The sensible focus
Last week saw the introduction of the Hyundai i30, a compact hatchback competing in the C-segment against favourites like the VW Golf, Opel Astra and Ford Focus. The Korean is all-new and armed with a few goodies to create some European headaches.
The first cause for concern should be its conception and design; lead by Thomas Bürkle, the i30 was designed in and built for European customers. You won’t find bland lines or Tamagotchi screens here – the modern form and sleek design won’t look out of place in Hamburg, Paris or Rome.
Hyundai calls it fluidic sculpture and will happily admit that the company’s focus (and that of sister enterprise, Kia) has shifted to quality products with exciting designs, both of which they appear to be acing. The i30 shows good proportions, impressive detailing and decent quality.
Built from scratch, the all-new car is a soft progression from its predecessor with a centimeter more room here and a cubic inch more space there, all wrapped up in a curvier shape with Hyundai’s new corporate face decorating the front.
Although it’s a world car, Hyundai opted for a basic torsion-beam rear suspension and limited engine choices for our local market. The i30 is available with two petrol four-cylinder engines in manual or automatic, the lack of turbo-charged engines, double-clutch autos and other new technology being the only criticisms we could make.
These absentees may be excused because of the car’s reasonable price and accompanying value for money. Plus, as an emerging giant in the auto industry, Hyundai is rightfully playing it safe by relying on trusted tech and keeping a firm grasp on quality control. Nothing wrong with that.
Our local range consists of two 1.6 litre models (one manual, one auto) and a 1.8 litre unit. Specification levels are identical for the 1,600 cars while the bigger model enjoys extras like 17-inch (as opposed to 16-inch) alloy wheels and some leather trim.
All i30 models feature ABS brakes with EBD, electronic stability program (ESP), vehicle stability management (VSM), active yaw control, four airbags, auto lights, auto-locking doors, remote central locking, alarm, immobiliser and a full-size spare wheel.
Some comfort features are power steering, power windows and power mirrors, multi-function adjustable steering wheel, cruise control, Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control, on-board computer, boot net and hooks, rear park assist, radio/CD/mp3 sound system with Aux/ipod/USB connectivity and six speakers.
The i30 also comes standard with “Flex Steer” which lets you choose between “Normal”, “Sport” and “Comfort” modes for the steering response. These three settings do exactly as promised and either side of “Normal” give enthusiastic drivers a sharp, direct feel or nervous parkers a numb, feather-light effect.
The options list is rather thin but the standard specifications are quite impressive, especially considering the prices. Starting at N$229,900 for the 1.6 GLS manual, the automatic equivalent costs N$14,000 more while the 1.8 GLS will set you back N$249,900.
Engine specs are 95kW (hp) and 157Nm for the 1.6 with claimed averages of 6.4L/100km (6.8 for the auto) consumption and 152g CO2/km emissions (the auto emits 173g/km). 0-100km/h takes 10.5 seconds in the six-speed manual, one second longer for the four-speed auto, and their top speeds are 195 and 192km/h.
The bigger 1.8L manages 110kW (hp) and 178Nm with averages of 6.5L/100km and 157g CO2/km. It will sprint to 100km/h in 9.7 seconds and top speed is apparently 190km/h. None of these numbers are breath-taking unless you start factoring in competitors and their pricing.
On the open road, we got to test both the automatic and manual versions which made reasonably good impressions. The ride is quiet and refined unless you start man-handling the car at which point the electronic safety nets wrap you over the knuckles. The brakes are superb and the hooter sounds ridiculous.
All engines were barely over 1,000km and showed signs of lethargy in the lower rev range – they really demanded high revs to get going and this lack of low-down torque will hopefully fade as they get run in. The manual gearbox is direct and precise, as is its clutch, while the old-school auto’box is very slow but oh-so-smooth.
Right, do I need to spell it out for you? Hyundai has built another good-looking, reasonably spec’d and sensible machine which makes up for its lack in character, gadgets and performance with exceptional value for money.