The latest Hyundai i30 does just enough to keep pace with a pool of very talented family hatchback rivals that includes the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen Golf. It’s not the most exciting compact family car on the market, but it’s well built, refined and economical, and comes with a strong haul of standard equipment.
The entry-level 1.0 T-GDi petrol engine is our favourite, offering a truly grown-up driving experience despite its seemingly modest power output. A Renault Megane is more stylish and a SEAT Leon more fun to drive, but the i30 should find its way onto your shortlist if you’re in the market for a rational alternative to the Vauxhall Astra – or the mechanically similar Kia Ceed.
About the Hyundai i30
Among the talented opposition in the family hatchback class, the i30 is a bit of an uninspiring choice, but it does have its selling points. The i30 is available as a five-door hatchback, a Tourer estate and a five-door coupe-style Fastback. There are faster i30 N versions of the hatchback and Fastback.
The i30 has recently been facelifted, with a view to increasing its appeal. With striking LED headlights and a bold new grille, the i30 is certainly smarter than before – although Hyundai hasn’t gone to the same lengths as it did with the distinctive Tucson SUV. Changes are less noticeable around the back, save for a slightly jazzier set of tail-lights.There’s also a racier look for i30s with the N Line trim, as Hyundai looks to tempt buyers away from alternatives like the popular Ford Focus ST-Line range and the SEAT Leon’s FR models – trim levels that bring a sporty flavour to conventional hatchbacks by mirroring the styling of the respective hot hatch versions.
Within the facelift, Hyundai also streamlined the i30 range. There’s no longer a sparsely equipped S model, so SE Connect is now the entry-level specification. As a result, alloy wheels, a rear-view camera and an eight-inch touchscreen (with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity) are all now standard. N Line adds two-zone air conditioning, sports seats, a digital instrument cluster and a bigger touchscreen, while Premium is very well-equipped, with heaters for the front seats and steering wheel, and a wireless charging pad.
Car group tests
Engines comprise two mild-hybrid petrol units and a diesel. The range starts with the 1.0 T-GDi 118bhp turbo petrol three-cylinder (GDi stands for Gasoline Direct Injection). Given that it’s available on SE Connect and Premium versions, we expect this engine to be the big-seller. Above that sits a new 1.5 T-GDi 157bhp petrol, which is reserved for the sportier N-Line trim. There was also previously a 1.6 CRDi diesel option, but this has since been discontinued.
All models are fitted with a six-speed ‘intelligent’ manual gearbox as standard, or each one can be had with a seven-speed twin-clutch DCT auto. The upgrade is priced at £1,200, and only has a slightly negative effect on emissions and economy.
The i30 N hot hatch is the range flagship and was the first in the line of performance cars to be launched under the ‘N’ sub-brand. The latest version comes with 276bhp and 392Nm of torque.
As we’ve mentioned already, the i30 is in a fiercely competitive class with a variety of very strong rivals. Chief among these are mainstream choices such as the VW Golf and Peugeot 308. These all have a premium feel about them that the i30 struggles to match. Elsewhere, the Skoda Octavia mixes quality and space, while the SEAT Leon, Mazda3 and Ford Focus are sportier options, the Toyota Corolla throws hybrid drive into the mix, the Alfa Romeo Giulietta is ageing but different, while the Fiat Tipo is a budget alternative.