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First Drive: Hyundai i30 Fastback

A stylish coupé-like saloon extends the i30’s appeal, reckons Craig Thomas.

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SECTOR Lower Medium   PRICE £20,090-£24,940   FUEL 49.6-54.3mpg   ­ CO2 120-134g/km

Saloon sales have taken an SUV-shaped battering in the last decade, so carmakers have come up with the ruse of reinventing them as sportier, coupé-like cars in order to persuade us to buy them. The likes of the Mercedes-Benz CLS, Audi A5 and BMW 4 Series have therefore arguably kept saloons relevant in the company car market.

Most of these cars are traditionally sized executive saloons, but Hyundai is bucking the trend in a number of ways with its new i30 Fastback. Yes, there’s the Mercedes-Benz CLA, but this new car is the first C-segment coupé-like saloon in the mainstream market.

It’s a brave move: Hyundai is forecasting 600 will come to the UK in its first year, but admits that’s probably a conservative projection. It certainly won’t be a common sight on our roads, but it will be a welcome one, because the manufacturer has done a good job of translating the latest generation of its hatchback into a new bodystyle. The car is an elongated version of the hatch, an extra 115mm, but a reduction in the roof height of 25mm, to accommodate the gran turismo styling. The roof slopes gently towards the rear, leaving a solid C-pillar that helps give it some substance. Elsewhere, there are a few minor tweaks to the hatchback’s design, including a new ‘cascading’ grille and lower air intakes.

The good work Hyundai has done in improving its cabins recently continues in the i30 Fastback, with a solid build quality and decent materials, to create an ambience of functional elegance. The blue backlighting is perhaps starting to feel a tad passé, but the technology offering is still bang up to date, thanks to the likes of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

It also feels relatively spacious. The rear is roomy enough for six-footers, but that sloping roof might mean anyone taller may have to hunker down a little: thankfully, there’s enough legroom to ensure that’s possible. There’s also a 450-litre boot with a hatch-like aperture that offers lots of space: the high lip of the boot might make it tricky to load heavy objects, but other than that it’s fine.

At launch, there are just two petrol engine options (an all-new 1.6-litre diesel is set to arrive later this year). The overwhelmingly popular choice will be a 1.0 T-GDi turbocharged three-cylinder unit producing 118bhp. It feels peppier than the 11.5-second 0-62mph suggests, especially from a standing start, and the lightness of the engine certainly helps with the car’s dynamics, making it feel nicely balanced in the corners. The official 54.3mpg is likely to be as attainable as the fuel economy figures of every other three-pot on the market, but it’s definitely the engine best suited to the car.

The 1.4 T-GDi, which is available mated to a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, in comparison, feels a little sluggish, despite its extra 20bhp. The additional weight of the engine (especially with the auto ’box) also makes the i30 Fastback appreciably less engaging to drive.

What we think

A niche car without a diesel option, but the i30 Fastback is keenly priced, performs well and is stylish. Worth a look if you’re after something different.

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Craig Thomas

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