Hyundai i30 Tourer 1.4 GDI

ROAD TEST

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As re­cent in­dus­try feats go, Hyundai Mo­tor Com­pany’s in­cur­sion onto the Euro­pean con­ti­nent must rank among the most im­pres­sive. A decade ago, when the orig­i­nal i30 was launched, the Korean man­u­fac­turer was lit­tle more than a sideshow in vol­ume terms. In 2015, it reg­is­tered 470,130 ve­hi­cles here – which was nearly 11% more than it man­aged the year be­fore. Its suc­cess story owes some­thing to good for­tune (the scrap­page scheme of 2008 ben­e­fited no other firm quite so vig­or­ously) but mostly it has been achieved by adroitly sup­ply­ing buy­ers with what they want: build qual­ity, equip­ment, keen pric­ing, prac­ti­cal­ity, re­li­a­bil­ity and a long, un­lim­ited war­ranty to un­der­pin it all.

More­over, and no less im­por­tant, there is Hyundai’s ra­pa­cious ap­petite for re­fresh­ing its line-up. This lat­est gen­er­a­tion of the i30 is the third, and al­though it might not quite qual­ify as ‘all-new’ (the plat­form has been over­hauled ma­te­ri­ally rather than switched out), the new model’s in­tro­duc­tion is sig­nif­i­cantly more im­pact­ful than many will be­lieve.

Not least among its al­ter­ations is a new look – de­liv­ered by Peter Schreyer, the Hyundai-kia de­sign demigod – that will in­form (another) new gen­er­a­tion of prod­uct. There are new en­gines, too, most no­tably the 1.4-litre T-GDI fit­ted to our test car.

Also bolted on is the Tourer con­fig­u­ra­tion, which, the firm be­lieves, will achieve close to a 20% share of to­tal i30 sales in the UK. The rea­son for that is sim­ple: the es­tate’s start­ing price is £1500 lower than its pre­de­ces­sor’s, and there’s now only £500 be­tween it and the hatch across the rest of the range. And if Hyundai’s me­te­oric rise proves any­thing, it’s that cus­tomers re­spond very kindly to ev­i­dence of good sense. Now the car just needs to prove at least as good as a Ford Fo­cus, Volk­swa­gen Golf, Vaux­hall As­tra, Mazda 3, Honda Civic, Peu­geot 308, Re­nault Mé­gane and Seat Leon. Acid test time.

DE­SIGN AND ENGI­NEER­ING

Schreyer’s in­flu­ence over Hyundai’s de­sign lan­guage has been well earned. The foun­da­tion of the suc­cess of sis­ter brand Kia is partly built on the so­phis­ti­cated, clean-cut look that the Ger­man de­sign chief is justly fa­mous for de­liv­er­ing. How­ever, the i30 finds him in a rel­a­tively con­ser­va­tive mood. De­spite the firm tout­ing de­sign as the “num­ber one buying rea­son” among Euro­pean cus­tomers, the car – in both Tourer and hatch­back for­mat – is a thor­oughly con­ven­tional-look­ing C-seg­ment prospect. Its most notable fea­ture is the new ‘cas­cad­ing grille’, a ta­per­ing af­fair ap­par­ently in­spired by the flow of molten steel and des­tined to be­come a hall­mark across the line-up, but even this is a rather con­form­ist af­fair and makes the i30 no more like­able or dis­tinc­tive than a reg­i­ment of sim­i­larly mod­ern­look­ing main­stream ri­vals.

