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Hyundai i30 hatchback (2012 – ) expert review

By Martin Gurdon and Andy Goodwin, 14th February 2012

The verdict

The original Hyundai i30 won many friends for the brand, and the new one is likely to find even more. It's now better looking, more economical and roomier inside.

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Expert rating:

4.1

Pros

  • Value for money
  • Good looking
  • Frugal engines

Cons

  • Safe but dull handling
  • Engines noisy at times
  • Some hard interior plastics

Full Review

1. Exterior

The original Hyundai i30 looked inoffensive, a bit like a toned down BMW 1 Series without the quirkiness The new one is a big improvement styling-wise, resembling a smaller Hyundai 140, which means it’s now genuinely good looking, with distinctive lamp clusters, grille, and scalloped body sides. The result is stylish in a way the i30’s predecessor could never claim, with trinkets including fashionable and distinctive LED daytime running lights are standard across the range The i30 was designed in Germany, specifically to appeal to European tastes and it’s built in the Czech Republic.

Our rating: 4

2. Interior

The Hyundai i30’s interior has had an aesthetic upgrade too. The old model’s relentless functionality has given way to more stylish elements, with swooping dash and door trims. It looks as if Hyundai’s designers were inspired by the current Ford Fiesta. Everything is well made and nicely fitted, and although hard plastic still predominates, the interior doesn’t feel cheap. An optional panoramic sunroof boosts light in the cabin, and unlike some rivals, it features tilt and slide opening.

Our rating: 4

3. Practicality

The distance between the Hyundai i30’s front and rear wheels remains unchanged, but it’s now wider than before.  There’s a decent amount of room for four, but a fifth adult would still be cramped. Rear legroom is adequate rather than brilliant, but overall there’s more people room than previously. Luggage space is up from 340 to 378 litres, and with the split rear seats folded the load deck is usefully flat. When raised the boot feels quite shallow, thanks in part to the full sized spare wheel, but Hyundai claims the i30 is more commodious than the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra.

Our rating: 4

4. Ride and handling

The i30 boasts a comfortable, pliant ride, it doesn’t roll excessively, grips well, and its very light, electric power steering is accurate and speedy. The end result is easy to drive, user friendly and pleasant, but Hyundai does not claim that the model offers Ford Focus-rivalling dynamics. Our biggest criticism, is that the i30 is a little uninvolving to drive, but that’s unlikely to worry most potential customers.

Our rating: 4

5. Performance

The most popular engine in the UK is likely to be the 1.6-litre, 126bhp diesel, which sounded a bit thrashy when worked hard through the accurate but slightly clunky six-speed manual gearbox (a six speed auto is also available), but was otherwise civilised, and will hit 62mph in 10.7 seconds and top 117mph. Maximum pulling power comes in at a relaxed 1,900 rpm, and the car has plenty of urge for overtaking. Buyers can also opt for 1.4-litre petrols and diesels, and 1.6-litre 108bhp diesels (think 11.5 sec 0-62 and 115mph for the manuals, 12.3 sec/112mph for the autos).

Our rating: 4

6. Running costs

The reborn i30 is usefully more frugal than the car it replaces. The most powerful diesel is claimed to return a combined 74.3mpg with emissions of 100g/km. The detuned 108bhp version in Blue Drive mode, with a stop and start system produces a tax-friendly 97g/km of CO2 and returns 76.3mpg. Even the 1.4 petrol should return an average of just over 47mpg. Insurance-wise, the cheapest i30 sits in Band 7E, whilst the range-topping 1.6 CRDi Blue Drive attracts a 14E rating. The model’s five-year and unlimited mileage warranty should also keep costs down.

Our rating: 4

7. Reliability

The outgoing i30 has proved itself to be tough and durable, and the new one makes use of many of that car’s mechanical bits. Hyundai generally has a good reputation for reliability, and we can see no reason why the latest i30 should buck this trend. Five years of roadside assistance and vehicle health checks are included with the standard warranty.

Our rating: 4

8. Safety

The Hyundai i30 was awarded a five-star Euro NCAP crash test result, with 90 per cent for both adult and child occupant protection categories. Active safety elements include brake and hill assist systems, anti-lock brakes, electronic and vehicle stability management systems, and brake lights which flash during an emergency stop. Once again six airbags are fitted, with the option of a knee height bag.

Our rating: 3

9. Equipment

The i30 is generously equipped. Entry level Classic models get Bluetooth with voice recognition, steering wheel audio and phone controls, air-con, height adjustable driver’s seat, heated, electric front mirrors and LED daytime running lights. Active versions get alloy wheels, speed limited cruise control, rear parking sensors and electric rear windows. Style derivatives gain 16-inch alloys, duel-zone climate control, static cornering lights, electrically folding mirrors and enhanced hi-fi. Style Nav versions have 7-inch touchscreen sat-nav and rear-view cameras with parking guidance.

Our rating: 5

10. Why buy?

The first i30 won Hyundai thousands of new friends thanks to its formidable mix of value, equipment, economy, decent dynamics and a five-year warranty. The car that replaces it keeps and often builds on these qualities. It has more room, refinement, better economy, and now has looks which would attract anyone thinking of buying a Honda Civic, Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra, and as something to drive every day, it gives little away to any of them.

Our rating: 5

Expert review 4.1stars

  • Exterior4
  • Interior4
  • Practicality4
  • Ride and handling4
  • Performance4
  • Running costs4
  • Reliability4
  • Safety3
  • Equipment5
  • Why buy?5

Our recommendations

Best on a budget:

i30 1.4 Classic

The cheapest i30 is still well specified.

Best-seller:

i30 1.4 Active petrol for private buyers, 108bhp Active diesels for fleet sales.

The best-selling Comfort has lots to offer.

Blow the budget:

i30 1.6 Style Nav

This one is stuffed with goodies.

It’s now genuinely good looking, with distinctive lamp clusters, grill, and scalloped body sides.