Hyundai i30: class act

Date:1 September 2012 Tags:,

If any lingering doubts remain about Hyundai’s ability to mix it with the big guns, this car should dispel them.

For a start, it looks the part. Design is a personal thing, but with a German-led team Hyundai has shown its awareness of where it perceives the i30 battleground to be: Europe. It helps that Thomas Bürkle, the man driving the company’s design renaissance, has a pedigree in the Euro world. By Hyundai standards, it’s been a stellar performer in Europe.

And then there are those matters of quality, refinement and performance, critical in a car that hopes to compete as a luxury compact. Naturally, all this comes at a cost, as bargain price and feature list become less important than what the buyer perceives as a higher-quality product.

Well, the i30’s finishes and overall feel are really good. Its ride quality and refinement are excellent at any speed. Engine response is steady rather than invigorating, but on the sweeping blacktop of the Cape’s Overberg region the i30 felt at ease whether ambling along, winding up for an overtaking burst or simply stepping on it.

Perhaps my only quibble with the i30 could be about one of its more notable features, the tri-mode electric-assist Flexsteer steering. Although precise and accurate enough, it just doesn’t have the sensory feedback of its rivals. Some might say that’s enough of a trade-off for the ability to adjust steering assistance; nice and light for parking, medium for everyday driving and sporty and stiff when you feel like pushing on and prefer control instead of comfort.

At launch, the i30 is available with a 95 kW 1,6-litre or a 110 kW 1,8-litre petrol engine. Either can be matched with a 6-speed manual transmission; a 6-speed auto is an option on the 1,6. Economy is 6,4 litres/100 km for the 1,6 and 6,5 litres/100 km for the 1,8.

Even though Hyundai may be edging away from a long laundry list of features to woo buyers, the i30 doesn’t sell them short. Its convenience and comfort features include a TFT information display, dual-zone climate control, and satellite controls on the steering wheel. Boot space is a roomy 376 dm3.

A host of safety features helped the i30 reach a maximum 5-star score Euro NCAP crash test score. Stability control, ABS brakes and 6 airbags are just part of the overall complement.

Price: from R229 900, including 5-year/ 150 000 km warranty and roadside assistance, and 5-year/90 000 km service plan.