Ar­guably, of course, there is no over­rid­ing need to stand out from the crowd (overly quirky fam­ily hatch­backs have a his­tory of fall­ing flat with buy­ers) and most re­peat

WE LIKE

Ad­mirable prac­ti­cal­ity Cour­te­ous ride com­fort Typ­i­cally com­pet­i­tive equip­ment lev­els

WE DON’T LIKE

Lack­lus­tre new petrol en­gine Han­dling com­pro­mise is still se­cond di­vi­sion Styling is only pass­ably ap­peal­ing

MUL­TI­ME­DIA SYS­TEM

As dis­agree­able as the i30’s 8.0in touch­screen is to be­hold, there’s pre­cious lit­tle that’s fun­da­men­tally wrong with what ap­pears on it. The short­cut keys are well cho­sen — split­ting Map and Nav is a wise choice — and the sys­tem sen­si­bly re­tains old-fash­ioned knobs for the vol­ume and zoom func­tions.

Doubt­less, a Volk­swa­gen Group en­gi­neer would point out that Hyundai has pre­served such out­moded fea­tures be­cause the tech­nol­ogy be­hind the sys­tem isn’t fast or glossy enough to make ev­ery­thing hap­pen on screen — and com­pared with the lus­trous sheen com­ing from the new Golf’s in­fo­tain­ment, the ac­cu­sa­tion wouldn’t be en­tirely un­founded.

How­ever, most i30 buy­ers are likely to think that the up­graded sys­tem is en­tirely ad­e­quate, not least be­cause it comes as stan­dard with Ap­ple Car­pay and An­droid Auto on board. The stereo is the only glar­ing weak point: four speak­ers and two tweet­ers is prob­a­bly in­suf­fi­cient given our test car’s range-top­ping spec.

cus­tomers will likely set­tle for the idea that the model is marginally more ap­peal­ing than the car it re­places. Un­der­neath, it is very much like its pre­de­ces­sor. Al­though marginally larger, the i30 es­sen­tially has the same ar­chi­tec­ture – al­beit in a no­tably light­ened, stiff­ened for­mat. The car’s gain, par­tic­u­larly as far as tor­sional rigid­ity is con­cerned, is a di­rect con­se­quence of a dou­bling of the pro­por­tion of high-strength steel used in its con­struc­tion. The low­er­rid­ing chas­sis – still a con­glom­er­ate of front Macpher­son struts and rear multi-link – has in­evitably been re­tuned for the en­hanced set­ting, with Hyundai claim­ing a 10% im­prove­ment in steer­ing re­sponse.

The new en­gine line-up is con­sid­er­ably more sturdy, too. The pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion, cer­tainly by the end of its life­cy­cle, was hand­i­capped by a num­ber of pow­er­plants well past their sell-by date. Only the 109bhp 1.6-litre CRDI diesel four-pot makes the tran­si­tion and, in line with the rest of the seg­ment’s re­vised at­ti­tude to oil-burn­ers, ex­pect that unit to be soft-ped­alled in re­tail terms. In­stead, the real choice is be­tween the three­cylin­der 118bhp 1.0-litre T-GDI mo­tor, which has made its de­but else­where, and the new four-cylin­der 138bhp 1.4-litre T-GDI en­gine of our test car.

This 1.4 is im­por­tant be­cause it fi­nally pro­vides the i30 with a forced-in­duc­tion, petrol-burn­ing en­gine that prom­ises a very Euro­pean com­pro­mise of power and par­si­mo­nious­ness. Bet­ter still, de­spite the ad­di­tional sin­gle-scroll tur­bocharger, Hyundai in­sists that the four-pot is 14kg lighter than the ven­er­a­ble nat­u­rally as­pi­rated Gamma unit it re­places. We drove it with the stan­dard six-speed man­ual gear­box, al­though a sev­en­speed dual-clutch trans­mis­sion is avail­able as an op­tion.

IN­TE­RIOR

Per­haps even more so than the ex­te­rior, the i30’s in­te­rior has been com­pre­hen­sively rethought. The changes are whole­sale, al­though the most notable al­ter­ation is also the most con­tentious: Hyundai has opted to ex­tract the in­fo­tain­ment screen from its in­te­grated po­si­tion in the cen­tre stack and plonk it on top. The ad­van­tage of do­ing so is that it per­mits a lib­eral shrink­ing of the dash­board, thereby en­hanc­ing the per­cep­tion of light and space, yet Hyundai also re­mains wed­ded to the use of phys­i­cal short­cut keys, which are func­tion­ally use­ful but make the new stand-alone dis­play a lit­tle un­sightly to be­hold.

