MOTORS REVIEW: Hyundai i30

Out of the confusion drives the stylish i30

THERE is no doubt that we are about to see the legislative tide turn against diesel cars.

For better or worse, those who followed government advice to pay through the nose to get behind the wheel of what was seen as the greener option during a twenty-year battle against CO2 emissions are likely to see those same vehicles fall foul of various sanctions in the near future.

Since the US, with its abiding love of gasguzzling V8s, identified the Volkswagen emissions scandal all eyes have turned to its stringent rules around nitrogen dioxide emissions as the way to go.

On that score, diesel doesn’t measure-up.

The result? In comes a road tax regime that allows people to pay the same VED for a second-hand Mustang than a Golf TDI and, soon, a fuel consumption testing regime which could spell the end of the low CO2-emitting turbocharged petrol engine, according to one manufacturer MD I spoke to recently.

Furthermore, the popularity of SUVs means that diesel sales are refusing to lose traction as quickly as commentators predicted, with over 80 per cent of sales of the new Mazda CX-5 reviewed on these pages a fortnight ago expected to be accounted for by oil-burners.

Confusing. But one thing is for sure, the tide is slowly turning away from diesel and, ultimately, it’s hard to see anything but electricity powering our vehicles in the more distant future.

Hyundai seems to have hedged its bets quite nicely.

In its Ionic range it has the only production car available in hybrid, plug-in hybrid and EV (as of July 13) and it is well on-board with the down-sized turbocharged petrol engines which a rival shed doubt on…

Plus it seems to be a brand which consumers trust.

Those looking for a petrol car flocked to the i30 hatchback in June, making it the fastest-selling car on Auto Trader.

I got behind the latest version of the fivedoor hatchback to see how its Ford Ecoboost- rivalling, one-litre T-GDi turbocharged petrol engine performed.

Priced at £19,805 in SE Nav it sits in the lower mid-range of a line-up that starts at £16,995 with the same engine but a lesser specification.

Hyundai claims 48.7mpg fuel consumption and 115g/km CO2 emissions from the manual gearbox-equipped petrol unit which is some way behind the 78.5mpg and 94g/km of the £1,000 more expensive diesel equivalent.

With 118bhp and 126lb.ft. of torque the i30 will reach 62mph in 11.1 seconds and a top speed of 118mph (compared to 10.6 seconds and 117mph for the CRDi).

Try to get near to those figures and you risk sacrificing fuel economy still further to the diesel.

The petrol engine doesn’t only have value as a trump card, though. It is far more refined than the diesel equivalent and it is, perhaps, better to drive too.

Despite a degree of turbo lag which will see the car speed up quite markedly around 2,200rpm if you attempt to accelerate hard and persevere with a high gear, it will rev freely and boasts a decent amount of torque over a decent spread of the rev range.

Hyundai only introduced the new i30 this year and the new car not only benefits from improved handling, but a handsome new style.

Far from being garish, its looks might take time to fully appreciate, but I found its purposeful stance and bold grille more appealing as my time with it went on.

On the road the i30’s purposeful stance is not quite matched by its dynamics, but it does feel remarkably biddable, steering some ten per cent quicker than its predecessor making for a direct helm which does a decent job of making the chassis feel a little playful at times.

It also absorbs bumps with aplomb, featuring a well-judged suspension set up.

The one-litre i30 is only available with a six-speed manual gearbox, but elsewhere an array of equipment — even at the SE Nav level — impressed.

An eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system included Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, there’s also wireless phone charging pad, cruise control, dual-zone climate control and heated seats.

There’s a raft of safety equipment too.

Autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, automatic high beam and driver attention alerts are all part of the standard equipment.

The general feel of the interior is that of a functional and fairly intuitive design, but material quality is not of Volkswagen Group standard.

Many of the plastics are a little unyielding and, away from the most prominent areas, feel a little on the cheap side.

That said, the general build quality feels good and refinement — boosted by that quiet petrol motor — is one of the i30’s stronger points, along with a 395-litre boot which beats all but the Peugeot 308’s cavernous 470-litre space in this class.

Set any confusion aside about the diesel and petrol debate and the facts remain clear.

Cleaner Euro 6 diesels still have a future for those covering larger annual mileages and in need of strong outright fuel economy.

For the rest, the latest petrol engines are quieter, more torque-rich than ever and offer a cost advantage too.

Hyundai’s three-cylinder unit is one of the best out there and the i30 is a worthy recipient, if not a class leader in a segment featuring strong contenders like the Volkswagen Golf, Mazda 3 and Renault Megane.

First published July 14, 2017