Economical. Surprisingly good to drive. Extremely well equipped.
Let's be honest - if you are in the market for a premium family hatchback, you aren't going to head on over to a Hyundai dealership to test drive an i30. The likes of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, BMW 1-Series, and Audi A3 will be top choices on your list. But, you shouldn't be too hasty - the Hyundai i30 is not an overly cheap car. Prices start from £14,300, but they go up to £22,415 for the car I have been testing for a week. This car, the Hyundai i30 1.6 CRDi Premium 5dr, is a serious contender for your money.
Why? Read on to find out.
Korean car manufacturers are making some great looking machines - take one look at the Kia Sportage and you will see what I mean.
The Hyundai i30 doesn't let the side down.
In a world where the Volkswagen Golf, Audi A3, and Seat Leon are based on the same platform and look the same, the Hyundai i30 is based on the same platform as the Kia Cee'd. Because of this, these two cars look similar, but the Koreans have done a better job than the Germans at making them look like very different machines.
For me, the i30 is the better looking car. The version I have been testing is the Premium version. As a top spec car, it benefits from 17-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels, chrome door handles, and chrome inserts on the front bumper. All of these little things add up to give the i30 class.
Even in its basic form, though, the i30 looks the part.
I have found the Hyundai i30 to be a joy to drive. The 1.6-litre diesel engine offers up plenty of power (126 bhp and 192 lb /ft) and the six-speed gearbox is slick, crisp, and well spaced. The clutch is also light and all-round visibility, as well as the driving position, is excellent.
The most surprising thing about the i30 for me was the refinement. Simply, I was expecting it to be a little noisy at speed, but it simply isn't - on the motorway there is only a little bit of wind noise from the wing mirrors at 70 mph, and below that everything is silent. So, drive at 65 mph, and you'll be sound.
Around town the car feels light and precise. This diesel engine might be heavier than the petrol engines, but it doesn't really feel it. If anything, it gifts the i30 with better feel and balance.
The only issue I had with regard to the i30 driving experience was that the engine is a little gruff. It isn't as quiet as the latest generation of diesels from German rivals and this is evident on a cold start-up.
If you are used to the elegant and simplistic interior of German cars, you better forget what you know - the i30 is anything but. It's all very, erm, Korean, in that it is a mismatch of aluminium style inserts, black plastics, and leather. There is no real consistency where materials are concerned, and the dashboard is a clear example - the entire top is dominated by gorgeous soft touch plastic, but the air vents underneath this and the glove box feel cheap. On a top spec car, I expected more.
But, that's not to say that the i30 is not comfortable. Once you look past the questionable design, you can appreciate the supportive and frankly excellent leather seats (which come as standard in the Premium model, and are heated and power-controlled), and the sat-nav which dominates the centre console.
The i30 scores well in practicality too. The boot is 378-litres and it can be extended to 1,316-litres by folding the rear seats flat. This compares favourably to the VW Golf boot, which is 380-litres. My test car was a 5-door version, and this is comfortable, because the rear doors open fairly wide for ease of access.
Hyundai says that with conservative driving, you will be able to achieve 68.9 miles per gallon combined in this i30, and 58.9 miles per gallon around town. In my testing, I achieved 63.5 miles per gallon on a 200-mile round-trip and the trip computer never read below 55 miles per gallon around town. My test car was brand new, though, so greater economy could be achieved.
Overall, the i30 impressed me with its fuel consumption. Tax is cheap too, thanks to the 108 g/km CO2 rating, which translates to £20 annual road tax.
Trim and equipment
Premium is the most expensive trim level available in the i30, and it lives up to its name when it comes to equipment. Standard equipment includes climate control, cruise control, electric heated mirrors, leather heated power seats, Bluetooth, iPod / MP3 connectivity, satellite navigation, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera, and automatic headlights and wipers.
In other words, you get more equipment in this for the price than any Volkswagen Golf, Audi A3, Mercedes A-Class, or BMW 1-Series. To get this level of equipment in any of those, you will need to pay in excess of £28,000, versus the £22,415 price of this car.
The only optional equipment in the i30 Premium is an electric panoramic sunroof (£950), metallic paint (£470), and an auto box (£810).
I think families need to get over their badge snobbery and seriously consider this model of Hyundai i30 if they want a premium family hatchback. If you want to travel in style and comfort, there is no other family hatchback that comes close to this for the price. You get every single piece of equipment you could possibly need all tied up in a refined and stylish package.
The only trade off with the i30 is interior quality - it lacks the quality of German rivals. But, the leather seats and trim do offer a pleasant experience, and ensure that the trade off is not too significant.