The latest Hyundai i30 is not like its ancestors - there was a time, not that long ago, when you made excuses for Hyundais. Sure, you reasoned about each new model, its not as stylish as its European rivals, the interiors a little plasticky and its decidedly average to drive but its cheap.
Times change, though. You could argue that Hyundai is now more firmly established in the mainstream market than some of the older players, such as the French brands. Theres simply no stigma attached any more to buying a car from either Hyundai or its stablemate, Kia.
Thats a positive development, youd like to think, but at the same time it piles pressure on a car such as the Hyundai i30. This is a direct rival to the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf, and it has to deliver on all counts space, style, comfort, quality and dynamics because its perceived value has shifted a little further north. In other words, if it proves good enough, it could still be good value, but its no longer cheap.
That makes a new Hyundai family car an irresistible proposition for a longer test, so we wasted little time in getting the latest i30 on to our fleet.
Our Hyundai came in striking Aqua Blue (a 445 option), Active trim (a mid-range spec that looks the pick of the line-up) and with a 1.6-litre 109bhp diesel engine.
The i30 found its way into the hands of Adele Donaghie, who soon started stretching its capacity to the maximum with all of the clutter that accompanies the arrival of a newborn baby.
Adele was an early sceptic, purely because the i30 didnt have the handling verve of the Ford Focus that had been her previous long-termer. However, when she started to load it up with all those necessary items of everyday life, it quickly won her over. In the early weeks, the car was tasked with transporting everything from a pair of elderly grandparents to a double bed, and had little difficulty in coping with any of this.
Adele was also impressed with the cars fuel economy. Fully laden, the i30 managed around 55mpg. Now, admittedly, thats still some way short of the Government figure of 76mpg, but its still more than respectable for a fully loaded family hatch. The 53-litre fuel tank allowed Adele to go around 500 miles between fill-ups, which meant that refuelling stops were relatively infrequent.
Whats more, as time progressed, Adele became more in tune with the i30s chassis set-up. It never felt as agile as the Focus, but it didnt take too many miles for her to realise that its ride was smoother on bumpy roads.
As the car was shared around more often, the rest of us soon began to come to the conclusion that Adeles view was pretty much spot on. The i30 is not designed to entertain, its true, and its steering can feel frustratingly vague on occasion (we never really saw the point of having three steering settings, either they all felt much the same). However, as practical, comfortable family transport, it is supremely well judged. Fold the rear seats, for example, and there are 200 more litres of boot capacity than youll find in a Focus. At this money, thats a night-and-day difference.
The cabin had its fans, too. Colleague Barnaby Jones thought that its styling looked smart, and was impressed with its clearly marked, chunky buttons and logically laid out dashboard. Euan Doig was equally enthusiastic, raving about the amount of standard equipment (Bluetooth, air-conditioning and iPod connectivity) compared with his Volvo V40. He reckoned the Hyundai rode better, too.
Ultimately, Hyundai knows a low price is no longer good enough, which is why its invested heavily in dealer training (sadly, we didnt do enough miles to put its improved customer service to the test).
Even so, during its time with us the i30 has shown how even the tiniest foible in dynamics or quality can no longer be forgiven, but it also proved it doesnt have many vices anyway. You can expect more than mere respectability here and youll get it.
Hyundai i30 1.6 CRDi 110 Blue Drive Active logbook
Price when new 17,995
Target Price when new 16,432
Price now (new) 17,995
Extras Aqua Blue paint 445
Total price new 18,440
Current part-ex value 11,000
RUNNING COSTS Overall test fuel economy 52.1mpg Worst fuel economy 46.6mpg Best fuel economy 53.0mpg True MPG 54.4mpg Official fuel economy 76.3mpg CO2/tax liability 97g/km/13% Contract hire 225 Cost per mile 39p Insurance group/quote** 12/435
SERVICING AND REPAIRS