Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Hyundai i30 Review and Info

This is Hyundai’s new generation European car, the Hyundai i30. It is also the first in a new model naming scheme which will name models using a numeric series, with the i30 being the C-segment model. It was styled in the Hyundai’s Russelsheim Design and Technical Center in Europe.

Although it looks like it was inspired by a few other designs, like a Honda grille, a Mazda 3 side profile, 1-series rear, and etc the overall combination seems to look pleasing to the eye. On the interior, there is generous use of blue and white as these colours are easy on the eyes. Hyundai has also taken great care to ensure the ergonomics are good, with everything like gear shifters and steering column stalks within natural reach.

Engine options include a 1.4 liter DOHC CVVT engine making 108PS, a very commendable figure for a 1.4 liter engine indeed. The 1.6 liter engine makes 121PS, while the largest petrol engine is a 2.0 liter making 140PS. Turbodiesel options include a 1.6 CRDi with two outputs - a 90PS version and a 115PS version, and the top of the line oil burner is a 2.0 CRDi with a Variable Geometry Turbocharger, putting out 140PS, equal to the petrol version of similiar displacement.


You've probably read about the Kia Cee'd. Now meet its close cousin, the Hyundai i30. The Hyundai Corporation owns both brands, and these two cars are the corporation's most serious bridgehead yet into Europe. The Cee'd is made in a new Slovakian factory, while the i30 will soon emerge from another new plant in the Czech Republic. The idea is to make Kias more youthful, sportier and cheaper, while Hyundais will appeal to a more sophisticated, possibly older buyer. Think Seat versus Volkswagen.

Under the skin, these are pretty much the same car: a Golf/Focus-size five-door hatchback. A different nose and tail design marks out the i30, with a chrome blade across the top of the front upper air intake, and the tail lights are tall, vertical and pointed. It's a crisp, handsome car, with a bit more visual pizzazz than the tidy but bland Cee'd.

Engines are 1.4 and 1.6-litre petrol units, of 109 and 122bhp, plus 1.6 and 2.0-litre turbodiesels with 115 and 140bhp and healthy torque outputs of 188 and 224lb-ft respectively. The 2.0 diesel has a six-speed gearbox, while a four-speed automatic is available with all engines except the 1.4. Other markets also get a 2.0-litre petrol unit, but Hyundai UK is waiting for the forthcoming turbo version whose engine will also be used in future hot Cee'ds. Trim levels are Comfort, Style and Premium.

Reliability and Quality

Cars engineered by Korean companies have long been well made and reliable. It's just the quality of the plastics, the trim and the detail execution that has been lacking. It's likely that the i30 will continue the good reliability record even when the cars start coming out of the new Czech factory, and Hyundai's market-leading five-year, unlimited-mileage warranty suggests considerable confidence.

The i30 represents a new level of quality for Hyundai. Rattles are absent and the whole car feels strong and solid. The interior mouldings fit together beautifully. The various opening flaps operate with a smooth, damped action. The facia and door-trim upper sections are covered in high-quality padded plastic and the seat fabric is stylish and durable feeling.
Chrome detailing adds an upmarket aura, the graphics are sophisticated and the whole car has more than a touch of the premium product about it. Cover the inside of the windscreen pillars in fabric, give the plastic trim panel between facia and windscreen less of a sheen, and you could almost think you'd woken up in a Volkswagen Golf MkVI.

On the Road

Driving position? Fine if higher-set than average, with a good range of adjustment for seat and steering wheel but a stepped, rather than continuous, recline adjuster. Instruments? Crisp and clear in design, but hard to read in overcast conditions until you turn the lights on and illuminate the scales. Information display? The LCD screen has blue digits instead of the Kia's red ones, deemed sophisticated rather than sporty but hard to read in sunshine.

Move off, and you're struck by a sense of solidity and refined authority. The i30 moves quietly and with fair suppleness over bumps - it's set up to be softer than the Cee'd - and the steering feels substantial and accurate enough to inspire confidence: it's another example of a good electrically assisted system. In fact all the controls are weighted as you would hope: the brakes are progressive, the gearshift is easy but well-defined, the clutch bites smoothly. This is an easy car to flow with, whether in traffic or on the open road.

