Small station wagons are coming back into fashion and Robert Barry spent a week with the latest i30 CRDi from Hyundai to discover why.
More than 15 years ago Hyundai marketed a small station wagon called the Lantra, which was available with four- cylinder 1.6, 1.8 and two-litre petrol engines, and because of its size and versatility the fleet market bought this car by the dozens. At one point in the late 1990s more than 40 percent of Hyundai’s local sales were Lantra wagons.
Since then the proliferation of the small front-wheel drive crossover and compact SUV segment has dented the sales of small station wagons, but recently new entrants from VW, Toyota, Holden, and Ford, as well as the new Hyundai i30, has rekindled interest from fleet buyers.
We were very impressed with the ride quality and overall performance of the new i30 hatch when it was launched in 2012, but ambivalent about the adjustable flex-steer power steering system. The diesel version was the pick of the two engines on offer for performance and economy, albeit at times somewhat noisily.
All of these attributes have been transferred across to the new i30 wagon. On ignition, the 94kW 1.6-litre turbo-diesel engine gruffly fires into life, and it’s noticeably noisier than the petrol car - but not unpleasantly so. The six-speed automatic transmission puts the power to the road quickly and smoothly, with a six-speed manual transmission available on indent order.
Fuel consumption for the diesel engine is quoted at 5.6L/100km for the automatic, but our test drive produced a solid average of 7L/100km in urban and motorway running.
The first thing you notice about the new i30 diesel CRDi wagon when getting comfortable behind the steering wheel, is that, most unusually for a Hyundai, the indicator stalk is situated on the left-hand side of the steering wheel where the wiper stalk is normally found.
Unlike the i30 hatch, the wagon is sourced from the Hyundai plant in the Czech Republic, and hence the Euro-spec indicator, but the fit and finish of this vehicle is equally as good as any of the Korean sourced cars we have driven previously.
The Czech-built car also features daytime running lamps, which is a good safety feature for a fleet vehicle painted in this shade of greyish blue.
Each new generation of Hyundai gets more equipment as standard, and although the i30 wagon is not yet available in an Elite specification with leather upholstery, the standard cloth seats are comfortable to sit on and easily adjustable for drivers of most shapes and sizes.
Hands-free Bluetooth, full iPod integration, manually- controlled air conditioning, cruise control, remote steering wheel controls, and keyless entry and go, are all part of the wagon’s specification.
However, an interesting anomaly in our test vehicle was the lack of rear parking sensors, which can be fitted optionally, but we feel for the asking price of $ 41,990, these really ought to be a standard fit.
The i30 wagon is longer than the hatch by 185mm, which allows it to have 528 litres of load space with the rear seats in place, and when the rear seat backs fold down, they not only provide a completely flat load surface but an impressive 1,642 litres of space.
In summary, lack of parking sensors aside, the i30 diesel wagon will make an ideal car for a fleet looking for space and versatility, but it may not reach the lofty sales levels achieved by the Lantra more than 15 years ago.