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Review: Hyundai i30 range

Hyundai hopes its i30 can push up and out of the budget hatchback sector to challenge the mainstream brands. It might just manage it. Steve Walker reports

The launch period for a new car must be a nerve-wracking time for the manufacturer.

After years of painstaking development and testing conducted within the cosy confines of the organisation, all that remains is to load up the transporters, throw open the showroom doors and see what happens. When there’s millions, if not billions, in development budget riding on a product, the prospect of it standing or falling on the poison pens of a contrary press corps or the fickle whims of the motoring public must really concentrate the mind. Except, not in the case of Hyundai’s i30.

The i30 is Hyundai’s version of the Cee’d which is sold by its subsidiary company Kia and was given a head start of six months or so on the UK market. The Cee’d received a glowing response from all quarters, setting standards in quality and sophistication never before approached by a Korean marque in the European marketplace. There was the slight caveat inserted by some that the Cee’d was good ‘for a south east Asian product’ but I’d say it was good full stop. And so is the i30. The existence of its Cee’d forerunner removed some of the uncertainty from the i30’s entry into the marketplace but now it’s here the car must do battle with the established big guns of the family hatch sector for the affections of UK car buyers and just being good may not be good enough.

A full complement of engines is offered with the i30 and that includes a pair of CRDi common-rail diesels with variable geometry turbocharging for improved refinement. The entry-point into i30 ownership is the 1.4-litre petrol with a not inconsequential 107bhp and then you have the 124bhp 1.6. The diesels are 1.6 and 2.0 in capacity with outputs of 113 and 138bhp respectively. The engine range itself is a wide one then, even if none of the units on offer are particularly heart stopping in their performance. The big diesel’s 304Nm maximum torque helps it to a 0-62mph time of 10.3s and it will roll on to a 127mph top speed. All models get 5-speed manual transmission except the 2.0-litre which has a 6-speed box and a four-speed automatic which is available with the 1.6-litre engines in the Premium trim level.

"The i30 has been designed specifically for the European market and benchmarked against class leaders"

As well as ABS braking with brakeforce distribution, all i30 models feature ESP stability control which is a laudable inclusion and emblematic of Hyundai’s intention for the car to compete in the upper reaches of the family hatchback segment. Further safety provision comes in the form of twin front and side airbags plus full length curtain airbags.

The i30 has been designed specifically for the European market and benchmarked against class leaders like the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus. Like those two cars but unlike many of the other established names in the sector, the i30 has fully-independent suspension all round or at least a version of it. In fact, the rear suspension is a kind of independently suspended torsion beam, a kind of halfway house solution between proper independently sprung models and those that settle for an old fashioned torsion beam. Independent springs give a suppler ride and more composed handling but the torsion beam is a more compact arrangement so it helps with packaging issues and interior space. The i30’s set-up is a compromise between the two.

Hyundai has ascended the ranks of the UK car market with a succession of models based on the familiar ‘high specification, low price’ mantra. The i30’s intended move into the family hatch mainstream has seen things change somewhat. Affordability will still form a big part of the i30’s appeal but with values starting at around £11,500 for the five-door hatch and rising to around £17,000, it’s not cheap in the way its Accent predecessor was. Three trim levels are available - Comfort, Style and Premium - and these are fairly self explanatory in that Comfort keeps it simple, Style adds a vaguely sporty element and Premium shovels on more luxurious features. Buyers can also select the estate version with its larger carrying capacity.

Road burning performance isn’t the strong suit of the i30’s engine range but these units are well capable of administering a mild kicking if challenged on grounds of economy. Official figures reveal a 46.3mpg showing for the 1.4-litre with the 1.6 returning 45.6. The 1.6-litre diesel returns an impressive 62.8mpg and the 2.0-litre, a less eye-catching 51.4mpg. On emissions, the smaller oil-burner is once again the best of the bunch with as little as 119g/km of CO2 produced with the manual transmission and that could set the seal on this model as the pick of the engine range. Depreciation has been a dirty word at Hyundai in the past put the improvements in quality and desirability the i30 makes should go a little way towards addressing this.

If this was a budget hatchback in the mould of Hyundai’s previous offerings in this sector, it would probably be marked down as a good-looking vehicle but Hyundai have pitched the i30 into the mainstream and it should be judged by those standards. It is, therefore, a tad dull to look at but it’s genuinely difficult to strongly criticise the car on any other criteria.

The i30 was designed specifically to raise the profile of Hyundai in the big European markets and it’s a significant step in the right direction. Hyundai may lack the brand profile to compete with more established names head on but with a few more products of the i30’s calibre, its upward progression could be swift.

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