First Drive

2017 Hyundai i30 1.4 T-GDi 140 review

The Hyundai i30 gets a new look, a new engine and more standard equipment for 2017 as it goes in search of class honours

Words ByRory White

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In its current form, the Hyundai i30 finds itself nestled in the middle of the family car class. It's rounded enough to keep lesser efforts such as the CitroΓ«n C4 and Fiat Tipo at arms length but lacks the polish of class leaders such as the Skoda Octavia.

That could all change with this new version, though, which goes on sale in March. It gets a fresh look and a new turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine – which joins a turbo 1.0-litre petrol and 1.6 diesel – as well as an impressive list of standard equipment and safety kit across the range.

The outgoing i30's big bugbears were its so-so performance, stale handling and a uninspiring interior, so if Hyundai has improved these things it has the potential to worry the class leaders. We're driving the new 1.4-litre turbo model to find out.

What's the 2017 Hyundai i30 like to drive?

The new 1.4-litre turbo engine is mostly good news. There's a little lag to contend with (the time between pressing the accelerator pedal and feeling the car surge forward), but it's eager enough once into its stride. Mind you, it doesn't feel quite as quick as its sub nine-second 0-62mph time would suggest, although pushing it hard never generates too much noise or vibration.

The i30 also impresses with its ride, which was commendable in the outgoing model but is even better here. Hyundai has carried out some light body strengthening and rear suspension improvements, meaning potholes, ruts and broken roads are all soaked up with even greater compliance.

Hyundai also claims to have improved the i30's steering in search of better driver involvement, but in truth, the i30 feels a fair way off the pace compared with the class best Ford Focus and Audi A3 in terms of handling. Its steering is too heavy in all situations and never provides a great sense of connection with the road. The i30's body tends to lean quite a lot under hard cornering, too, and while there's decent grip, it just never feels particularly nimble.

Just as the i30 proves relaxing in the way it rides bumps, it also isolates you from road and wind noise extremely well. This all adds up to a car that is far more suited to comfortable cruising on the motorway than twisting country roads.

What's the 2017 Hyundai i30 like inside?

Two adults will have no issues with space in the front, where head and leg room are both generous. Our high-grade test car was fitted with electric seats, which were wide ranging in terms of adjustment. The new i30 has plenty of steering wheel adjustment, too.

The rear seats aren't quite so welcoming, certainly when compared to the capacious Skoda Octavia and Vauxhall Astra, and even next to cars such as the Seat Leon and Volkswagen Golf. Tall adults will find their knees resting against the front seatbacks and not a huge amount of room above their heads.

The i30's boot, at 395 litres, is slightly bigger than a Golf's, even if it's quite some way behind a Skoda Octavia's. Crucially, though, the load bay is easy to access, fairly close to the ground and doesn't suffer a particularly intrusive loading lip, and the i30's standard 60/40 split folding rear seats lie almost flat when folded down.

The previous i30's bland interior was one of its weakest points, but there has been a big improvement here. True, the materials used aren't anywhere near as classy as those in an Audi A3, or even a Skoda Octavia's, but they are dense and pleasing to the eye and everything feels solidly constructed.

Hyundai has also reworked the i30's infotainment system. Every car now comes with a DAB radio and Bluetooth, and from SE trim upwards you get a 5.0in colour touchscreen. However, our car was fitted with the larger 8.0in colour touchscreen (standard on SE Nav models and above), which now has a faster processor to make it more responsive when you press it. It's easy to use, too, and comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring as standard.

Should I buy one?

The i30 is a more rounded car than it was before. It's a nicer thing to sit in and still rides comfortably and with features such as air-con, Bluetooth, DAB radio, alloy wheels and automatic emergency braking coming as standard on even the cheapest trims, it's very generously equipped.

But in this extremely tough class, improvements needed to be revolutionary, not evolutionary, in order for the i30 to really stand out. Put simply, the Skoda Octavia remains a better bet for most family car buyers. In equivalent 1.4 TSI form, it's quicker, emits less CO2, is vastly more spacious inside and has a better ride and handling balance – and it costs about the same.

As such, the i30 remains middle of the pack; we certainly wouldn't try to talk you out of buying one, but it shouldn't be top of the test drive shortlist.

What Car? says...

Rated 3 out of 5

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Skoda Octavia

Vauxhall Astra

Hyundai i30 1.4 T-GDi 140

Engine size 1.4-litre turbo

Price from Β£20,395

Power 138bhp

Torque 179lb ft

0-62mph 8.9sec

Top speed 130mph

Fuel economy (official combined) 52.3mpg

CO2/BIK band 124g/km/21%