Review: Hyundai i30
IF, in buying a Focus-sized family hatchback, you merely want to buy a very good one and pay as little as possible for it, then Hyundai has a proposition for you – its second-generation i30. Smart, frugal, spacious and value-laden, this is one car that all the other big-volume manufacturers are keeping their eye on.
It says something about the progress Hyundai has made over the last few years that many will come to this car expecting dynamic standards that match the family hatchback class-leaders.
The sophisticated multi-link rear suspension that made the original version of this Korean design so surprisingly good in this respect has been retained – and improved to the point where on a poor surface, you really do feel like you're riding in something far more expensive.
No other car in this class is better at smoothing away Tarmac imperfections. Assuming you're not in a diesel model at start-up (where the engine can be a bit clattery) or cruising at high motorway speeds (where there's a bit of wind noise around the mirrors), it's also extremely quiet.
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All but entry-level variants get what's called a Flex Steer system, with a button on the wheel that enables you to switch between Comfort, Normal and Sport modes. Given that Comfort is rather light and Sport artificially heavy, you end up leaving it in Normal all the time, which rather defeats the point. It'd be better next time for the engineers to simply develop one set-up that's direct and incisive.
No complaints about the engine line-up on offer, though, an area in which Hyundai has clearly done its homework on what appeals to European customers.
There are no pointlessly powerful petrol engines or super-pricey hybrids. Just a sensible 100PS entry-level petrol 1.4 for youngsters and budget buyers, plus a 120PS auto-only petrol 1.6 for pensioners before you get into the meat of the range and the diesel variants that most i30 customers will actually choose.
The 1.6-litre CRDi unit is offered with either 90, 110 or 128PS. We'd choose the 110PS model, which offers by far the best blend of speed and economy.
If there was one area where the original i30 came up conspicuously short of the top family hatchbacks, it was styling. This design, though, is decidedly more distinctive, with a European feel that hints at Ford with its hexagonal grille or a little at Peugeot in the sharply sculpted wheelarches.
With this second-generation i30, we expected a smartening of the styling. An improvement in running costs. An addition of high-tech equipment. And an extra dose of quality. All of which have been duly delivered in an i30 that's predictably good.