|Model tested:||Hyundai i30 1.6 CRDi SE Nav|
|Economy / CO2:||67.3mpg/109g/km|
Review: Hyundai i30 (Overall score = 3.5/5)
It’s astonishing just how far and how quickly Korean car makers have come in recent years. It’s not that long since kitsch designs and iffy materials were the norm but that’s no longer the case, with companies such as Hyundai showing their European rivals how it’s done. The i30 is a case in point as it’s stylish, spacious, well equipped and good to drive, while a decent level of reliability is pretty much guaranteed.
If there’s one area that Hyundai hasn’t yet mastered it’s the art of uncluttered dash design. The i30’s dashboard is fussily laid out with lots of dials and buttons, so getting to grips with everything takes a certain amount of familiarity. Once you’ve mastered where everything is it all works pretty well though, with the navigation and Bluetooth phone pairing both being seamless. There’s a black mark against the seat height adjustment though, as there isn’t enough of it. Short drivers may be left unable to see around comfortably, although there’s plenty of fore/aft adjustment and the steering wheel adjusts for reach as well as rake.
It’s easy to get comfy up front thanks to the supportive seats and the same goes for rear-seat passengers too, as there’s masses of leg room. The coupé-like roof line makes getting in and out a bit awkward for tall people though, and it impacts on head room once sitting inside. The fit and finish of everything is generally good, although some of the materials used look and feel a bit cheap. There’s plenty of oddments space too, although the cubby box between the front seats of our test car didn’t feel as though it would stay put forever, so if you’re hoping for the build quality of an Audi at a cut price, you’ll be disappointed.
Having driven a manual-gearbox i30 previously, for this test we thought we’d try the auto. We know that the manual gearbox is pleasant to use and it’s the same for the seven-speed auto; the ratio changes are smooth and swift so you’re never left wishing for a manual transmission instead. It helps that the 1.6-litre engine is so willing; there’s excellent throttle response, plenty of low-down torque and the power delivery is totally linear, so it doesn’t feel like a turbocharged unit. In typical Korean fashion all of the controls are light, from the steering to the pedals, so piloting the i30 is a doddle. The conventional handbrake might be welcome too, in case an electronic one fazes your pupils. The clear instrumentation will also prove to be a hit, as it’s easy to see at a glance what speed you’re doing; Hyundai has bucked the trend for over-designing instruments to the point where it’s hard to work out what’s going on. Visibility all around isn’t bad, but the A-pillars are thick even for a modern car – to the point where entire cars can be swallowed on roundabouts.
There was a time when Hyundais were ridiculously cheap – but they were also nasty. Those days are long gone and as a result the i30 doesn’t look like that much of a bargain. Prices start at £15,295 for the 1.4 S and rise to a not-inconsiderable £23,695 for a 1.6 CRDi Premium auto; the automatic gearbox, where available, adds £1300 to the bottom line. However, at the time of writing Hyundai is offering decent discounts which brings these prices down to £12,995 and £22,195 respectively.
Our test car was a mid-range SE Nav priced at £20,895; a regular SE costs £1000 less, but it foregoes navigation and power folding door mirrors. Stick with the SE rather than the SE Nav and we’d say the i30 is pretty good value compared with many of its mainstream rivals, which generally come with a three-year warranty compared with the five-year Hyundai offering. Insurance costs should be no higher than elsewhere and the same goes for fuel and road tax costs; as tested, taxing the i30 for a year will set you back just £20.