Hyundais have long had more driver-pleasing handling than many people expect, and the i30 is up to standard. Its suspension is unexpectedly sophisticated, with an expensive multi-link rear end which helps explain its combination of precision and suppleness. The responses are softer than a Cee'd's but still progressive, slop-free and interactive enough to engage the driver's attention. Think VW Golf and you'll get the idea.

We drove the two 1.6-litre versions of the i30, beginning with the diesel which could well become the best-selling version. It deserves to, because it's a refined unit with an adequate turn of speed (0-62mph in 11.6 seconds, 117mph all-out) and an easy, relaxed way of achieving it. When you consider that it does this while emitting an average 125g/km of CO2 (5g/km below the EU's target average for 2010), you realise that a low-emissions future needn't be dull.

You'll ultimately go faster in the petrol 1.6 (122bhp, 114lb-ft, 119mph, 11.1 seconds to 62mph), but there's not much in it and you'll use more fuel in the process. You'll sacrifice some refinement, too; the petrol engine is smoother, of course, but in working it harder you'll uncover a bit of a boom around 4,000rpm. And you won't get the easy surge of overtaking thrust that is a key part of the diesel's appeal.

Clearly the 2.0 diesel is the rapid one in the range, offering 127mph in its long-striding sixth gear and a 10.3-second 0-62mph time. But we can't comment yet on its civility. At the other extreme the 1.4 petrol unit, with its 109bhp and 101lb-ft, takes 12.6 seconds to reach 62mph while offering little economy advantage over the 1.6. We've tried this engine in the Cee'd, though, and it's quite a smooth little unit.


Emergency Brake Assist, whiplash-reducing front headrests and front, side and curtain airbags are all standard and so, impressively, is electronic stability control on all models. Thankfully, the seatbelt warning chime sounds only if you're moving as well as unbelted.

Despite all the above, EuroNCAP has awarded the Hyundai a four-star rating for occupancy protection, one less than the co-developed Kia Cee'd, citing the i30 suffering from an increased risk of a leg injury in a crash. The Hyundai hatch scores three stars for its child protection performance and two for pedestrian impact.

Style models upwards have tyre-pressure monitors. And while we're talking details, all i30s have a smart-looking key, with a foldaway blade and built-in remote lock/unlock controls. Its design resembles that of a VW Group or Peugeot-Citroen key.

Running Cost

That five-year warranty is a major draw. All four engine versions have impressive economy, too; even the thirstiest, the 1.6 petrol, has an official average of 45.5mpg and a 152g/km CO2 output, while the 1.6 diesel manages a claimed 60.1mpg on the official combined-cycle test. Servicing and insurance should be cheap.

Comfort and Equipment

The i30 has one of the longest wheelbases in its class, which translates to very good rear legroom. The boot is ample, the back seats fold properly, with the backrests making a flat load platform in the space vacated by the flip-forward cushions, and there are plenty of storage spaces including a decent-sized air-conditioned glovebox.

On the move the i30 is quiet, with minimal wind noise, low road noise (better than its Kia cousin) and not much in the way of intrusive engine noise. This is a civilised car, the equal of its established rivals. It also rides well, proving adept at rounding-off sharp edges in the road surface and keeping thumps under control. The i30 keeps its composure over undulations and when threading through an S-bend, too, thanks to good suspension damping. The only downside is an occasional low-frequency shudder from the front over bad ridges, probably caused by the engine shaking on its mountings.

As for equipment, the i30 may just be the standard-setter in its class. Every model gets aluminium alloy wheels, ESP with traction control, an iPod/MP3 connection plus USB port, heated mirrors, a CD player, very efficient air conditioning, stereo controls on the steering wheel, front foglights and four electric windows. The Style version adds leather on the steering wheel, seat edges and front centre armrest, plus 16" rather than 15" alloys and a tyre-pressure monitor.

If you go for the Premium model you gain 17" wheels, reversing sensors, automatic air con, electrically folding door mirrors, an electrochromatic interior mirror, full leather trim, heated front seats and automatic wipers. And there's one more feature which has to be worth a mention: an electric wiper de-icing element in the windscreen. Attention to detail. We like that.

Used Value

Depreciation is an unknown quantity as yet. The recasting of Hyundai's image will have an effect here, but in any case the i30 is usefully cheaper than mainstream European and Japanese rivals, especially when you take its impressive equipment levels into account.

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