Hyundai i30 prototype drive

Hyundai i30 prototype drive
Behind the wheel of a prototype version of Hyundai's latest rival to the Ford Focus, the i30 family car. 

The new Hyundai i30 goes on sale in April

It’s not just us who are starting to take Hyundai seriously. So are the South Korean car-maker’s rivals, writes Andrew English.

At this autumn’s Frankfurt motor show, a posse of Volkswagen management, including the chairman Martin Winterkorn, descended on next year’s i30 replacement and gave it the third degree, including waggling the steering adjustment while complaining it is better than VW’s system and measuring the door-mirror obscuration.

We tracked down a prototype of the new i30 in Copenhagen for our own grilling. It is slightly longer, wider and lower than its predecessor, which is Hyundai’s European bestseller and which has sold more than 350,000 since its 2007 launch. Like the old model, the new i30 will be built in the Czech Republic. Thomas Burkle, Hyundai’s design head and formerly of BMW, might not have the high profile of Peter Schreyer, his opposite number at Kia, but he’s designed a classy rework.

In the cabin, there’s a massive quality hike, with most of the extras from the larger i40 model shoehorned in. Think soft-touch plastics, softer leather and curvaceous shapes, with more cabin space.

What Hyundai really wants to push though is the equipment list, which puts the i30 alongside the class leaders. Expensive toys include Bluetooth compatibility, cruise control, heated seats, LED running and cornering lamps, switchable steering-weight program, Xenon headlamps and a reversing camera.

The car we drove was the 128bhp/192lb ft 1.6-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel in low-CO2 “Blue” configuration, which includes engine stop/start, low rolling-resistance tyres and an intelligent charging alternator. The top speed is 122mph and 0-62mph acceleration is in 10.9sec.

On a short drive the engine seems more than a match for the opposition. The i30 unit is growly at low revs, but has a useful spike in performance at about 3,000rpm. The ride is well damped, soft, but refined, although it is a bit noisy over bumps.

A small price rise is predicted, so this model will start at about £14,000 when it goes on sale next April, rising to about £18,000 for the top-specification models.

On this evidence, Winterkorn should be stirred not shaken, but we also think the new i30 looks pretty impressive. Hyundai’s invasion of Europe continues apace.

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