CO2 emissions or economy figures.

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