Features: 85 / 100
Look/Design: 85 / 100
Performance: 70 / 100
Safety: 90 / 100
The premium hatch segment (C-Segment) has over the years been one of the most hotly contested segments. It has mostly been ruled by the VW Golf. The new generation Golf always seems to be the benchmark for the segment, and rightly so. With the Korean brands’ focus on value for money, this segment hasn’t been one that they had fared well in previously. The previous generation i30 wasn’t a pretty car, but its huge price difference to the other premium hatches was what made it stand out in that segment. It simply couldn’t trade punches with the VW Golf or Ford Focus. But since then both Hyundai and Kia have made huge pushes into premium territory within all segments, without losing the value for money proposition. Enter the new i30.
The i30 is arguably the best looking hatch available today. The nose is signature Hyundai. The rear is beautifully crafted with spectacular rear-lights and a well-balanced feel. The designers have now perfected the “Fluidic Sculpture” design they implemented for new generation Hyundai models. The flowing lines that run from the bonnet down the sides through to the back is a great touch, creating one flowing movement through the vehicle exterior. The design coupled with the striking duo-tone 17” rims truly make it a beautiful car. Throw in a couple of European Design awards and you know that I’m not just saying that.
The i30 is chock-full of standard features. It has a 6-speed gearbox, cruise control, dual climate control, Bluetooth hands-free kit, automatic headlights, day-time running lights, rear-parking sensors, USB and iPod connectivity, a cooled cubbyhole and a new feature called Flex Steer.
Those familiar with new Elantra will find the i30 interior familiar. Hyundai has basically taken the Elantra interior and refined it in very clever ways. There are mostly soft-touch plastics on the dash, with a very cohesive and classy looking cabin. Overall it has a very high perceived quality. Nothing feels out-of-place. Even the utility spaces seem well thought out. The display cluster is especially good. The i30’s display cluster looks very high-tech in a classic sort of way. It has soft blue lights and a detailed digital display in a panel that looks like an old sports car’s. Thanks to fine touches like these, the i30 cockpit is a comfortable and pleasant place to be.
Bluetooth synced up very easily with my Android phone and worked seamlessly. The i30’s sound system is awesome, one of the best I’ve heard in a while. It plays CDs, USB drives and even your iPod/Phone.
The leather seats of the 1.8 are very comfortable and, together with the height and depth adjustable steering wheel, it is very easy to find a comfortable driving position. Rear leg-room is ample, and the i30 boasts the biggest boot in its class. The 387 litre boot will swallow just about anything you throw at it.
As you’d expect, Hyundai is very serious about safety, and the i30 is no exception. It boasts 6-airbags, ABS with EBD, ESP with VSM, side-impact protection beams, crumple zones and uni-body construction. The i30 received a 5-star rating in the Euro NCAP assessment and the results make it one of the safest cars in the C-segment. It is also the 7th Hyundai model in a row to receive the 5-star rating. It’s clear to see that Hyundai has your safety at heart.
The i30 is smooth, very smooth, but it’s not a boy-racer and probably won’t blow your hair back with its performance. The gearbox is slick, yet precise and the car is very easy to drive. Because of the lack of turbocharging, the torque isn’t very high. On hilly roads and for overtaking efforts you have to work the gearbox to get the car going. The 6th gear is really only there for cruising, yet it all comes together in a very refined drive. The suspension is slightly on the stiff side, but soaked up road impurities very well and lent the car extra composure when cruising on the freeway. The cruise control just adds to the effortlessness of the i30.
The i30 debuts Hyundai’s new Flex Steer system, allowing drivers to change the steering mode from Normal, to Sport, to Comfort. Unfortunately it sounds smarter than it is and basically just stiffens the steering for the different modes. It didn’t really feel very intuitive, especially considering that Sport mode gives no more feedback than Comfort mode does.
Unfortunately, the i30 is not the most dynamic car in this segment. The brakes are easy to modulate under normal driving, but they just didn’t bite enough under hard braking. This is not the sort of car you will be gunning around Killarney all day long. But then again, that is not what you are looking for, if you are seriously considering a car in this segment.
At first glance, the price might look a bit steep. Indeed, Hyundai’s prices have crept up a bit. But for R250k you get a car that is packed to the rafters with features and has a very impressive warranty to boot. There aren’t any extra’s available. And quite frankly, what else could you add? It still manages to undercut its main rivals in this segment by a wide margin (up to R50K+ on some models with extra’s added), gaining a premium feel that easily matches its competitors.
My only concern with the i30 is the lack of a Diesel option. Hyundai already offers Diesel models in South Africa and has an attractive 1.6 litre Diesel option it employs in Europe. So why not adjust that for the i30 here? That would truly complete this model range. If you are looking for a Diesel version of a car in the C-segment, the Hyundai option is immediately eliminated, which is really a shame. This and its dynamic prowess are the i30’s only two disadvantages. Of the three models on offer, the 1.6 Manual seems the best value for money, with the leather seats, and 17″ rims being the only options lacking from the 1.8 Executive model.
Pricing for the models are as follows:
1.6 Premium Manual – R229 900
1.6 Premium Automatic – R243 900
1.8 Executive Manual – R249 900
With Hyundai’s i30 you basically get a car that rivals the leaders of the C-segment in terms of great quality and luxury, at a price-point that cannot be matched by any other manufacturer. You will be very hard pressed to buy a better car for R250k. It’s no wonder Hyundai has made such inroads into our market. The i30 has grown up and it’s beautiful.
All photography by Hein Schlebusch for Resolution Imagery