A few years have passed since the Hyundai i30 won our Carbuyer Car of the Year award, but it's still one of the more competitive family hatchbacks you can buy. Even before its recent mid-life facelift, the i30 was a car that compared well to many of its rivals.
Practicality, for instance, is very good by class standards. There's plenty of room in the front and back seats, lots of cubbies dotted about the cabin and, at 378 litres, it has a bigger boot than the Vauxhall Astra, Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf.
The i30 also comes with a range of good engines that cater to the needs of most buyers. Those looking for some grunt at the expense of fuel economy can go for the 186bhp 1.6-litre petrol in the range-topping ‘Turbo’ model, while those who prefer a greater emphasis on fuel economy can go for the less punchy yet more frugal 1.4 and 1.6-litre engines. However, we’re more inclined to recommend the diesels – especially the 110bhp engine with the manual gearbox, as it's powerful and flexible enough for the needs of most buyers, is road-tax-exempt and can return over 68mpg.
The i30 rides also rides fairly well, although it's here where the Hyundai starts to lose some ground to its rivals. Body lean, for example, is more noticeable here than it is in a Volkswagen Golf, yet it still loses its composure slightly over rougher surfaces. Likewise, the responsive steering and decent grip aren’t enough to topple the Ford Focus, our favourite hatchback in this class to drive.
Where the Hyundai i30 makes up for this, though, is with overall build quality. The main controls are all legible and easy to use (aside from the cluttered buttons on the centre console), while the high-quality materials used throughout give the Hyundai a sturdy, upmarket feel. This perception of solidity is further reinforced by the car's five-year, unlimited-mileage warranty.
As with many cars in this class, the Hyundai i30 comes with a fair bit of kit as standard. The entry-level S specification is a bit sparse, so we’d recommend the mid-range SE trim, which adds rear parking sensors, cruise control, electric windows front and back and alloy wheels. Safety is a highlight of the i30, too – it received the full five-star rating in its Euro NCAP crash test and all models come with a tyre-pressure monitoring system, hill-start assistance and six airbags as standard.