MOTORS REVIEW: Hyundai i30 Fastback

WITH all the talk of SUVs and crossovers you could be forgiven for thinking that a sleeker and lower alternative to a family hatchback might have been consigned to the past.

But just as sister brand Kia has spiced up its Ceed hatchback line-up with the addition of the shooting brake-style Pro- Ceed, so Hyundai has this — the i30 Fastback.

Unique at this price point (£20,435 to £25,285) it’s a car inspired by graceful premium five-door coupes like the Mercedes-Benz CLS and Audi A5 Sportback, but brings the Korean brand’s usual selling points of an aggressive specification and five-year warranty as standard.

Rather unusually, it also serves up a little added practicality than the i30 hatchback on paper, with the addition of 55-litres of boot space (450- litres).

In reality that boot is deeper but shallower than the hatchback, but the space is there and the same is true of the rest of the car.

Despite measuring an inch lower than the i30 hatchback, there’s adult-sized headroom both front and rear and the fairly impressive rear legroom that is a feature of the standard car too.

Tested here in N Line+ trim, with Hyundai’s now familiar 140PS 1.4-litre turbocharged T-GDi petrol engine, the Fastback is priced at £23,760.

New to the line-up last Spring, the relatively new trim line suits the dynamic appearance of the i30 Fastback perfectly, introducing cues from the high performance i30 N models to good effect.

Outside there’s a more aggressive grille and front bumper at the front and a diffuser-style rear bumper and triangular fog lamp — along with a smattering of N Line badging — to mark it out.

Inside, what is largely a standard i30 cabin also benefits from the addition of stainless steel sports pedals, rather wing-backed sports seats and an “N” branded gear lever.

More generally the cabin lacks some design inspiration, but is functional and of reasonable quality.

Some of the plastics lack tactility and there’s little variation among the dark materials on show, but all the key controls are well placed and function well, blue switchgear lighting helping to mark this out as a Hyundai cabin rather than that of from close brand relation Kia.

As already mentioned, the i30 Fastback is well equipped as standard.

There’s an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system and, while the display an in-build sat-nav standard on all models doesn’t feature the sharpest graphics, it is straightforward to use and works well.

Parking sensors and a reversing camera help to overcome rear visibility which suffers slightly over the hatchback due to those powerfully re-sculpted haunches, meanwhile, as electronic lumber support adds to what is a fairly adjustable driving position — albeit a little higher than I was expecting.

Among the other highlights in the N Line+ trim were heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, dual-zone climate control and LED headlights with automatic dip and cornering functions.

The standard safety technology includes a lane departure warning system, autonomous emergency braking and hill start assist.

Dynamically, the i30 Fastback is surefooted and offers impressive stability and grip thanks to adjusted damping and firmer springs than its hatchback counterpart.

In truth, the ride can be a little choppy over severely broken roads, but some might have expected an even more distinctive feel for the i30 range’s compact coupe.

Generally it proved to be a good cruiser — although not the quietest at motorway speeds — while serving up accurate Broad manners that went without the adjustable, playful attributes of Hyundai’s excellent full-blown “N” products.

Huge improvements have been made with the steering of both Hyundai and Kia products in recent years, though, and it’s a point worthy of acknowledgment.

Once numb to the point of being glassy, there’s now enough weight and natural feedback to give drivers confidence when placing their car down a narrow or undulating road.

Equipped with Hyundai’s six-speed manual gearbox here, the i30 Fastback was in its swiftest guise away from the 275PS range-topping “N” version.

Capable of reaching 62mph in 9.2 seconds and on to a 129mph top speed, it’s respectable rather than rapid performance, but the impressive low-down delivery of the engine (242Nm of torque is delivered from just 1,500rpm) makes maintaining speed, tackling hills and the odd overtake fairly effortless.

It’s exhaust note even sounds rather fruity during low speed manoeuvres, which I quite liked.

I bettered the WLTP-tested 44.8mpg combined fuel economy figure during my test — seeing around 47mph on longer runs - but the 132g/km CO2 emissions lag a little behind the cleanest petrol engines on the market.

There were very few disappointments served up by the i30 Fastback, though.

I really liked the styling. The N Line trim is clearly the pick of the Fastback range now and looks every bit the affordable alternative to the premium cars that served as its inspiration.

Combine with that practical interior space, some choice trim highlights, a tractable engine and predictable dynamics and it looks like a genuinely appealing alternative to the similarly-priced hatchback norm.

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