It’s a re­gret­table state of af­fairs

be­cause else­where the over­haul is well thought out. The lay­out is now far more hor­i­zon­tal in its de­sign theme than the pre­vi­ous it­er­a­tion, and al­though no one would ac­cuse it of over-in­dulging on imag­i­na­tion, it is a gen­er­ally sat­is­fy­ing place to pass the time. All of the switchgear has been thought­fully re­con­sid­ered – the new three-spoke steer­ing wheel is a vast im­prove­ment on its but­ton ad­dled fore­bear – and al­though the ma­te­rial choice leans heav­ily to­wards dour, cloud­burst-coloured plas­tics, they all fit to­gether well enough, save per­haps for the lid of the cen­tre con­sole cubby, which feels as flimsy as a pound-shop­bought bis­cuit tin.

In the back, the Tourer’s added value prac­ti­cal­ity comes pre­dictably to the fore. The i30’s leg room isn’t peer­less in a seg­ment that in­cludes the Oc­tavia es­tate but it’s eas­ily wor­thy of adult-rated knees and the head room – obliged by the longer roof line – is plen­ti­ful. The boot dou­bles down on the theme: its pleas­ingly rec­tan­gu­lar, very well ap­pointed load space eas­ily equals the ap­peal of any­thing made by di­rect ri­vals. The 60/40 seat backs are on the heavy side, but they flop for­ward to turn a very gen­er­ous 602 litres of ca­pac­ity into 1650 litres. Throw in the un­der­rated pres­ence of ad­di­tional cub­by­holes un­der the boot floor and the Tourer nails its USP with tick-box aplomb. With re­gard to the i30’s tur­bocharged petrol en­gine, Hyundai’s main ob­jec­tive is ob­vi­ously twofold: more peak torque of the low-down, ac­ces­si­ble kind, along with a com­men­su­rate im­prove­ment in the four-pot’s ef­fi­ciency. In both re­spects, the unit rep­re­sents a mid­dling achieve­ment.

Its ba­sic man­ners, cer­tainly of the au­di­ble sort, are gen­er­ally cred­itable. Via a thick­set gearchange and clutch pedal, nor­mal progress is dis­patched with a de­pend­able, in­nocu­ous air. The en­gine’s func­tion is pal­pa­ble in the cabin but muf­fled into the kind of non­de­script hum that makes it dif­fi­cult to im­me­di­ately iden­tify whether it runs on petrol or diesel.

The per­for­mance be­ing meted out is barely any more ef­fec­tive a guide: the 178lb ft of torque, avail­able from 1500rpm, is un­equiv­o­cally the unit’s pri­mary source of propul­sion, with all the hard work done be­fore 4000rpm. Any sub­se­quent in­dus­try feels like an af­ter­thought in the mod­ern oil-burner mould, the mo­tor feel­ing suf­fi­ciently sti­fled by the ap­pear­ance of peak power at 6000rpm that one won­ders if Hyundai ex­pects its buy­ers to re­main al­most per­ma­nent strangers to the power out­put they’ve paid for.

There’s enough oblig­ing en­ergy low down to pa­per over this sub­se­quent crack, but the idea of a claimed 9.2sec to 62mph be­ing dis­pensed spirit­edly is given short shrift. The 9.5sec the Tourer on test took to reach 60mph from rest is just spry enough to parry any ac­cu­sa­tion of real lethargy yet si­mul­ta­ne­ously too pedes­trian to re­buff the thought that you’d be whisked for­ward plenty more con­sis­tently in, say, a Leon ST equipped with the equiv­a­lent 1.4-litre ECOTSI. Deeper con­sid­er­a­tion of the com­pe­ti­tion does the T-GDI no favours at all: the down­sized petrol en­gines of most main­stream ri­vals – all sim­i­larly en­cum­bered with tur­bocharg­ers – do a bet­ter, keener, freer job of work­ing at higher crank speeds. Even al­low­ing for the likely mod­est re­quire­ments of a Tourer driver – which the petrol mo­tor ought to ad­e­quately in­dulge – the ab­sence of any real dy­namism is detri­men­tal nev­er­the­less.

