Hyundai’s long-awaited i30 is here, a mid-sized family hatchback intended to go head-to-head with the big guns of the C-segment. The latest in Hyundai’s Eurocentric i-series cars, it moves the brand further upmarket in terms of design language and confirms its status as a maker of high quality cars with mass market appeal.
Conceived at Hyundai’s Design and Technical Centre in Russelsheim, Germany, and manufactured in Korea, the i30 has not only a contemporary look but under the skin there’s also a car which boasts latest-generation powerplants, exceptional safety, superb refinement and a list of features aimed at making it an effortless motoring companion.
Says Hyundai Automotive’s Marketing Director Stanley Anderson: “With the i30 we’re going to bring the full weight of Hyundai’s ongoing metamorphosis to bear on the C-segment for the first time. The i10 and i20 have done the groundwork in the smaller segments, and this car will confirm the brand’s ability to build cars which are the equal of anything to come out of Europe.
“We’re focusing on the upper-end of the segment and to that end we have initially brought in a pair of premium-specification models, aimed at the motorist who wants a car with a host of technology, features and safety in a compact package, and at a price which represents exceptional value.”
There’s a clear family resemblance to the other ‘i’ series cars, with the bold, chromed bar on which the ‘H’ logo is suspended a familiar feature. Then there are the elongated headlamp housings, which give the face of the i30 a real sense of purpose. The bonnet line starts low, leading upwards seamlessly to a steeply raked windscreen. The body coloured bumpers and door mirrors enhance the clean, athletic lines.
From the side view, the long wheelbase, dynamic wheel arch and elegant use of concave and convex curves are apparent. The generous glazed area and upsweep of the rear windows mirror the lower character line, and the harmonic effect creates an appealing, distinct and dynamic posture. Electrically folding wide-angle door mirrors also house side repeaters.
The rear styling is solid and purposeful, rounding off the sleek lines of the front and side styling. The top of the tailgate features a rear roof spoiler, housing an elegant high mounted brake light and integrated rear washer nozzle. Incorporated into the rear Hyundai emblem, the hidden soft touch boot release fits seamlessly into the rear design which is characterised by bold rear combination lights and a deep body coloured bumper to enhance the vehicle’s sense of strength.
The i30’s wheelbase of 2 650 mm is the longest in class though the overall length of 4 245 mm makes it slightly shorter than most rivals. The result is a car with short overhangs – especially at the rear, and thanks to front and rear track widths that spread the footprint wider than most other cars in the segment, an assured and stable stance.
Both models ride on lightweight alloy wheels, the 1,6 equipped with 205/55R16s, and the 2,0-litre with 225/45s on handsome semi-chrome 7×17-inch wheels.
The first impression of the i30’s interior is that it is an uncluttered, orderly environment with a place for everything and everything in its place. Controls are neatly grouped, with the way the Radio/CD player, climate control and some minor ancillaries integrate into the centre stack promising flawless ergonomics.
From the driver’s seat the i30’s cool blue illuminated instrument lighting not only gives a contemporary feel, it also has the added benefit of reducing eyestrain and along with the bold font you couldn’t wish for clearer speedometer, tachometer, and fuel and temperature gauges.
The blue backlighting theme extends to the liquid crystal display for the multifunction trip computer nestling between the main instruments and the continuity of the lighting effect is reflected in the similar displays for sound system and air conditioning.
The height and reach adjustable steering column all add to the comfort and convenience of the i30 experience. Easily accessible window switches, mirror control and remote central locking on the driver’s door further enhance this.
So too do multifunction stalks for lights and wipers, the former with an automatic position whereby light sensors detect light levels and automatically activate the car’s headlights when required. Satellite controls on the left-hand spoke of the wheel allow quick access to radio channels and volume, the 2.0-litre model also fitted with cruise control on the right.
Up above is an additional feature specific to the larger-engined model: a tilt/slide sunroof. Both models however feature a convenience panel in the roof, with a sunglass case and individual map-reading lights.
As well as four speakers and two tweeters, in-car entertainment extends to USB and Auxiliary connections, with a cable coming with the car. The USB and auxiliary input connections provide you with the ability to listen to your portable media player through the vehicle’s audio system.
Both models also have full leather, this extending to door inserts, gearknob, and steering wheel rim. The upper section of the dashboard and the door cappings are finished in a dimpled, soft-touch plastic which heightens the level of perceived quality.
The stylish, orthopaedically-designed seats offer a wide range of adjustments to provide a safe and relaxing seating position, with the driver gaining the benefit of being able to tailor the height of the seat and the degree of lumbar support. Deep contoured rear seats and side padded front seats provide exceptional comfort and support.
The starting point for a practical family-sized holdall is the boot and in this case it is rated at 340 litres according to the VDA method, and can grow to 1 250 litres thanks to the 60/40 split and the flip-forward rear cushions which result in a long, low and level luggage compartment floor. A full-size spare tyre on an alloy rim resides under the floor.
