Hyundai i30

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Hyundai i30

Road Test

Hyundai i30 Car Review | January 2009

Driven January 2008

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Ah, nothing like a bit of harmless mickey-taking. First it was Skoda, then the Koreans came in for a bit of stick and then... well, then Hyundai launched the Santa Fe, closely followed by this, the Civic-chasing i30.

And the disappointing thing for second-rate stand-up comedians is that both are Really Quite Good. The i30 in particular is a midget gem, freshly equipped with a 2.0-litre diesel engine that takes a mighty stride into territory previously presided over by the consummate heavyweights of Germany and France.

Fire this engine up, and there's more hum than rattle, and although it's still not refined enough to scare say, Citroen, it's quiet enough to let you hear yourself not complaining.

Even revving it doesn't make it feel like it'll shake itself apart, but you'll never need to push it hard - all the torque has already revealed itself by the time you hit 3,000rpm. In fact, it starts to really pull from about 1,600rpm, when the turbo comes on song, making for superbly relaxed motorway cruising. That's because 70mph in sixth is above that engine speed, so there's always enough torque available for you to keep up with the traffic.

It's a better engine package than the Renault Laguna 2.0 dCi I drove recently, which forced me to constantly revisit fifth gear to keep the revs up. Diesel buyers don't need all this cog-swapping action - it's way too hard.

So the i30 ends up being quite a quick car. It should be, as it packs 224lb ft into something that weighs 1,459kg. But herein lies the rub. The 2.0-litre diesel, by dint of its entertaining nature, encourages you to push much harder than its less feisty 1.6 cousin. And when you do, you expose frailties in the chassis that you'd rather remianed hidden.

The body control through corners makes a Ford Focus feel like a Scuderia, and the steering, while not lamentable, lacks the accuracy you'd like when dicing with hedgerows on a skiddy morning.

This is nit-picking, but it almost makes you wonder whether the less powerful version is the one to go for. It's certainly cheaper. Yes, the i30 is loaded with kit, but £16,595 for a Hyundai is a whole heap of cash, especially when you can get a Honda Civic diesel for a grand less.

And that's not funny.

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