Published on Sunday 20 April 2014 22:31
Ten Second Review
The second generation Hyundai i30 offers far sharper styling and better build quality but otherwise it sticks to much the same formula. There's plenty of kit thrown in and there's Blue Drive technology that will trim the monthly bills still further, especially in the 110PS 1.6 CRDi diesel guise we're testing here. This is one car that all the other big volume manufacturers are keeping their eye on.
There's a fairly well established template for new car development. Broadly speaking a new model is launched, four years later it's facelifted then it's replaced at seven years. Hyundai aren't on that particular treadmill. In fact, it's fair to say that they're in a period of massively accelerated development as evidenced by the fact that the i30, the car that really made the general public wake up to Hyundai's quality, was launched in 2007, facelifted in 2010 and replaced for 2012. What's more, it sold in increasing numbers every single year of its life, so it's not as if it had outstayed its welcome.
That sort of development cycle may lead you to think that the second generation model we look at here is an evolution of the old car. Think again. Although it would be impossible to replicate the quantum leap in refinement and build of the original model, make no mistake that this MK2 i30 is a car that will have its rivals very worried indeed. Most UK customers will buy the 1.6 CRDi 110PS diesel BlueDrive version we're testing here. Let's find out why.
Hyundai has clearly done its homework on what appeals to European customers. This i30 is offered with a choice of two petrol and three diesel powerplants, with outputs ranging from 89 to 134bhp. Although diesel cars are popular in the family hatch sector in the UK, Europe-wide it's still fairly tightly balanced with diesels accounting for 52 per cent of new sales and petrol engines 43 per cent, the rest being accounted for by alternative fuels. In the UK, Hyundai expects a 50:50 split between petrol and diesel models with its 1.6-litre variable geometry turbodiesel unit on test here established as the most popular engine in the range. There are two versions developing either 110PS or 130PS. It was the lower-powered version we tried, a car able to accelerate from rest to 62mph in 11.5 seconds, with a top speed of 115mph.
The suspension of the i30 is a strut front and multi-link rear design that's adopted by the best-handling cars in the class, such as the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf. One interesting option is Flex Steer. With three operating modes - Comfort, Normal and Sport - the system can be used to vary the level of steering assistance and feedback in order to suit driving conditions.
Design and Build
If there was one area where the original i30 came up conspicuously short of the top family hatchbacks, it was styling. The facelift in 2010 helped give the car a bit more personality but this next generation model fires the i30 right into the vanguard of contemporary design. You might see hints of Ford in the trapezoidal lights or a little Peugeot in the way the wheelarches are sharply sculpted but it's undoubtedly a bold and tidy piece of styling, whether as a five-door hatch or in Tourer estate form.
As is the vogue amongst many car manufacturers, Hyundai has coined a phrase to describe the design theme, in this case 'fluidic sculpture'. It can be traced back to the Hyundai ix-onic concept which appeared at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show, and will underpin the styling for all future European Hyundai models. The key motif is a signature frontal feature - the hexagonal-shaped grille. The interior design is neat with plenty of metallic and silver painted finishes on display, the centre console not looking unlike that of contemporary Ford models with sprouting air vents. Space is plentiful for the rear seat occupants and the rather poky boot of the old i30 has been enlarged, in this case gaining an additional 10% at 378 litres. Build quality seems very good with a lot of attention paid to materials, refinement and panel fit.
Market and Model
The only thing that can really sink the i30 is if Hyundais start getting a bit optimistic with the pricing which currently sits in the £17,000-£20,000 bracket for this mid-range 110PS diesel variant. Match derivative for derivative against obvious Focus or Astra segment rivals though and you should be looking at a significant saving once spec is taken into account. Hyundai, after all, isn't holding back when it comes to equipment.
There's a choice of either a five-door hatch or a Tourer estate and either way, new standard features on the i30 include voice-activated Bluetooth, LED daytime running lights, multi-function steering wheel, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors and one-touch indicators. Safety systems added as standard across the range include Vehicle Stability Management, Emergency Stop Signal and Hill-start Assist Control. Active trim level, adds 15" alloys, cruise control, rear parking sensors and Hyundai's new dynamic Flex SteerTM system, which gives the driver the option of three settings namely: Comfort, Normal and Sport.
All 'Style' models benefit from 16" alloy wheels, dual zone climate control, front parking sensors, rain sensing wipers, cornering lights, automatic headlights, automatic de-fog system for front windscreen and electrically folding door mirrors with LED indicators. Topping the trim will be Style Nav, which brings a fully integrated touchscreen satellite navigation system and rear view parking camera.
Cost of Ownership
Those looking for the lowest running costs should direct their attention to the Blue Drive sub-brand which is Hyundai-speak for high efficiency and low emissions. Energy-saving measures include Integrated Stop & Go (ISG), low-rolling resistance tyres and an alternator management system. With CO2 emissions at just 97g/km and an engine delivery of 110 PS, the Blue Drive 1.6-litre diesel i30 we tried features a best-in-class power to efficiency ratio. Buyers get the option of either a manual or automatic six-speed transmission. Go for the auto and emissions fall substantially to 145g/km.
Residual values? They're creeping ever closer to those of mainstream brands as the market wakes up to just how far this Korean brand has come with product quality. There are low cost servicing packages to keep your maintenance outlay down. Insurance groupings range from 7E to 14E across the range on the 1-50 groupings scale. And, as with all Hyundai models, peace of mind comes as part of the deal thanks to one of the best customer assurance plans in the industry. The Five Year Triple Care warranty includes five years of mechanical cover, annual vehicle health checks and roadside assistance.
The only issue with success is that it raises expectations. The Hyundai i30 is no longer a car that can be damned with faint praise or rewarded with patronising compliments. It's a properly big-league hitter now and one that deserves to be judged by exactly the same criteria we'd apply to a Volkswagen Golf, a Ford Focus or a Vauxhall Astra. On first acquaintance, you should agree that it seems there or thereabouts. Its integration of high-tech features isn't on a par with the massive-selling Ford and the price you pay will need to reflect this but in many of the other ways that matter to UK buyers, the Hyundai seems right on the money.
Especially in the 1.6 CRDi 110PS BlueDrive diesel guise we've been trying here. This is the stand-out variant in the range, no question, not much less pokey than the top 128PS diesel and with fuel figures approaching 70mpg, along with a sub-100g/km CO2 reading. It's a car that illustrates very effectively just how far this Korean brand has come.