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First Drive: Hyundai i30 car review


SIGNIFICANT milestones are coming thick and fast for Hyundai at the moment in the shape of sales, new models, quality and style. The new i30 is another; the first i-series car to replace another.

The first i30 replaced the Accent budget hatch and marked a huge step forwards for Hyundai. The latest one makes another quantum leap in terms of desirability, equipment and engineering with the aim of competing for sales with the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra.

And it does, make no mistake about it. Gone are the days when you could safely laugh at a small Korean hatchback. For starters it looks great from any angle. Young or old you’d be very happy to see this on your drive in the morning – although the 15-inch wheels on lower models look a bit too petite.

The i30 comes in four trim levels from the entry-level Classic to range-topping Style Nav, via Active and Style in between. The most popular is likely to be the Active, but you won’t feel short-changed with any of them.

Even Classic models, starting at £14,495, get Bluetooth, LED daytime running lights, steering wheel-mounted audio and telephone controls, air conditioning, electric front windows and heated mirrors, a height-adjustable driver’s seat and input sockets for MP3 players.

Active models add 15-inch alloy wheels, cruise control with a speed limiter, electric rear windows, a leather-covered steering wheel and gear stick, and rear parking sensors. The premium over Classic is £1,100.

For another £1,000 you can upgrade to Style, which in terms of kit knocks the socks off just about anything else for the price. On top of all the above it has dual-zone climate control, automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, electrically folding door mirrors with integrated LED indicators, two more speakers and front parking sensors.

Style Nav, for a further £1,000, adds a very effective navigation system and a seven-inch screen, a rear-view parking camera and speech recognition – in 10 languages, should you wish to give it instructions and practise your Portuguese at the same time.

All of these models undercut their rivals by a significant margin as well as offering more kit. The price difference when other cars are specced up to the same level is, well, quite large. For that reason and to keep operating costs down, the i30 doesn’t have a general options list.

Metallic paint is there for the choosing at a cost and it’s likely you will, since white is unfortunately the only flat paint choice. Other than that, only Style and Style Nav cars have access to one of the three option ‘packs’.

The Convenience Pack has a few useful and stylish additions; the Individual Pack adds real leather seats, fake leather on other contact points and a brilliant ‘Supervision’ LCD display on the instrument cluster, and finally Panoramic Sunroof, which being in the singular isn’t really a ‘pack’, but it does what it says on the tin.

In all models the overwhelming sense is of solidity; of genuine build quality. The plastics are decent, the interior is designed with sensible and practical flair and nothing rattles or squeaks. The seats, too, are instantly comfortable with a well-shaped backrest.

In terms of engines the diesels are likely to be popular. In 109bhp and 126bhp 1.6-litre guises they’re both available with Blue Drive eco-friendly tech that allows the i30 to dodge road tax, but even without the eco technology tax is cheap. The 1.4 diesel needs to be worked harder and comes in at 109g/km of CO2. There are also 1.4 and 1.6 petrol models, but the petrol engine technology lags behind some of the newest small-capacity turbocharged designs in the i30’s rivals.

With fuel economy claimed at way above 70mpg for the Blue Drive diesels they responds well to light throttle inputs, and since none of the engines are massively urgent that’s the best way to drive the car. Combined with remarkably low insurance ratings – noticeably lower than even the old i30 – the new model looks like quite the bargain.

It even feels stable through corners, and while the Flex Steer adjustable steering weight that’s standard on Active models and up has only a moderate impact on the way the car drives, the body stays quite flat which increases comfort if you need to make a brisk turn.

It’s a very satisfying car for the average person, this. You’re getting great value, lots of gadgets, genuinely high build quality, assured driving dynamics and low running costs. If you bought it, chances are that you’d be happy with it for years and then be sorry to see it go.

FACTS AT A GLANCE Model: Hyundai i30 Active 1.6 CRDi (110PS) Blue Drive.

Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel producing 109bhp and 192lb.ft.

Transmission: 6-speed manual gearbox, auto optional.

Performance: Top speed 115mph, 0-62mph in 11.5 seconds.

Fuel economy: 76.3mpg.

CO2 rating: 97g/km.

  • Enginesdiesel
  • Power3 (average performance)
  • 0-60 mph
  • Economy4 (better than average fuel economy)
  • CO2g/km
  • Insurance groups5 (very low costs)
  • Airbags
  • Seats5 value verdict:    stars

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