Hyundai heads for a day of Golf

‘It looks like a Golf,” my friend said to me as I pulled up outside his place in the car you see here, the brand new for 2017 Hyundai i30.

And you can’t disagree too strongly with him, can you? Certainly when viewed from the rear or rear three quarters, the new i30 has more than a hint of the German car about it — a comparison we doubt Hyundai is unhappy about.

But move around to the front and you’ll discover that the Korean company is keen to forge its own brand identity, defined for the first time in the new i30 by the so-called cascading grille.

Apparently it is “inspired by the flowing descent of molten steel”. Designer waffle aside, that grille is almost invisible and the Hyundai i30 itself is in danger of fading into the background unless you specify it in a strong colour and higher specification (such as Deluxe Plus, which adds technical looking LED headlights), which then unlocks its potential to be a handsome machine.

The marketing material uses images of a car on larger and more attractive alloy wheels than are offered in Ireland too, though of course, cost aside, you can be sure that the smaller tyre sidewalls would detract from the i30’s comfort, regardless of how good-looking they are.

And we wouldn’t want that, as it turns out that the Hyundai i30 has one of the best chassis balances in the segment in terms of comfort, composure, and agility.

To be clear: It’s not in the least bit engaging, exciting, or interesting to drive, no matter how fun the road ahead (though there will soon be a hot hatch version called the ‘i30 N’ for buyers that care about such things), but the regular car is exceedingly competent in all departments.

The suspension soaks up bumps with little fuss, yet manages to keep all the tyres in touch with the ground and the body level and controlled even when you push it beyond its comfort zone.

We’re not fans of the three-mode power-steering system, but neither is it intrusive as you just leave it in the default setting all of the time.

Of far more importance to more buyers will be the i30’s serene refinement. Hyundai’s engineers have done astounding work in this department, managing to insulate unwanted external noises from the car’s occupants, including tyre road, wind noise, and grumbles from the engine under the bonnet.

Indeed, once warmed up, we’d suggest that the i30’s 1.6-litre diesel engine is quieter in operation and smoother even than that in the updated Volkswagen Golf 1.6 TDI. Yes, it really is that hushed.

If you want to make it quieter still, you can opt for one of two petrol engines, kicking off with the venerable old 1.4-litre unit that’s fine for pottering about and the cheapest to buy.

That starts at €19,995 for the i30 Classic, whereas the 1.6 diesel model in the same specification is a full €2,000 more expensive.

Nonetheless, that 1.4-litre petrol engine isn’t particularly efficient or powerful (it produces 100hp, but you need to rev it hard to extract that, which doesn’t suit the car in the least) and it’s completely overshadowed by the other petrol option in the line-up, a new turbocharged 1.0-litre, three-cylinder engine that produces 120hp and a lot more low-down torque shove, plus it comes with lower emissions and fuel consumption ratings. Where’s the catch?

It’s only available in conjunction with the top specification, Deluxe Plus, so it costs €24,245.

Saying that, a diesel engine in the same trim is €1,750 more again, so if you’ve decided you want all the toys already and you’ve just got to choose between the engines, we’d argue that a significant number of buyers (those that don’t cover anywhere near 20,000km a year, for example, and those that don’t drive on the motorway or at cruising speed regularly, either) should go for the new petrol engine, as smooth as the diesel is.

Conversely, if you’re on the motorway all the time and you’d prefer an automatic transmission then the diesel in Deluxe Auto specification is your only option, at a rather saucy €27,745.

But we’d understand if buyers are tempted by the lowest prices and PCP finance that makes it possible to get into an i30 from just €209 a month (5.9% APR).

After all, even the cheapest comes with heated door mirrors, Bluetooth telephony, cruise control and speed limiter, electric front windows, tyre pressure monitoring, keyless entry, a touchscreen infotainment system with auxiliary and USB inputs, and Hyundai’s excellent five-year warranty and after care package.

It costs €2,000 extra to upgrade to Deluxe, which adds 16in alloy wheels, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, electric folding for the door mirrors, front fog lights, upgraded headlamps, LED daytime running lights, air conditioning, rear view camera, and electric rear windows.

That seems a bit of a no-brainer, especially when you spread payments out over a few years.

I’d still be tempted to go for the bells and whistles i30 Deluxe Plus though. For another €2,000, it comes with half-leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, even snazzier lights, voice recognition, and a park assist system, plus a much more impressive touchscreen (measuring 8in) with access to Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and satnav.

So-equipped, the i30 feels as polished and high quality as any other car in the sector. And yes, that includes the ubiquitous Golf.


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