2021 Hyundai i30 facelift review: price, specs and release date

Hybrid engines and bold looks aim to propel the Hyundai i30 to centre stage in the family car market. We find out if it shines...

2021 Hyundai i30 prototype front

Priced from: £18,500 (est) | On sale: Early 2021

The freshly facelifted Hyundai i30 has followed the modern family hatchback playbook to the letter. First off, it has a funky new look that's designed to make it stand out on the road, and in new N-Line trim especially, with its mean front and rear bumpers, it does just that. Second, it features a mild hybrid engine in the range, which should lower your running costs and add a bit more zip, to increase the size of your smile as you drive. And thirdly, its interior is now more digital than the space shuttle – i.e, you’re constantly connected to the internet, with a larger infotainment screen to see all of the information presented to you.

All this is intended to push the i30 upmarket, to escape the chasing pack of family cars that includes the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra, to zoom past the class-leading Skoda Scala and Seat Leon, and to challenge the Volkswagen Golf at the pricier end of this market. Has Hyundai done enough, though? Well, although you won’t be able to buy this updated i30 until early next year, we were invited to try an early prototype version to see how it’s shaping up.

2021 Hyundai i30 prototype rear

2020 Hyundai i30 on the road

The 1.5-litre petrol engine mild hybrid setup of this early prototype car is likely to be the exclusive preserve of sporty N-Line trim, which is designed to have the look of a toned-down i30N hot hatchback, but not the sky-high running costs. It’s certainly peppy enough, and, thanks to the small amounts of electrical assistance you receive from the get-go, has no trouble in getting you up to speed. Indeed, while a 0-62mph sprint time of 8.4sec might not sound overly quick, it is on par with the equivalent mild hybrid Golf 1.5 eTSI 150, and makes this the fastest of the regular i30s, by some margin. 

Peak pulling power arrives fairly low down in the rev range, so there’s rarely any need to explore the rev counter’s upper reaches. That is a good thing, because although it’s fairly hushed at lower revs, it’s noisier than the Golf 1.5 eTSI as the revs rise. That being said, noise and vibration suppression is something that’s very much still being worked on, so we’ll reserve final judgements for now.

2021 Hyundai i30 prototype alloy wheel

Changes to the i30’s ride and handling aren’t major; as is the case with the current car, it offers a supple ride over most surfaces, but major scars and potholes can send a thud through the car.

This i30 feels a little more tied down through corners and more predictable than the current car; and, while the steering weight is a little hefty at times, it gives you a good idea of what the front wheels are up to. A Focus or Leon are still better choices for drivers seeking engagement, though.

You’ll be able to order an i30 with either a seven-speed automatic or six-speed manual gearbox, and the latter offers smooth shifts with a satisfying action as you slot the lever into place.

And what of those reduced running costs? Well, on a mixed route, which included both town driving and faster roads, and a liberal approach to the i30’s accelerator pedal, we managed 40mpg – similar to what we’ve seen from the Golf 1.5-litre eTSI 150 in the past. 

2021 Hyundai i30 prototype interior

2020 Hyundai i30 interior

Some of the i30’s interior is still being finalised, but what we’ve seen so far represents a big upgrade over the current car. For a start, while the instrument cluster still uses traditional analogue dials, they flank a new 7.0in digital display that provides a wealth of information just below your eye-line. The i30’s infotainment screen has grown to 10.25in, too, and it’s more responsive to use than the older system plus has more online features. And, while all touchscreens can be distracting to use while you’re driving, at least this i30’s doesn’t control everything; unlike the latest Golf and Leon, the i30 gives you physical buttons and knobs for its climate controls.

Interior space hasn’t changed, which means there's plenty of room for those in the front, but a six-foot passenger in the back will be quite cramped in for both head and leg room when sitting behind a similarly lanky driver. It doesn’t help that the front seatbacks, which their knees will make contact with, are made from hard plastic, but this may change on the final production model. Meanwhile, you can still fit slightly more shopping into the i30’s boot than you could in the Golf’s, although the cavernous Skoda Octavia remains the go-to choice for families with lots of luggage to carry around.