Sector: Lower Medium Price: £14,495-£20,795 Fuel: 41.5-76.3mpg CO2: 97-145g/km
It’s almost five years since the outgoing i30 first arrived in the UK, and the car has achieved an impressive sales record since. Unusually, it’s managed to grow its UK sales each year since launch, with the originally European-market model extended to markets all over the world, including Korea and the United States. So it’s built a decent platform for the all-new car to work with, but also is a tough act to follow.
It bodes well that the new car is a huge step forward in every respect compared to its already able predecessor. Whereas the last model had a distinct family resemblance to the Kia Cee’d, both manufacturers have worked hard to give the replacements their own identity. In the i30’s case, this has meant fitting the flared arches and hexagonal snout from the i40, which translates better here than it does on the facelifted i10.
There’s a similar story inside. The old i30 had designs on offering European interior build, but ultimately fell slightly short of the mark. Its replacement has a functional but visually appealing dashboard, with a step up in build quality that makes it feel like it’s skipped a generation. This is now every bit as well-designed and well-finished as a European car, and incredibly spacious both front and rear.
Engine choices are strong too, comprising two petrols at 1.4 and 1.6 litres, and a 1.4 and two 1.6-litre CRDi turbodiesels. Hyundai predicts the 1.6 CRDi will be the most popular of the pack, and appears to have spent the most time getting this one right.
Unusually, both offer lower CO2 emissions than the 1.4 thanks to the addition of the Blue Drive package, including low rolling resistance tyres, a stop/start system and alternator management, which charges the battery only during deceleration or times of reduced engine load.
As a result, the 109bhp version offers some of the lowest emissions in its class at 97g/km, while the 126bhp engine returns a no less impressive 100g/km with a manual gearbox. Coupled with Hyundai’s five-year warranty, roadside assistance and health check package, the manufacturer says the i30 will offer the lowest ownership costs in its segment, just like the larger i40.
The lower-powered version certainly doesn’t drive like an eco car. Hyundai benchmarked refinement against the sector-leading Volkswagen Golf, and it shows. The engine is incredibly quiet while cruising and not much more vocal when accelerating hard, which is impressive for such a small diesel.
And it’s plenty perky enough, too. There’s enough torque to make confident overtaking manoeuvres, and it’s happy to zip up to motorway speeds. Even the engine restarts while in traffic aren’t as jarring as some others in its class, and with a much slicker gearbox than the old i30 it’s rubbing shoulders with plenty of European rivals.
Options are well matched to the step up in quality. All models get Bluetooth connectivity and voice recognition with steering wheel audio and phone controls, as well as Hyundai’s stylish swooping LED driving lights and front fog lamps. Three of the four trims also feature Flex Steer, with switchable steering weights operated off the wheel itself, exactly where the button ought to be.
Like the i40, this is a very credible offering in a tough segment. And whereas the old model had traces of tacky Korean plastics inside, the new i30 finally feels up to the job of taking on the Europeans. If its predecessor’s record is anything to go by, it shouldn’t have a problem on its hands.
It’s become very difficult to find deal-breaking issues with the i30. Hyundai’s front end won’t appeal to everyone, but this is otherwise a solid, European-feeling car with very competitive ownership costs. Another sign that mainstream manufacturers have a lot to worry about in the latest Korean products.