MOTORS REVIEW: Hyundai i30

HYUNDAI seems to be starting to place as much emphasis on choice as the premium brands from Germany.

Trying to navigate the vast range and options lists published by Mercedes-Benz and BMW is like attempting to navigate the menu of a takeaway on Rawmarsh Hill… How do they cook all those dishes at a moment’s notice?

Hyundai’s push to fill niches delivered the recently-tested Ioniq and its status as the first car to offer hybrid, plug-in hybrid and EV versions of the same model.

Now the i30, once a humble hatchback, has diversified.

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Following on from the i30N hot hatch that we tested earlier in the year, I got behind the wheel of the i30 Fastback, which now lines up alongside a Tourer to deliver a raft of options for potential buyers.

The Fastback straddles the space between a hatchback and saloon, but is more closely aligned to the former, its large boot space of 450-litres — sitting between the hatchback’s 395-litres and estate’s 600-litres — contributes to a more sporty, rakish and some may say inherently premium appearance.

At £24,400 (roughly £1,000 more than the hatchback equivalent) it’s fair to say that I considered the Fastback good value for money in the Premium trim level tested here.

As ever, Hyundai does a better job of giving a nod to premium rivals in terms of its on-paper specification than the overall feel of its interior.

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There are some neat design details and plenty of storage, but the materials employed by Hyundai belie that affordable price tag.

A plain disc of piano black plastic on top of the seven-speed dualclutch gearbox’s gear selector looks like an afterthought.

That said, the functionality and positive feel of all the key controls make the Fastback’s cabin a pleasingly intuitive and straightforward habitat.

An eight-inch touchscreen satnav infotainment system is managed through menus that are straightforward and easy to use on the move and the controls for the dual-zone climate control are in the form of wide toggle-like switches which are easy to hit on-the-move.

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Standard kit on what is the Fastback’s mid-range offering is plentiful.

Keyless entry and starting, a reversing camera, cruise control and part faux leather seats which are heated in the front are all present.

Under the bonnet is a turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine delivering 138bhp and 179lb.ft. of torque.

That’s enough power to get the Fastback to 62mph in 9.5 seconds and on to a 126mph top speed.

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Hyundai claims average fuel economy of 50.4mpg and 129g/km CO2 emissions.

Honestly, I was a little underwhelmed by the engine and gearbox combination.

At low speeds Hyundai’s DCT ’box felt indecisive at times and the engine a little breathy.

Things improved when the pace rose, however, and the engine felt stronger with a few revs dialled-in.

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One area where Hyundai has made strides in recent times — as noted in our glowing report on the new i30 N hot hatch, is in the handling department.

In the Fastback more attention has been paid to the quality of the ride, but there’s a pleasing balance between comfortable cruiser and fairly accurate B-road manners.

Those expecting that Fastback status to usher in some of the refinement of a saloon will be somewhat disappointed, though.

It might not have the silhouette of a hatchback, but the boot is still an integral part of the cabin and all-inall the road and wind noise present is far from best in class, falling short of a Renault Megane or Peugeot 3008.

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For those wanting to break away from the crowd and turn the odd head, the i30 Fastback might be a good option.

For the bonus of added space and the same basic strengths, though, I’d be opting for the estate…

There’s so much choice at Hyundai now that a visit to the showroom could prompt a serious fit of head scratching.