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Hyundai i30 review (2012 onwards)
What: Hyundai i30
Where: Seville, Spain
Date: February 2012
Price: £14,495 - £20,295
Available: March 2012
Key rivals: Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, Volkswagen Golf, Kia Cee'd
Read Hyundai car reviews
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Summary: The second-generation i30 is a big deal for Hyundai. The new car is out for blood, aiming to prove the Korean firm is now an aspirational brand that can do refinement as well as anyone in the family hatchback sector.
We like: New Hyundai design language, efficient diesel engine, standard equipment
We don't like: Final attention to detail lets it down
The 2012 Hyundai i30 builds on the success of its predecessor, further improving refinement, offering more kit as standard and delivering a pleasingly engaging drive for those who are interested.
That's not to say it's the last word in dynamic ability - but it is a stylish hatchback designed in Europe and featuring Hyundai's new corporate 'face'. That's a hexagonal front grille, distinctive 'blade' front lights and muscular crease down the flanks.
The new i30 retains what has always been one of the firm's key selling points, too: value. Add into the mix competitive levels of refinement, impressive efficiency and a decent driving experience, and the i30 becomes an appealing proposition.
We sampled Hyundai's 128hp 1.6-litre CRDi Blue Drive combined with the standard fit six-speed manual gearbox, and on the whole we were impressed. For a vehicle that returns claimed emissions of 100g/km CO2, performance is on a par with the equivalent 1.6-litre Focus and 1.7-litre Astra diesels.
Despite its eco-focused nature the i30 Blue Drive will crack 62mph from rest in 10.9 seconds, compared to 10.9 and 10.7 seconds for the 115hp Focus and 125hp Astra respectively.
As with any smaller capacity diesel though, revving it out is a little futile. Instead, the i30 is best driven using its 192lb ft of torque between 1,900 and 2,750rpm - this way progress is actually quicker.
Crucially, it's more refined too. When the diesel unit exceeds 4,000rpm power drops off rapidly and things begin to get very noisy - with the engine note turning into a thrash and creating some resonance in the cabin. Use the torque and it's a much more soothing experience.
Ride and handling
Hyundai has fitted a new Flex Steer system to the new i30, giving drivers the option of Comfort, Normal and Sport modes for the weight of the car's steering.
Comfort mode isn't a great deal lighter than Normal and acts as a filter to any meaningful feedback through the wheel - the car obeying the driver's commands but with no discernable communication between driver input and vehicle reaction.
Sport is good, however, that bit more weight to the steering on turn-in giving you more confidence to push the car. But really Normal mode is all you'll ever need - it's well judged in terms of feedback and weight for most types of driving.
we can't imagine many people would have many complaints
It makes you wonder why Hyundai bothered with the other two. The i30 isn't as agile as a Focus and wants to understeer fairly early when pushed, but day-to-day we can't imagine many people would have many complaints - especially given the ride comfort.
Over rural Spanish tarmac - from smooth to seriously rippled - the i30 felt composed and adept, with no harsh clonks felt through the chassis. In fact, Hyundai is claiming the i30's ride is so well refined it's best-in-class for cabin noise - even better than a Golf.
We can believe it, too. On a motorway cruise the engine and tyre noise is damped out to the extent that all you can hear is a whisper of wind rustling around the wing mirrors.
Starting at £14,495, the entry-level i30 Classic might cost £500 more than a base-spec Ford Focus, but you certainly get value for your money. Bluetooth, LED daytime running lights, a multi-function steering wheel, electrically heated mirrors and stability control are all standard.
Our test car was in £20,295 range-topping Style Nav trim which, includes dual-zone climate control, front parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights - as well as a seven-inch touchscreen satellite navigation system and a cleverly positioned rear view parking camera.
it's the final few per cent inside the cabin that lets it down
All these features integrate into the interior well and the plastics feel as if they are of decent quality, as do the full-leather seats - the i30's interior refinement is properly tangible, but it's the final few per cent inside the cabin that lets it down.
Attention to detail is key when trying to compete with the likes of VW, and in some areas this is where the i30 is found wanting - for example, one of the most touched parts of the interior, the indicator and wiper stalks, are made of a shiny, cheap-looking scratchy plastic.
Economy and safety
The i30's ability to combine performance comparable to that of its rivals yet return a significant improvement in fuel economy and efficiency is where the new car really excels.
Claimed combined fuel economy of 74.3mpg and 100g/km CO2 emissions stacks up against 67.3mpg combined with 109g/km CO2 and 62.8mpg combined with 119g/km CO2 for the equivalent Focus and Astra respectively - that theoretically means an average annual fuel saving of £670 over the competition and zero road tax.
The i30's efficiency is even a match for the less powerful 105hp 1.6 VW Golf BlueMotion diesel at 74.3mpg combined and 99g/km CO2. With the 1.6 diesel's 100g/km CO2 figure, the engine we tested will surely be one of - if not the - most popular choice in the range.
A plethora of electronic safety systems keep all four wheels pointing in the right direction and you get six airbags as standard. There's also plenty of high-tensile steel in the chassis to help the firm achieve its goal of a full five-star EuroNCAP crash safety rating when the car is eventually tested.
The MSN Cars verdict
The latest iteration of Hyundai's i30 is a solid contender in the family hatchback market, so much so that the firm is hoping the i30 makes it into the top five bestsellers list here by 2014.
That's an ambitious target given the competition, but the new i30 is more than capable of achieving it. The car could be a little sharper to drive in a quest to attract driving enthusiasts but the blend of price, refinement and equipment it offers is excellent.
Read Hyundai car reviews
MSN Cars' best small family cars
|Need to know|
|Engines, petrol||1.4, 1.6|
|Engines, diesel||1.4, 1.6|
|Torque, lb ft||89-126|
|Top speed, mph||106-119|
|Ride & handling||**|
|MSN Cars verdict||****|
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