First Drive: Hyundai i30 Hatchback

We get behind the wheel of the latest generation of the Hyundai i30 to see how it stacks up against its rivals in terms of practicality, value for money and drivability.


What is it?

The i30 is a direct rival for the Volkswagen Golf, Seat Leon and Kia Cee'd. This is thanks to lots of room inside the cabin and a wide range of engines.

Whichever trim level you choose, there are good levels of equipment as standard, and it also feels like a very refined car with plenty of room throughout the cabin.

What's new?

This latest incarnation of the i30 hatchback is hugely improved over its predecessor, with an up to date interior and sharper exterior looks.

It also feels better to drive than before, with a very smooth ride. A lot more kit is also available, and if you specify a top of the range model like our test car, you get goodies such as heated leather seats, sat nav, climate control, an electric driver's seat, LED headlights and even a heated steering wheel.

What's under the bonnet?

Our car was fitted with a 1.4-litre petrol engine that develops 138bhp, goes from standstill to 60mph in 8.7 seconds and on to a top speed of 130mph. We also had the six-speed manual gearbox, although a seven-speed DCT automatic is also available.

There are two other engines to choose from – a 1.0-litre petrol that develops 118bhp, and a 1.6-litre turbocharged diesel with 116bhp under the bonnet.

With the 1.4-litre engine fitted, Hyundai claims 52.3mpg on the combined cycle, which was certainly achievable on our stint into London.

What's it like to drive?

Out on the road, the i30 hatch feels very refined and on country roads, rather nippy. It also handles well in the wet and gives you confidence thanks to plenty of grip.

A strong point is the ride. On even the most potholed surfaces, the i30 seemd to glide on, ironing out all but the harshest lumps and bumps.

The achillies heel of the i30, however, is a lack of acceleration. Plant your foot down and not a lot happens for what feels like a very long time, even in lower gears. It felt like turbo lag, although once actually up to speed it quietened down to a comfortable motorway cruiser.

Another issue is that the i30 just doesn't inspire any excitement as you drive it, something other manufacturers have managed to achieve in their mid-range hatches.
It doesn't feel horrible to drive by any means, it just fails to enthuse.

UK drive: Hyundai i30

UK drive: Hyundai i30

How does it look?

The i30 has moulded into a curvy, good-looking car that sits well in the executive car park. There is no wow factor though, and despite the premium spec, it tends to just blend into the background. If you don't have the LED headlights this makes it stand out even less.

Another issue the Hyundai has is a lack of badge appeal. If you're somebody who can look past this, however, you will have a very impressive car that might not hit the same mark in terms of quality as some other brands, but offers more for your money.

What's it like inside?

The cabin feels like a very pleasant place to be. Lots of soft touch plastics and an intuitive layout make the i30 a very pleasant place to be. The leather seats are especially good offering lots of comfort and support – handy for those lengthy journeys.

The build quality isn't up to German standards, but it's still impressive. There's also tons of room for four adults and their luggage, which can easily be swallowed up in the rather capacious boot. There is a load lip, but it's not too deep so bags can easily be lifted over.

What's the spec like?

Our car came in Premium SE trim, costing £24,240. This trim gives you a high level of tech on-board as standard, so no need to tick that options list. One surprise was a heated steering wheel, something you normally find on more premium vehicles.

Premium SE also includes LED headlights, a full leather interior with heated seats in the front, electrically adjustable drivers seat, satellite navigation, climate control, cruise control and a fully opening panoramic glass roof.

Verdict

The i30 hatch is a perfect family car. It has a large boot, lots of room in the cabin and is frugal whatever engine you choose. It also undercuts its nearest rivals on price and value for money kit wise. Hyundai also offers a five-year unlimited mileage warranty which makes ownership even more affordable thanks to a lack of bills should something go wrong, which it shouldn't considering the Korean automaker's excellent reliability statistics.