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Ooh, a turbo badge on a hatchback. Have we gone back to the heady days of the 1980s and ‘90s?

Err, not quite, but we’ll come to that shortly. That turbo badge though, does signify something quite seismic for the South Korean giant. This Hyundai i30 Turbo is - cue Dr Evil close-up - the most powerful Hyundai i30 ever built.

Woohoo! A proper Golf GTI rival, right?

Err, again, not quite. The premise is set up nicely, mind. It boasts Hyundai’s 1.6-litre, four-cylinder ‘Gamma GDI’ engine, here turbocharged to produce a 28 per cent hike in power and 38 per cent torque gain over the regular 1.6. More horsepowers, more torques, all good.

It’s also got stiffer, ‘sports-tuned’ suspension, a six-speed manual gearbox (no auto here), a more direct steering setup, and bigger, 300mm ventilated brake discs up front, and 284mm solid jobbies at the back.

Sounds promising…

There’s more. The whole car was engineered at Hyundai’s test facility, nestled deep in the grounds of the Nürburgring. Yep, whisper it, but this i30 Turbo was subjected to 110 laps of the ‘Ring every week, over the course of a four-to-six week period. That’s like all the Rocky training montages in one. All of them. In one, gruelling session.

Then there’s the little details that lift it over and above the lesser, non-Turbo i30s: the new grille, a set of new bumpers front and back, a new LED design, twin exhausts, 18in alloys, black headlining, sports seats, red interior detailing, a sports instrument cluster and contrast stitching on the wheel, gearstick and door.

So what’s it like?


That’s it?

It’s good, but it’s not as quick as that premise. The engine produces 183bhp and 195lb ft of torque between 1,500rpm and 4,500rpm, all delivered to the front wheels. Decent, punchy figures, but nothing to trouble the traditional hot hatch establishment.

It rides really nicely - it errs towards the fussier side at times, if you’ve got your pointy-hat-of-critical-road-testing on - but on the whole it’s a smart, refined thing. Body control is good. There’s lots of grip. It can go around corners at speed without ruffling too many of your feathers, if you have feathers, that is. Looks great, too.

I’m sensing a ‘but’.

You sense correctly. The steering doesn’t, um, feel right. You can change the assistance - through Comfort, Normal and Sport - and it turns in keenly, but none are satisfying enough for the committed corner enthusiast. It’s perfectly fine for rational human beings, mind, but if your palms like to know what flavour of tarmac you’re on, you won’t get much info.

Also, the engine needs a better note. It’s not exactly inviting.

Ah. How much is it, then?

Here’s the other killer. A three-door Hyundai i30 Turbo costs £22,500. A five-door version costs £23,000. A five-door Ford Focus ST costs £22,495. The Ford, sadly for Hyundai, produces 247bhp and 265lb ft of torque.

The ST will also go from 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds. The Hyundai? Eight seconds. The Focus also steers with much more conviction.

So what do I do?

The regular i30 is a cracking new car. Smooth, comfortable and well judged. This Turbo strays into a really tough price category. Sure, it’s lovely inside, feels well-built and all that, and if it was cheaper, we’d say definitely consider it. The ST though, just ticks more boxes. Lower down the spec, the i30 works. Up here, it needs to be a bit better.

But, it doesn’t need much work to make it a firecracker, and the fundamentals feel well sorted. And you’re probably not even paying attention to these words, because who else offers a ruddy five-year unlimited mileage warranty?

What do you think?

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