Hyundai i30 hatchback review
"The Hyundai i30 is comfortable enough for long motorway drives and loaded with safety kit, making it easy to overlook its weaker points"
- Excellent standard safety equipment
- Fantastic motorway cruiser
- Economical engine range
- Badge lacks desirability
- Steering too sensitive
- Rear headroom not the best
Glance at a list of the best-selling models in the UK and you’ll notice that most are hatchbacks, and that the majority of those are Hyundai i30-sized cars aimed squarely at families. The top sellers regularly include the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra but the i30 doesn’t yet sell in sufficient numbers to join them on the list. That’s a pity because while the i30 isn’t the most exciting choice around, it has plenty to recommend, such as an impressively long list of standard equipment and boot space that beats both the Golf and Focus.
The i30 was facelifted towards the end of 2020 and changes included a wide new grille and pointy LED headlights on Premium and N Line versions. It gave the i30 a smarter look that should win over buyers looking for a stylish family hatch, and there are definitely shades of the Ford Focus in the design of the car’s nose. The facelift has also brought updated technology and a clearer range of trim levels.
Safety is one area where the i30 excels, because Hyundai has fitted technology like autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane-keeping assistance and even headlights that dip automatically – all as standard. This isn’t something that can be said for every rival, and is a commendable move by Hyundai.
The petrol and diesel engines are convincing, too, with a 1.0-litre petrol starting things off with 118bhp, while a larger 1.5-litre boasts 157bhp. These are modern, eager, turbocharged engines, now with fuel-saving mild-hybrid tech, that will be a better choice for most buyers than the 134bhp 1.6-litre diesel. For those wanting even more performance, we recommend the i30 N, it’s fitted with a 2.0-litre turbo petrol with 271bhp, plus lots of other performance upgrades.
Fuel economy for the standard i30 petrol models spans from 44.8mpg to 52.3mpg, while the diesel can manage up to 58.9mpg. The diesel is £1,800 more expensive, however, so you’ll need to do plenty of miles to make it worth the extra. The fastest car in the range is the 1.5-litre petrol, getting from 0-62mph in under nine seconds, while the smaller engine takes 11 seconds and diesel around 10 seconds. All engines are now available with a seven-speed automatic gearbox, which has little effect on performance.
Get behind the wheel and the i30 driving experience is both impressive and frustrating. On the motorway it’s very refined and similarly quiet to a Golf or Astra, but the steering feels twitchy, so the i30 needs regular inputs to keep it in the middle of the lane.
Inside, the i30 is comfortable, aesthetically pleasing and feels well built: the dashboard design is conservative, sure, but it’s pleasant enough and overall material quality is good, save for one rather prominent piece of scratchy plastic. The rear seats are adequately spacious rather than impressively roomy (six-footers will find them tight) but the 395-litre boot means the i30 has a little more luggage space than the Astra, Focus, Golf and A3 – although not the Skoda Octavia.
Pre-facelift i30s came in a choice of seven trim levels but thankfully Hyundai slimmed the confusing range down to just three models. That meant that the cheapest S spec was withdrawn but it was sparsely equipped anyway, and the new SE Connect entry-level model offers a far more generous equipment list. It has a digital radio, alloy wheels, rear parking sensors and a reversing camera, plus an eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to mirror your phone’s apps on the car’s screen.
Premium adds luxurious touches, including a heated steering wheel, a larger touchscreen with sat nav, a digital instrument cluster and wireless phone charging. It’s £3,000 more than SE Connect but the difference may not be massive on a monthly basis.
Because it has a more powerful engine, the sporty N-Line model is the most expensive. It carries most of the features of the Premium version and brings a sporty body kit that helps the i30 stand out. It’s intended as a less extreme alternative to the flagship performance model, the i30 N, with lower running costs and performance.
The impressive safety kit roster is effective, with Euro NCAP awarding the i30 five stars after independent crash testing. In terms of reliability, Hyundai’s most recent appearance in the 2020 Driver Power survey produced mixed results. Owners were generally happy with the reliability of Hyundais, and its 13th place finish (out of 30 manufacturers overall) is a big improvement on the year before.