Spacious, sensibly-specced and value-laden, this is one car that all the other big volume manufacturers are keeping their eye on.
People have higher dynamic standards for Hyundai models these days and, by and large, this improved second generation i30 does a reasonable job of satisfying them. Yes, there are sharper-handling rivals, but few of them better this car when it comes to refinement – and particularly ride quality. The sophisticated multi-link rear suspension that made the original first generation version of this Korean design so surprisingly good in this respect has been retained - and improved to the point where on a poor surface, you really do feel like you’re riding in something far more expensive. Not quite as effective is the ‘Flex Steer’ system that allows you to alter steering feel through ‘Comfort’, ‘Normal’ and ‘Sport’ modes.
Nothing wrong with the engines on offer though. Importantly, there’s a lighter, more efficient 1. 4-litre ‘Kappa’-series petrol unit and, at the other end of the petrol range, the 186PS 1. 6-litre turbochaged powerplant in the top Turbo model. There have been important changes in the 1. 6-litre CRDi diesel line-up too. Though the volume 110PS Blue Drive engine remains much as before, the higher performance version now boasts 136PS. And both variants can now be ordered with the option of a smoother and much more efficient 7-speed DCT double-clutch automatic transmission.
When Hyundai developed their very first i30 model back in 2007, they focused on getting the basic car right. Five years later though, at the launch of that design’s second generation replacement, we noted that the brand had put far more work into styling and packaging, an emphasis that’s paid off since, with customers apparently rating this car’s pleasing design as their number one reason for purchase. There wasn’t too much need then to change things very much when it came to this mid-term update. Nevertheless, the aesthetics have been refreshed to a point where this car still looks modern and current.
Most of the improvements have been made here at the front, where jewel-like front headlamps - in this case with BiXenon technology - flank a redesigned hexagonal front grille that aims to give the car a bit of personality and on a top model, is emphasised with a chrome border.
Inside the cabin, Hyundai decided few changes were needed, so few changes have been made.
True, the splashes of metallic brightwork you’ll find around the dash may clearly be painted plastic but they’ve been carefully chosen and the floating silver spines that line the edges of the centre console are stylish and neat.
Time to take a seat in the rear where it’s comfortable for two, but much less accommodating for three thanks to this raised centre seat cushion.
If you need more room and want to push the rear bench forward, you’ll find that instead of the backrest merely flopping onto the seatbase, the rear seat cushion base flips up properly to facilitate an almost flat loadbay with up to 1316-litres of fresh air.
In summary then, an effective package - as this i30 has always been. For complete desirability in this segment though, you sense that in the future, a touch of unpredictability might be needed from Hyundai when it comes to a car of this sort, something truly ground-breaking that still ticks all the boxes on every Family Hatch buyer’s wish list. In the meantime though, what we already have is still enough to leave the industry’s more established car makers with furrowed brows. Ultimately, it’s hard to do too much better for the money. Which means that for the time being at least, the i’s still have it.