It’s five years since the Hyundai i30 arrived as a game-changing model for the South Korean brand, showing the world it could build cars that were recommendable for virtues other than just good value.
And the second-generation i30 – designed and engineered in Europe – now comes with promises of matching its heralded peers.
It should certainly catch more eyes than its predecessor, which has still accounted for more than 85,000 sales in Australia. Where the original i30 was tidily designed, the new model has more chance of turning heads with its bold crease lines, intricately detailed headlights and daytime running lights.
There’s more pizazz inside, too. The old i30’s cabin was well presented, but now there are more soft-touch materials for the dash and door trims, and a gloss-black centre console, to add a real touch of class and close the gap to the benchmark Golf.
Refinement has improved, too, particularly with the 94kW 1.6-litre turbo diesel turbo diesel we tested in the UK, which is remarkably hushed and rattle-free at low revs.
Like the 81kW version of the same engine, however, the mid range lacks the kind of kick we’ve come to expect from diesels, with the optional six-speed automatic exasperating things despite a 0-100km/h claim of 10.9 seconds (11.5sec for the 81kW variant).
Still, at least the auto provides smooth enough progress, though the six-speed manual further improves fuel economy and emissions.
So is it as good to drive as a Golf, Focus or Mazda3? Well, the answer’s still no. The Hyundai i30 is still no thriller on more interesting roads, not helped by steering that remains numb.
Our 94kW diesel test car included Hyundai’s new Flex Steer system, though even if you choose Dynamic – instead of Comfort or Normal modes – only artificial weight is added rather than extra steering feedback.
But the suspension again impresses with its ability to provide comfort for the i30’s occupants, while the interior provides enough space for tall adults, and the boot is a decent size.
Cabin space is helped by an increase in length to 4300m and width to 1780mm, though height comes down to 1470mm to give the i30 a slightly sportier stance.
If the regular Hyundai i30 isn’t practical enough, a ‘i30cw’ wagon version will again be offered.
And even in the Active 81kW model we tested, there’s still plenty of value to be found with standard features including Bluetooth connectivity, daytime running lights, hill-start assist, rear parking sensors, cruise control, and 15-inch alloys.
Specifications for Australian versions of the i30 won't be available until at least closer to its local launch, though Hyundai’s generous five-year warranty is assured for when it lands in the middle of this year.
The new Hyundai i30 is a strong all-rounder that will undoubtedly keep its rivals on their toes.