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Road Test: Hyundai i30 Premium 1.6 CRDi

Can the i30 stand up to the C-segment’s most formidable rivals? Alex Grant finds out.

SECTOR: Lower Medium PRICE: £22,565 FUEL: 74.3mpg CO2: 99g/km

Hyundai i30

Hyundai i30

It’s the pre-requisite product for a volume manufacturer, but there are few models harder to get right than the familiar C-segment hatchback. Competing here means appealing to all ages and demographics while going up against household names – Astra, Focus and Golf among them – and plethora of well-rounded superminis, niche-filling crossovers, and premium brands. Diverse talents for one car.

So it says a lot about a brand’s credibility if it can muscle in on the best in this class; and the i30 has been quietly stepping up to the marque since the first generation launched back in 2008. Hyundai sees this as its “DNA car” – a model that has helped redefine the brand’s identity while shifting 800,000 units across Europe. That this latest version will include a fully-fledged hot hatch speaks volumes about the confidence of its parent company.

Hyundai has every reason to feel confident. Designed under the watch of Peter Schreyer, it’s matured into a conservative but good-looking hatchback. Arguably it’s lost some of the visual appeal of its predecessor when it launched, but that toned-down styling should do it favours in the long term – not to mention helping it to age better. It also means lower-spec versions are less prone to looking under-wheeled.

Hyundai i30

Hyundai i30

The cabin takes an even bigger generational step forwards; a new horizontal design with accents of silver and chrome and phosphor blue illumination, grouping most controls near the gearstick and with an 8.0-inch touchscreen rising out of the centre of the dashboard. It can’t match the Golf for materials – that’s not an uncommon compliant in this segment – but it’s intuitive, well built and consistent, all of which does a better job of benchmarking the European brands than its predecessor.

That’s also true of the way it drives. Nürburgring testing might not be a priority for fleets, but it’s been a vital part of transforming the way the i30 feels on the road. Throttle and steering responses feel natural, it corners confidently and – even on the Premium’s relatively large wheels – doesn’t crash over rough road surfaces. It’s the sort of comfort-versus-agility trade-off you’d expect from a Golf, and that’s a no bad thing.

Hyundai i30

Hyundai i30

On the downside, there’s a limited engine line-up suited to fleets. Hyundai offers a single diesel option – a 109bhp 1.6-litre unit, with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, and no high-powered version to compete with rivals’ 2.0-litre engines. Still, it’s one of this segment’s quieter small diesels, offering a respectable spread of torque and fuel economy of around 60mpg on motorway trips – which will keep job-need drivers happy. The new 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol perhaps suits it better, but CO2 emissions of 124g/km aren’t low enough to make it a viable alternative for the diesel yet. Rumoured electric versions may tip the balance in another direction.

The SE Nav trim gets most of the equipment a fleet user would want – including Hyundai’s feature-rich infotainment system with Android and Apple smartphone mirroring, and a seven-year subscription to its data-connected services. That positions Premium versions as an option more for user-choosers, adding bigger wheels, front parking sensors, keyless entry and half-leather upholstery among the standard equipment. Hyundai bundles most of the driver assistance systems across the range – but blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert, which stops drivers reversing into oncoming traffic or pedestrians are reserved for Premium and Premium SE.

Hyundai i30

Hyundai i30

There’s been a quiet confidence to the way the i30 has matured through its ten-year lifespan, progressively coming closer to the tough benchmarks set by its peers. You’d be hard pressed to argue that this redefines the boundaries of what’s possible, but it’s a large step into the heart of this market that’s become incredibly difficult to fault. A genuine rival to some well-established household names.

What we think:

Spacious, comfortable and with a reassuringly mechanical feel to the controls, the i30 can take on the best of the C-segment. But a wider engine line-up, and lower-CO2 petrol options, would both have been helpful in such a competitive part of the market.

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Alex Grant

Trained on Cardiff University’s renowned Postgraduate Diploma in Motor Magazine Journalism, Alex is an award-winning motoring journalist with ten years’ experience across B2B and consumer titles. A life-long car enthusiast with a fascination for new technology and future drivetrains, he joined Fleet World in April 2011, contributing across the magazine and website portfolio and editing the EV Fleet World Website.