Ten years on, the third generation keeps up the pace of change
A decade after the first i30, here is the latest, looking nicely refreshed after a redesign. Underneath it’s not all new but quite a lot has been upgraded, changed or just replaced. Hyundai has a solid reputation and part of that reputation is built on a remorseless focus on keeping things new. So how fresh does the new i30 smell?
About 20 per cent of the new cars to the UK are expected to be the Tourer version, tested here with the also new 1.4-litre T-GDi engine. The engine line-up has, of course, been refreshed, and the two engines most likely to be chosen will be this 1.4-litre unit or the three-cylinder 1.0-litre T-GDi with 118bhp. Despite the ‘D’ in the title, they’re both petrol engines, with the larger one promising perhaps the best combination of economy and performance.
With 138bhp, the 1.4-litre version has a single turbocharger, which in turn offers 178lb ft of torque. Despite the petrol configuration of this four-cylinder, in many ways it feels and sounds more like a diesel. By that we mean it sort of hums quietly to itself while delivering decent amounts of thrust low down. As revs rise the engine seems to feel less desire to really press on.
The result is decent and adequate progress, but those hoping for a bit of petrol top-end zing will be disappointed. You’d have to say a similar unit from Seat in the Leon ST for example would deliver a lot more zest and response.
Underneath, the chassis has been strengthened and lightened, and also lowered, but none of that is particularly apparent. In the same way that some people try so hard to be nice, at all times, the new i30 is determined to be pleasant, inoffensive and reliable. Maybe we need friends like that, but the overall effect is to get to the end of the journey and to not remember anything about it. Perhaps that’s what we need in a car in these stressful, crowded road-rage days.
It’s comfortable. It won’t give you any trouble but you won’t feel compelled to see at what stage the front end washes out. Maybe you’re shrugging your shoulders and thinking, yeah, that’s what a car does most of the time, I have to get to work, get Sarah to wrestling class, I don’t need to think about the car while doing so.
If so then you’ll like the cabin. One very visible change is that the infotainment screen, an eight-inch touchscreen, has now been moved to the top of the dashboard, where it sits more easily in the line of sight. It also means the dashboard can be made smaller, enhancing the feeling of space.
Elsewhere there is plenty of space and if you fold down the 60/40 rear seats you can turn a 602-litre boot into a 1650-litre space. Add in cubbyholes under the boot floor and some nice touches and you have an estate car that does what you would ask of it.
There is an entry-level version for £17,495 but most will probably start looking at the £19,335 SE trim. At that level you can’t have this 1.4-litre engine, which starts with the SE Nav, which also adds in the eight-inch screen on our car to go with rear park assist, front foglights and more of the lower trims. Premium SE is the top spec and includes a heated steering wheel and leather seat facings among other goodies.
Fuel consumption should be 39.2mpg according to Kia, which is okay, although the 129g/km of CO2 are less than okay.
You’re probably getting from all this that the new i30 is damned by faint praise. There are things it does really well. It’s practical, sensible, quiet, comfortable, functional, reliable almost certainly. But there is no hint even of anything about the whole experience that is remotely fun, enjoyable or involving.
The thing is, those mundane but useful attributes are also displayed by some of the competitors, but they also have at least a spark of life to go with it. We’re thinking of everything from the Vauxhall Astra to the Skoda Octavia. That makes the Hyundai i30 something of an also-ran.