PER­FOR­MANCE RIDE AND HAN­DLING

It is pos­si­ble – tempt­ing even – to be re­duc­tively un­kind about the way the i30 drives. It strives so bel­liger­ently for a be­nign and non­de­script sort of in­of­fen­sive­ness that jour­neys are fre­quently ter­mi­nated with­out a sin­gle salient de­tail hav­ing been marked for praise or ad­mon­ish­ment. None­the­less, while that makes it the mor­tal en­emy of any job­bing re­viewer, it is not nec­es­sar­ily to the detri­ment of the buying pub­lic. For any­one seek­ing to flit­ter away a com­mute with the blithe de­tach­ment of an air­line

pas­sen­ger, it is po­ten­tially ideal.

Af­ter all, the i30 steers, rides and han­dles with steady, heavy-set com­pe­tence. The onus, very overtly and fa­mil­iarly, is on re­fine­ment and com­fort – not an un­wel­come set of virtues. The prob­lem is that the as­pi­ra­tion set­tles on the car like a sed­i­men­tary layer of in­su­la­tion, de­priv­ing it of any­thing that might be con­strued as verve or even chirpi­ness. Cer­tainly, the well-oiled dy­namic sparkle made pal­pa­ble by the re­spon­sive­ness and con­trol ser­vice elan of a Golf or Fo­cus or even the lat­est As­tra is made con­spic­u­ous by its con­tin­ued ab­sence. In­stead, the i30 fo­cuses on evinc­ing de­pend­abil­ity and meek­ness and ge­nial­ity.

As a re­sult, the car am­bles just about as peace­ably as any­thing else you might rea­son­ably con­sider in the C-seg­ment. Un­like the afore­men­tioned mod­els, where the run­ning gear tends to har­monise in the out­side lane of a mo­tor­way, the i30 feels tuned to best com­ple­ment the kind of progress made at 45mph on an ar­che­typ­i­cal A-road. It is here where the co­ag­u­lated steer­ing, staid en­gine and per­mis­sive dampers col­lude most pro­fi­ciently, fad­ing im­pres­sively into a back­ground of muf­fled and very as­sured mod­er­a­tion. It is here where the Hyundai, very firmly and con­sis­tently, does what it says on the tin. Mea­sure out your ex­pec­ta­tions ac­cord­ingly, and the Tourer barely puts a foot wrong.

BUYING AND OWN­ING

The days of Hyundai fu­ri­ously un­der­cut­ting the com­pe­ti­tion are long gone but the firm is not above ap­peal­ing to bar­gain hunters. The en­try-level S-trim Tourer, fur­nished with the 1.0-litre three-pot ex­clu­sively and Blue­tooth and DAB (al­though no touch­screen), feels al­most like an homage to the i30’s bud­get-pleas­ing ori­gins at £17,495. For every­one else, the SE starts at £19,355, which is where the car ac­quires the 16in al­loy wheels, front fog­lights, rear park as­sist and down­sized in­fo­tain­ment screen that it’ll need come re­sale.

Above it, SE Nav earns the same 8.0in dis­play as fea­tured on our test car and can be had with the full range of en­gines (the 1.4-litre T-GDI be­ing un­avail­able with lowlier-spec cars). Pre­mium trim ditches the three-pot al­to­gether and throws in de­sir­able items such as 17in wheels and dual-zone cli­mate con­trol. Top­spec Pre­mium SE adds a panoramic sun­roof, leather seat fac­ings and a heated steer­ing wheel.

