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The Top Gear car review:Hyundai i30
What is it like on the road?
Hyundai promises ‘a dynamic and compliant driving experience with high levels of ride comfort’, but then tells us the new i30 has done 100,000 miles of development work at the Nürburgring. That’s a lot of euros’ worth of ‘Ring passes.
In reality, this is as refined and effortless to drive as you’d wish a car like this to be. While the steering is tuned to be quicker than in the outgoing i30, this isn’t a car that darts about eagerly, and the ‘Ring mileage doesn’t mean it’s stiffly sprung or unyielding over bumps. It’s a car that makes light work of driving, no matter how fast or challenging the road.
If you’re reading between the lines and concluding that’s slightly faint praise, then you’d be right. The i30 is also a bit charmless to drive, and you’re rarely compelled to dig beneath its smooth surface. When you do, you find a car with plenty of grip but few rewards.
But that’s fine. If you’re in the market for something genuinely fun to drive, buy a Ford Focus or Mazda 3. If you want something that’s uncommonly refined, the i30 might fit the bill. All three of its engines are impressively quiet at a motorway cruise.
Our preference is the 1.0, which is the powertrain that comes closest to putting a smile on your face. The 1.4 petrol is smoother, though, and probably a better bet if you cover high mileages. We’d avoid the diesel, which feels overwhelmed by the i30’s size. Its enthusiasm is also completely flattened by the automatic gearbox, which prioritises smoothness over kicking down a few gears, even when you mash the throttle. An 11 second 0-62mph time looks a little optimistic. Hyundai says diesels make up two thirds of i30 sales in the UK; we say you’ll have to really want 70mpg fuel economy to opt for diesel this time around.
But then our ACTUAL preference is the i30 N. Forget ‘charmless’ and ‘effortless’; here’s a proper Premier League hot hatch you’ll relish grabbing by the scruff of its neck and having an absolute riot in. It’s not the quickest hot hatch on sale, nor the grippiest. But that’s great: it brings the limits lower and makes a 271bhp car far more driveable on little British roads than you’d dare imagine. Make no mistake that Hyundai’s first proper hot hatch has landed right among the best in class. Its sense of fun is night-and-day different to the unfailingly sensible car it’s based upon.