It's a defining model really, this i30. Over the past few years, Hyundai have proved they can make great cars no matter the class, but in a local compact car class dominated by the usual suspects, does the i30 have the right stuff to take them on?
Right off the bat, there's the design. The style of the 5 door hatch body is straightforward yet striking at the same time with a definitive European inspiration. There are plenty of traces of Euro favorites like the Vauxhall Astra, Ford Focus, and even the 1-Series from BMW especially in the rear. Combine that with the bright red color and the i30 will definitely turn heads around, as it really does stand out in a sea of the big names in the segment like the Altis, Civic, Mazda3, Lancer and Focus.
Step inside, and the Euro theme continues, with a very logical and easy-to-understand layout for the pertinent controls on the ever popular dual-winged dashboard design. There's the cool blue light theme, the seats are quite comfortable for both long drives and short hops but could use a little more support when you hit twistier roads. I find the shifter a bit strange, as it has an unusually long forward throw into 1st, 3rd and 5th gears. I do wish they took a few more risks in terms of interior design as it doesn't seem like it improves much from the Santa Fe's or the i10's interior.
Features wise, the i30 is generously kitted out. All windows are fully powered with one touch up/down capability. The in-dash stereo offers full iPod integration via the auxiliary and USB ports. There's an electric power steering system to keep things light yet properly weighted, while auto climate control, auto headlights and auto wipers ensure optimum convenience. Leveling headlamps and a wide array of well placed storage solutions round out the package, along with 340 liters of boot space (with the rear seat up). There's also a heaped serving of safety features with dual front, curtain, and side airbags to go along with the ABS system and 4-wheel disc brakes.
And then there's the propulsion. The i30 comes in two engine trims, this particular one being propelled by a punchy 1.6 liter diesel engine. Hyundai of late has been aggressive with their diesels, and it's easy to see why. 115 horsepower matches up with the petrol 1.6's, but it has about 70% more than its contemporaries at 255 Nm. Slot the gear lever into any of the five gears, punch the throttle and you're rewarded by an immediate surge (and lunge) unmatched by the petrol 1.6L engines. The combo sprints to 100 km/h in 11.6 seconds, and continues on to a top speed of 188 km/h. And don't get me started on the fuel economy, as the i30 CRDI did 23.4 kilometers per liter of of mixed urban and highway driving.
Handling is pretty good and has quite a bit of feedback, something unexpected as Hyundai's past compacts (fitted with the Motor Driven Power Steering) left a lot wanting in terms of communication between the road and your fingertips. There are some niggles like how the i30 gets a little uneasy when going over a small road cut/joint mid-corner, but its pretty manageable. The brakes seem a bit too eager to bite upon first prod, but it's easy to get accustomed to.
The sticking point has to be the price, as the i30 is somewhat teetering at the upper echelon of the class at PhP 1,048,000, which could mean a bit of hesitation on the showroom floor. And with a car shopping public that takes a long time to get over build quality stigmas, it gets to be a bit of an uphill battle. Remember though that any Hyundai has an ace up its sleeve with one heck of an extended warranty to back it up.
Cars from Korea's Hyundai have been very impressive lately. Think about it, they've delivered such a great line up of cars to the market in the past few years. The i10 is a perfect first car, the Santa Fe and Veracruz are great family SUVs, the lesser-known Azera is a supremely comfortable exec car, the Genesis and Genesis Coupe just went above and beyond the call of their duties, and the Starex has become to vans what Colgate has become to toothpaste: the gold standard.
Only time will tell if the i30 can do the same for the compact car class.