Ex­pect run­ning costs to be re­spectable rather than in­fin­i­tes­i­mal. Our test car’s 129g/km CO2 emis­sions are noth­ing to write home about (Seat’s 1.4-litre ECOTSI is 15g/km cleaner), al­though its 39.2mpg av­er­age is ba­si­cally on a par with the 40.3mpg recorded by the Golf 1.5-litre TSI we road tested last month. Ex­pect the 1.0-litre T-GDI to do a lit­tle bet­ter, but not by much.

It steers, rides and han­dles with steady, heavy-set com­pe­tence

MODEL TESTED 1.4 T-GDI PRE­MIUM SE Price £24,155 Power 138bhp Torque 178lb ft 0-60mph 9.5sec 30-70mph in fourth 12.8sec Fuel econ­omy 39.2mpg CO2 emis­sions 129g/km 70-0mph 46.1m

Ex­pect to see a lot more of the i30’s new grille be­cause it’s due to be­gin ‘cas­cad­ing’ its way through the rest of the Hyundai line-up. Ditto the chrome­plated dots, we’d bet.

You’ll need to climb the Tourer’s trim lad­der all the way to Pre­mium to get 17in wheels as stan­dard. The en­try-level S model gets 15in al­loys and the SE 16in.

Long, slim head­lights fea­tured on the pre­vi­ous i30 and they pro­vide the launch­ing point for the car’s shoul­der line here. Our test car fea­tured high and low-beam LEDS.

The hatch gets its rear spoiler in black. For the Tourer, it’s body coloured but no less crit­i­cal to an aero­dy­namic ef­fort that starts with air cur­tains either side of the front bumper.

Cheap­est Tourer is de­nied pro­jec­torstyle fog­lights but they fea­ture across the rest of the range. The ver­ti­cal day­time run­ning lights also fea­ture an in­di­ca­tor func­tion.

The de­ploy­ment of high-mounted re­flec­tors — in con­junc­tion with the sig­na­ture LED graphic above — is meant to help dis­tin­guish the i30 on the road. We’d prob­a­bly have set­tled for the badge.

Pre­mium SE makes lib­eral use of bright­work, in­clud­ing on the door han­dles, on the belt line mould­ing and for the roof rails.

That stretched rear win­dow and longer over­hang make the wagon much bet­ter pro­por­tioned than the hatch.

Orig­i­nal i30 es­tate was un­veiled in 2007

The re­vised heat­ing, ven­ti­la­tion and air-con switchgear is in­dica­tive of Hyundai’s ef­forts to spread the i30’s in­te­rior de­sign out along hor­i­zon­tal lines.

For an ex­am­ple of just how closely Hyundai stud­ies the Golf, look at the but­tons now adorn­ing the i30’s gear­box. Dif­fer­ent func­tion; ex­actly the same theme.

The wire­less phone-charg­ing pad is stan­dard on the Pre­mium SE’S im­pres­sive kit list; ditto the highly ac­ces­si­ble (and starkly un­adorned) ar­ray of sock­ets.

Width 1040mm Height 470-700mm Length 1000-1870mm This is how to do a wagon’s boot: ex­cep­tion­ally well trimmed, lit­tered with an­chor points, a semi-fixed floor with stor­age un­der­neath and a light­weight par­cel shelf.

Typ­i­cal leg room 740mm A mostly flat rear bench makes the Tourer a gen­uine (if ob­vi­ously tem­po­rary) five-seater when needed. The seat backs are easy to op­er­ate but weighty.

No, there isn’t much colour gra­di­ent go­ing on in the i30, but the space is plen­ti­ful and, for all their con­tour­ing, the front seats are pleas­ingly com­fort­able.

Much like its ap­pear­ance, the i30 Tourer’s han­dling is pur­pose­fully safe and in­of­fen­sive; the dy­namic bal­ance is tuned more for com­fort and re­fine­ment.

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