On paper the i30 makes perfect sense. But how about on the road?
Hyundai’s i30 is now in its third generation, aiming to not only build on the strengths of its predecessors but also to keep those sales figures building – so far over 800,000 have been sold just in Europe.
However, C-segment hatchbacks is a tough market, one featuring such stalwarts as the VW Golf and the Ford Focus, so there’s a need for the Korean manufacturer to continually up its game.
Hyundai i30 SE Nav
Engine: 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, turbocharged, petrol
Gearbox: Six-speed manual
Top speed: 118mph
CO2/tax band: 115g/km, 20%
The i30 sells on being practical, affordable and reliable rather than as a glittering performer, so it makes sense to test the entry-level model. The three-cylinder petrol 1.0-litre engine in the 1.0 T-GDi gives 118bhp, which it turns out is only just enough when linked to 126lb/ft of torque.
It’s a pleasant enough engine, which works quite well in the i20, but in the bigger i30 it struggles for pace. You’ll need to work the manual gearbox quite a lot to get it rowing along, and shorter shifts mean you’re aware of the turbo lag before what power there is chimes in.
Inevitably, this means that you’re pushing the engine and it therefore uses more fuel and emits more CO2 than you’d really like. In fact a Skoda Octavia with a similar sized engine, in what is a much bigger, heavier car, manages less CO2 than the i30 and is quicker to boot.
The i30 has never really impressed as a driver’s car, but this latest incarnation has ‘performance oriented’ shock absorbers, a stiffer chassis and other tweaks aimed to make it handle more dynamically. It’s hard to be impressed really. Perhaps it all is a bit stiffer, but it still rolls in the corners and the heavier steering lacks any feedback so cornering remains a lacklustre performance.
Inside it’s a better story. It’s very spacious for all occupants as well as luggage, and it all feels well put together with decent-quality materials. There’s a good supply of tech, including an 8in screen on the top three trims, as well as a host of connectivity and a USB port.
Safety tech is also well to the fore, with lots of kit as standard including lane departure warning, lane keep assist, automatic emergency braking and rear sensors. That’s impressive.
In its way the i30 ticks a lot of boxes, and for a lot of drivers that will be enough. It’s sensible, practical, spacious, well equipped and comes with a good warranty. However, it doesn’t stand out in a packed sector in any one area let alone overall. It’s nice but, as Barry Sheene used to remark, nice guys don’t win races.