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Hyundai i30

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Hyundai i30 prototype driven

Driven November 2011

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This is a prototype so I'm not going to stick my neck out too far. But on the back of an early-doors drive I'd say the new Hyundai i30 is going to be an even more competitive car than the i40, which we've already said we rather like.

The i30 is a crack at the heart of the Focus market - or maybe at the Honda Civic, because the thing Hyundai still does sensationally well is making customers happy with its reliability and warranty. More than that recently people have been equally chuffed with the way their Hyundais look and drive, so they're getting absolutely stellar results in the customer satisfaction surveys. Those leagues where we used to see the Japanese dominate.

And if they liked their old i30s they're going to be blown away by this one.

Course, that's not entirely the point. Being better to look at and drive than the old Hyundai i30 is one thing. What matters is nosing up to the true class of the field.

There's a quiet and free-running 128bhp diesel engine that actually slips in under the 100g/km CO2 barrier. That means Mr Mean-Trousers fuel economy combined with perfectly okay performance. The gearbox is precise. The steering ditto, and it's got the right amount of progression and weight (actually, you can switch the weight but there's little point as all settings are similar). The steering wheel doesn't give you much feel for the grip, mind.

The ergonomics are great. It's one of those cars you just sit in and drive - you don't notice the seats because they're in just the right place and are just the right shape. Not too soft, not too firm. In a lot of the rivals, I find myself endlessly fiddling with the seat adjusters in search of a comfy position that never quite comes. The i30 gets all the basics right.

Beyond the basics, it's got some sweet touches, like smartly creased exterior metal, and a well-detailed and well-illuminated dash. It rides quietly, though most of the time I had four people aboard and in any car that always levels the ride at gentle speeds. It's also pretty undisturbed on motorways, especially as mine was an early car and they usually have a lot of wind noise. Mind you, it was a busy day and I couldn't get the space to go above 80.

There you are then, hardly a comprehensively road-testery way of checking out a new car. It was an early drive of a near-production prototype. No squealing cornering, no flat-out acceleration. Just normal driving like people normally do. And driven like that, it was ruddy hard to pick holes.

The only thing is, the prices haven't been announced because as I write it's four months until it goes on sale. We're hearing Hyundai people talking about leading with the chin here. They should be careful. A surprisingly expensive Hyundai is a bad idea: Hyundai is supposed to be about nice surprises.

Paul Horrell

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