Hyundai i30 (2012) review
by David Finlay (26 March 2012)
After four and a half years, most mainstream manufacturers would be happy enough to give one of their models a mid-life facelift and mumble something about "evolution, not revolution". That's hardly the case with Hyundai. Its original i30 - the first Hyundai designed in Europe for European customers, and the car which gave the company's now-current naming system its debut - has been replaced by something significantly different.
For a start, it has grown up in terms of design. Both inside and out, it bears a strong resemblance to the i40 launched in 2011, and that's no bad thing. It's a matter of some regret that Hyundai has put no effort into improving the i30's visibility (in fact it appears to have devised a policy of making it worse), but there are compensations such as the lowering of the central tunnel to make it easier to move across the rear seats and the use of a more steeply angled windscreen to reduce aerodynamic drag.
Hyundai has several figures to demonstrate that there is more room for all passengers. Not having sat in a first-generation i30 for some time I can't directly compare them, but this one should be able to carry four six-footers without any trouble. Interior storage compartments are either larger than before or, as in the case of the ones in the rear doors, new for this model.
Luggage capacity with the rear seats in place has increased to 378 litres - a bit more than in a Vauxhall Astra, a lot more than in a Ford Focus and nearly as much as in a Renault Megane - though the load sill is unusually high, which may make lifting heavy objects over it more difficult than it needs to be.
The range of engines includes 99bhp 1.4-litre and 118bhp 1.6 petrol engines, an 89bhp 1.4 diesel and two versions of a 1.6 diesel producing 109bhp and 126bhp. Six-speed manual transmission is the norm, though an automatic gearbox is standard with the 1.6 petrol engine and optional with the less powerful diesel.
Hyundai says that the most popular engine among fleet buyers will be the 109bhp diesel, and you can see why. As long as it's mated with a manual gearbox it gives the car CO2 emissions of either 97g/km or 100g/km. Which one it is depends on the specification of the rest of the car, but as far as taxation is concerned one is as good as the other. (Oddly, the less powerful 1.4-litre diesel officially has higher CO2 emissions and inferior economy, though it's unlikely that this will be as true in real life as it is on the EU test cycle.)
For private customers the 1.4-litre petrol engine is likely to be the most appealing. Running costs per mile will be significantly higher, but owners are likely to travel less far, and compared with the 110bhp diesel there's a thumping £2400 advantage in list price.
Of the two i30s predicted to be the best sellers in their respective categories, I slightly prefer the 1.4 petrol, for the usual reasons that it's quieter and, because its engine is lighter, it both handles slightly better and is easier to manoeuvre round town. But there's not much in it, and whichever one you pick you're going to be in trouble in tight, low-speed situations because Hyundai didn't make the bloody windows big enough.
There are four trim levels, and the 109bhp diesel engine is the only one offered with all four of them - broadly speaking, the more powerful the i30, the better-equipped it's likely to be.
The entry-level Classic models could hardly be described as basic, since they have six airbags, front foglights, manual air-conditioning, LED daytime running lights, Bluetooth connectivity with voice recognition, a steering wheel with audio and phone controls, heated and electrically adjustable door mirrors, a height-adjustable driver's seat and an audio system with all the required MP3, iPod, USB and auxiliary thingummybobs. Stylish types may, however, be disappointed to learn that they also come with steel wheels as standard.
Active versions have alloy wheels, and in addition to the Classic equipment they also have a cruise control with speed limiter, electric rear windows, a leather-rimmed steering wheel and - very importantly for a car whose visibility situation is as mournful as I have already described - rear parking sensors.
The next trim level up is Style, which includes larger (16") alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, cornering lights, automatic headlights and wipers, folding door mirrors with integrated indicators, two extra audio speakers and front parking sensors. Style Nav is the same as Style, except that for a further £1000 you get touchscreen satellite navigation (7" screen, not bad graphics) and a reversing camera.
Prices start at £14,495 for the 1.4 petrol Classic and reach £20,795 for the 109bhp 1.6 diesel Style Nav automatic. On top of that, there are two option packs for Style and Style Nav models: Convenience (£750) with keyless entry, automatically folding door mirrors, "puddle" lights and illuminated chrome doorhandles; and Individual (£1000) with leather upholstery, heated front seats and a different instrument cluster.
Hyundai says there's a third option pack, but since it's called Panoramic Sunroof and consists of a panoramic sunroof and nothing else, I'm not sure that it qualifies as a "pack" exactly. Anyway, it costs £950.