The Hyundai i30 is a well-built and refined family car, but it fails to excite in a class with plenty of dynamic and stylish rivals

The latest Hyundai i30 does just enough to keep pace with a pool of very talented family hatchback rivals that includes the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen Golf. It’s not the most exciting compact family car on the market, but it’s well built, refined and economical, and comes with a strong haul of standard equipment.

The entry-level 1.0 T-GDi petrol engine is our favourite, offering a truly grown-up driving experience despite its seemingly modest power output. A Renault Megane is more stylish and a SEAT Leon more fun to drive, but the i30 should find its way onto your shortlist if you’re in the market for a rational alternative to the Vauxhall Astra.

Our Choice 
Hyundai i30 1.0 T-GDI SE Nav

The Hyundai i30 is just one compact family hatchback in a class that has a number of very talented rivals. In isolation, the i30 has its merits, but when compared to cars like the Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen Golf, it's a bit of an uninspiring choice. The i30 is available as a five-door hatchback and compact i30 Tourer estate, along with the five-door coupe-style i30 Fastback. There's a faster i30N version of the hatchback and Fastback.

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At the start of the range, the S model has steel wheels with plastic trims, but as standard all cars get a Bluetooth phone connection and air-con. Moving up to SE adds a five-inch touchscreen on the centre console, rear parking sensors, electric folding door mirrors and flashes of chrome trim. As the name suggests, SE Nav gets sat-nav on a bigger eight-inch screen, while Android Auto and Apple CarPlay provide additional connectivity options for smartphone users. Top-spec Premium and Premium SE versions get toys such as puddle lights, an electric driver’s seat and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Engines comprise two petrol units and a diesel – the latter available in two states of tune. The range starts with the 1.0 T-GDi 120PS turbo petrol three-cylinder (GDi stands for Gasoline Direct Injection). At the moment it's only available in S, SE and SE Nav specs, although it might come in higher specs if bosses see a demand for it. Above that sits the 1.4 T-GDi 140PS petrol, which comes in all trims bar S, including the sportier N-Line trim. The 1.6 CRDi diesel (108bhp or 134bhp) spans most the range, but not S or N-Line.

All models are fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, while the 1.4 T-GDi and 1.6 CRDi can be had with a seven-speed twin-clutch DCT auto. The upgrade is priced at £1,000, and only has a slightly negative effect on emissions and economy.

The i30 N is the range flagship and the first in a line of performance cars to be launched under the ‘N’ sub-brand. The standard i30 N is available for a bargain £25,000, while a £3,000 Performance Package adds more power, an electronic differential and bigger brakes.

3.7
3.7/5
The diesel will account for the majority of company car sales, but the punchy 1.0 T-GDi turbo is our pick of the range
4.3
4.3/5
There’s no dedicated i30 eco model, but all versions should return decent fuel economy
3.6
3.6/5
Despite a few quality issues inside, the i30 feels well built and nicely designed. The clear infotainment screen is a boon, too
3.7
3.7/5
The i30’s boot is on a par with rivals, but space in the back is limited for taller adults
4.4
4.4/5
Reliability is generally good, and the Hyundai i30 comes loaded with safety kit including autonomous emergency braking and lane keep assist standard on all models

The i30 Fastback coupe is less impressive to drive, but arguably just as good to look at. It majors on style, specification, quality, value and packaging, and prices start from a little over £20,000.

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As we've mentioned already, the i30 is in a fiercely competitive class with a variety of very strong rivals. Chief among these are mainstream choices such as the VW Golf, Vauxhall Astra, Renault Megane and Peugeot 308. These all have a premium feel about them that the i30 struggles to match. Elsewhere, the Skoda Octavia mixes quality and space, the Kia Cee'd is closely related to the i30, while the SEAT Leon, Mazda 3 and Ford Focus are sportier options, the Toyota Auris throws hybrid drive into the mix, the Alfa Romeo Giulietta is ageing but different, while the Fiat Tipo is a budget alternative and the Nissan Pulsar.

Last updated: 
3 Jan, 2019