The i30 also boasts many clever storage areas to maximise interior space. These include a lidded compartment atop the dash, a tall flip-top storage compartment/driver’s armrest (inside which the USB/Aux input is located) between the seats, and a glove compartment which is not only lockable but also comes with a cooling feature that is easily activated at the slide of a vent switch. There are, all told, 20 storage compartments inside an i30.
The letter ‘i’ represents the latest-generation approach to car design at Hyundai and that extends to safety too. The i30 has already achieved a maximum 5-star rating in the Australasian New Car Assessment Programme (ANCAP) and 5-stars for adult protection and four out of a possible five for child protection in the pre-2009 European NCAP ratings.
It would be stating the obvious to say the i30 has front and rear crumple zones, reinforcing beams in the doors, and structures to help keep the passenger cell intact in a side impact or rollover accident.
As is the norm with well-engineered cars, it also uses steel of different tensile strength and thicknesses in different areas with key points such as suspension pick-ups, doors sills, and pillar bases being suitably robust. It also has no less than six airbags (front, side and full-length curtain), as well as active headrests to reduce whiplash injuries and seatbelt pre-tensioners for front seat occupants.
Helping the driver of the i30 avoid an impact is ESP (Electronic Stability Program) which can be deactivated by the driver (the button is to the right of the steering column so that it can’t be pressed inadvertently by a passenger) but defaults to the ‘on’ position at start-up.
In addition there’s a powerful all-disc (ventilated in front) braking system featuring ABS and EBD.
Finally, the i30 comes loaded with features that take the load off the driver. These include an electro-chromic rearview mirror, one-touch down function for his or her window and a single-wipe function for windscreen wipers.
The local i30 range makes use of two well-proven all-aluminium powerplants – a 1,6-litre unit and a 2,0-litre. Both are mated to five-speed manual gearboxes, ratios chosen to suit their specific characteristics. In fact, the only common ratio is reverse gear.
Both engines are of a long-stroke design, with a high compression ratio, to ensure both flexibility and efficiency. With numbers of 89 kW and 153 Nm for the smaller unit and 105 kW and 186 Nm for the larger one, they are both able to offer eager performance compared to natural rivals. The 1,6 is able to reach 188 km/h in top gear, and the 2,0-litre 195 km/h. The larger powerplant also boasts variable valve timing (VVT) to enhance the width of the power band and provide exceptional driveability.
Multi-point electronic injection ensures precise metering of a diet of unleaded, and contributes to combined fuel consumption of 8,6 litres per 100 km and 7,5 per 100 for the 1,6 and 2,0-litre respectively. With CO2 taxation on the horizon, motorist will be pleased to hear the engines generate just 165 and 182 grams of CO2 per kilometre respectively. These numbers are among the best in class and will ensure the two i30’s attract a lower tax penalty than the vast majority of their rivals.
The ongoing trend toward larger wheels and ever-lower profile tyres has resulted in a generation of cars which have increasingly immediate responses and ever higher levels of grip. It has also resulted in many cars with compromised ride comfort in South African conditions, especially when suspension has not been recalibrated to suit our conditions. Rubber measuring 225/45 is radical by any standards yet while the driving is unashamedly sporty in the case of the 2,0-litre, it flattens imperfections in a manner which immediately confirm that the suspension is well-sorted for our kind of roads.
The i30’s chassis underpinnings combine front McPherson front suspension with a broad-based lower control arm, and a multi-link rear suspension mounted on a compact transverse subframe.
Rear shock absorbers and coil springs are mounted separately and as far outboard as possible for improved ride quality and minimal intrusion into the luggage area. Gas damping is used all round to ensure minimal degradation of shock absorber performance even in spirited driving. For assured cornering, suspension geometry is slightly ‘negative’ as far a camber angles are concerned and anti-roll bars both front and rear provide confidence-inspiring handling.
The steering plays a vital role in all this and the i30 is fitted with Hyundai’s latest MDPS (Motor-Driven Power Steering) system. This electric power-assisted system has relatively high gearing, with just 2.69 turns of the steering wheel lock-to-lock and an impressive 10.2 metre turning circle.
Hyundai has engineered their system to provide a natural feel and a meaty weighting, without the dead sensation which can mar some electric systems when travelling in a straight line. An added benefit of electrically-assisted steering is a fuel saving in the order of three percent on the open road.
In-built security systems can’t be overlooked in a modern car and the i30 offers a full range of features to prevent unauthorised usage. This includes a sophisticated alarm and transponder immobiliser system, remote central locking and a window-lock function. The doors are programmed to lock automatically when the vehicle reaches 40 km/h.
“There is no doubt that Hyundai has raised its game once again with this car – you can see it, you can feel it…and the list of standard features and equipment shows it,” says Anderson. “But we believe that the driving of it is the ultimate proof and this car exhibits a level of overall refinement and suspension control which confirms just how accomplished the i30 is. We’re more than confident that it’ll hold its own against not only the current offerings but also future additions to the C-segment melting pot.”
The i30 1,6-litre goes on sales at a price of R189 900 and the i30 2,0-litre at 229 900. This price includes Hyundai’s unrivalled combination of a 5-year/150 000 km warranty and a 5-year/100 000 km service plan.