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2017 Hyundai i30 review: First drive

The Good

  • Strong value for money
  • Generous standard safety extras
  • 1.0-litre is peppy

The Bad

  • Lacks any personality
  • 1.4-litre is especially dull
3.5

Recombu Cars reviews the 2017 Hyundai i30 hatchback in sunny Spain. Here are our initial thoughts on the car, including how it stacks up against the VW Golf and whether the new 1.0-litre T-GDI is any good.

You would be wrong if you said Hyundai was going about conquering Europe the wrong way. It has been busy making cars that offer generous equipment levels, a five-year unlimited mileage warranty and dependable build quality, with the award-winning Tucson the most recent triumph.

Now we have the third-generation i30 hatchback arriving in March 2017, which is a very important car for Hyundai. In fact, it calls the new hatchback its ‘DNA car’. No pressure, then.

Taking on the VW Golf, Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and other established rivals was, of course, never going to be easy, but then the i30 has managed to sell in large numbers since arriving in 2007 and those numbers are on an upward trajectory.

Though Hyundai calls South Korea home, it knows the European market can be extremely fussy when it comes to cars. No wonder, then, the 2017 i30 wasn’t just developed and built there, it was also rigourously tested its Nurburgring development centre to ensure it can survive the world’s most gruelling circuit – and, even more frightening, a British pothole.

We were shipped over to a 19°C Marbella to sample the 2017 Hyundai i30 in left-hand drive and we got to drive every engine over the course of a few hundred kilometres. So what do we think?

2017 Hyundai i30: What’s new, pussy cat?

The new Hyundai i30 now comes with a bit of a design refresh, which means you will recognise it from the older models but its attempt to dominate Europe has resulted in a design reminiscient of virtually every European hatchback. But then looking somewhere between the Astra and Golf is no bad thing and we can appreciate the unfussy design.

It also comes with a lot more in the way of technology such as various useful safety features, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and a choice of a six-speed manual or a seven-speed DCT automatic.

Meanwhile the cabin is more egonomically-conscious and – if you are prepared to pay for higher trim levels – can be had in one of three colours to spice it up a bit. Useful for diverting attention away from some cheap-looking (but sturdy) plastics.

Prices start from £16,995 if you go for the base 1.0-litre manual. Expect to see it on sale from March 2017. A sporty ‘N’ version will be put in the hands of motoring journalists towards the end of the year, with a sportback version arriving before that.

2017 Hyundai i30: What about the engines?

You can expect a choice of three engines, each one turbocharged. Usually the smallest and cheapest option tends to be the weakest, but the 1.0-litre T-GDI petrol, complete with 171Nm of torque, ended up being our preferred option.

Unlike a lot of 1.0-litre three-cylinders, the120PS offering is surprisingly gutsy. Press the accelerator in, say, sixth at 60mph and you are rewarded with actual forward motion. Where you expect it to flatline in the rev range, it does its best impression of a bigger engine and moves forward with surprising pep.

The more powerful 1.4-litre T-GDI petrol delivers power in a very linear fashion so it never surges forward with any urgency, but it does have more pace. Though quicker on paper and more suited to those who do a lot of motorway miles, it is rather boring.

The 1.6-litre diesel and its 110PS output in the UK is a bit grumbly if you go hard on the acclerator, but the 280Nm serving of torque makes it feel as quick as the petrol and a combination of the sound proofing and gears quickly return the cabin to a peaceful state.

Speaking of the financial side of things, the 1.0-litre can manage as little as 109g/km of CO2 and fuel economy of a claimed 56mpg, while the 1.4-litre manages from 109g/km and 51mpg, respectively. As for the diesel, expect as little as 89g/km and a claimed 69mpg combined.

For the best value for money, the diesel is king although after the 1st of April the difference in road tax will be negligible and it costs more to begin with. We vastly preferred the little 1.0-litre three-cylinder and so that is our first choice, followed by the diesel.

2017 Hyundai i30: Ride quality and handling any good?

The new i30 proved comfortable plodding along the streets of Marbella, absorbing the worst of bumps without shaking us about too much. It errs on the side of relaxed, but retains an adequate level of tautness in the bends as you push into understeer territory.

Grippiness extends beyond what the average owner would ever need and it feels comfortable to push your luck, even if the steering is borderline numb.

The seven-speed DCT automatic is bit of a mixed bag. It is fast to change and barely noticeable, but it manages to soften the experience. This is a gearbox that does its best to smooth things out, not inspire confidence when making an ill-judged overtake.

As for the six-speed manual, it feels saggy and therefore makes you concerned a quicker change may land you in the wrong gear. It does the job, just never expect to find pleasure in using it.

Though unexciting to be at the wheel of, the 2017 i30 does offer a very quiet, predominantly refined drive that is at home on a motorway as it is stuck in traffic on the school run.

2017 Hyundai i30: What about practicality and safety?

The boot is 395 litre in size, rising to 1,301 litres with the rear seats down, putting it ahead of the Focus and Golf, but it just misses out on being a class-leader. As for space for passengers in the back, there is ample head and leg room for those not too far above average height.

Visibility, meanwhile, is plentiful and there are various extras that make the 2017 i30 more livable such as optional wireless phone charging, an eight-inch infotainment display, various storage areas and comfortable seats that provide a relaxed seating position.

Speaking of the interior, the 2017 i30 is a big improvement on its predecessor. It actually looks half decent and will certainly survive modern-life. The Golf is more lavish, yes, but it is easy to acknowledge the driver-friendly layout.

One area where the 2017 i30 really shines is safety. Even the cheapest car comes with autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, lane departure warning and hill start assist, all of which should help secure it a five-star Euro NCAP rating. You even get seven airbags.

2017 Hyundai i30: Should I buy one, then?

A generous list of standard extras, plethora of safety features, sheer practicality and that five-year warranty make the starting price of £16,995 look extremely tempting, especially as the entry-level 1.0-litre will be ample for most buyers and you could get away without too many extras.

Opt for the base level 2017 Hyundai i30 S and you get electric windows in the front and back, LED running lights, a multi-function steering wheel, 15-inch alloy wheels and Bluetooth connectivity. Step up to SE and you get a five-inch infotainment system, rear parking sensors and front foglights.

But the value for money comes at the expense of driver involvement. The 2017 i30 lacks any charm and so it will never make you grin or feel proud to be the owner. It is, therefore, a car for those who only care about getting from A to B, not the bit in the middle, or getting their money’s worth.

We wanted to rave about the i30 because in financially uncertain times it makes sense to go with a value-minded purchase, which it is, but at least two of its major rivals are somewhat entertaining, which the Hyundai is not.

Being the sensible option is not necessarily a bad thing, mind you. Deep down you know the Golf would score you more points with the neighbours, but you could spend the money saved on something that will get the blood flowing far better than any sensible hatchback.

Specification

Engine1.0-litre T-GDI three-cylinder petrol
Power120PS at 6,000rpm
Torque171Nm at 1,500 to 4,000rpm
Acceleration0-62mph in 11.2 seconds
Emissions115g/km of CO2
Economy56.5mpg (combined)
PriceFrom £16,995

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