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Hyundai's improved i30 Fastback brings a sense of style to the family hatchback segment. Jonathan Crouch reports
Take a look at this car. Now imagine it without the badges. Be honest, would you really guess at it being a Hyundai? Thought not. The i30 Fastback has the look and feel of a German premium brand model, yet it can be yours for not much more than you'd pay for an ordinary Focus-sized i30 hatch. Sounds tempting doesn't it? Hyundai says this variant, launched in 2017, then updated in 2020, underlines its brand policy in 'making premium design accessible to everyone'. It's likely to be another step in the company's march towards full automotive credibility.
Engine-wise, i30 Fastback customers are now restricted to just one engine in the mainstream line-up - and it's a unit new to the range, Hyundai's 1.5 T-GDi 159PS 48V mild hybrid turbo petrol unit. This comes mated to either 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual-clutch auto transmission. That manual gearbox is all-new - Hyundai calls it 'iMT' or 'iMT Intelligent Manual Transmission'. iMT decouples the engine from the transmission after the driver releases the accelerator. This allows the car to enter into two possible levels of coasting depending on the conditions. With the first level, the engine is idling. With the second level, the engine is additionally temporarily turned off to save even more fuel. Go for the auto gearbox and the car will offer you two drive modes: 'normal' and 'Sport'. In 'Sport' mode, you get a different shift pattern that holds gears longer before shifting, plus the steering provides a sporty feel and the throttle response is adapted. With the 1.5-litre T-Gdi model, 62mph from rest in the manual variant takes 8.6s en route to 130mph; for the auto, it's 8.8s and 130mph. If performance is paramount, you'll want to consider the top i30 N Fastback variant, which uses a 280PS version of the 2.0-litre T-GDi turbo unit from the i30 N hot hatch. Ride quality is one of this Fastback model's strongest suits. That's down to sophisticated multi-link rear suspension helped by a rigid body fashioned from High Strength Steel. Refinement is also pretty exemplary, thanks to things like anti-vibration engine mounts, hollow driveshafts, smoothly-profiled door handles and double-layered door seals. Hyundai says it's put lots of work into ride and handling too, developing this car in Europe at venues like the famous Nurburgring Nordschliefe.
Hyundai calls this a '5-door Coupe', a reference to this bodystyle's sloping roofline, long bonnet and more muscular body. The roof has been lowered by 25mm compared with the i30 five-door, enhancing the car's wide stance on the road, improving aerodynamics and creating what the Korean brand hopes is a dramatic impression. Tapering towards the rear, the cabin has a sleek look, apparently inspired by the shape of a teardrop. The rear of the cabin is additionally supported by strong shoulders. At the front, a reduction in the height of the 'Cascading grille', an angled lower front spoiler and a lower horizontal air intake together combine to further the intended more charismatic look. Changes to this revised model include a wider front grille that features an accentuated 3D pattern emphasising what Hyundai hopes is a more agile look. It's flanked by restyled, slimmer headlamps with optional multifaceted reflector MFR LED technology and smarter V-shaped signature LED daytime running lights. There are very few changes over the ordinary i30 inside though. So, as with plusher versions of that car, there's a 7.0-inch 'Driver's Supervision Instrument Cluster with LCD display'; and a 10.25-inch Centre Console Display touchscreen with navigation, Traffic Messaging and Hyundai LIVE services. In the back, you might fear that the swept-back roof line would compromise head spacew but headroom isn't actually too bad unless you happen to be exceptionally tall. As with most other cars in the Focus-class family hatchback 'C'-segment, it's not possible to sit three fully-sized adults back here with any real degree of comfort but if there are only two of you, then you'll find that there's reasonable space for legs, knees and shoulders. Out back, there's theoretically a little more space than there would be in the ordinary hatch model - 450-litres as opposed to 395-litres. In practice though, the space available isn't quite as usable because you've only got about 18 inches or so of cargo loading height between the floor and the parcel shelf.
The i30 Fastback now comes only in mainstream form with the 1.5 T-GDi 159PS petrol powerplant and sporty 'N Line' trim, which means that prices start higher than you might think, at almost £26,000. £1,200 more gets you DCT auto transmission. the alternative high performance 280PS i30 Fastback N costs from around £35,000. With the standard 'N Line' model, you get plenty of kit - 18-inch alloy wheels, a body kit with rear spoiler, metallic paint, LED tail lights and tinted glass. Inside, there's a 7.0-inch 'Driver's Supervision Instrument Cluster with LCD display'; and a 10.25-inch Centre Console Display touchscreen with navigation, Traffic Messaging and Hyundai LIVE services. Safety has been a particular feature of the development of this car. The key news is that all variants get Autonomous Emergency Braking, a system that scans the road ahead as you drive, the set-up looking for potential collision hazards. If one is detected, you'll be warned. If you don't respond - or aren't able to - the brakes will automatically be applied to decrease the severity of any resulting accident. Other key i30 safety features include a 'Driver Attention Alert' system, 'Smart Cruise Control', a 'Blind Spot Detector, 'Rear-Cross Traffic Alert', a 'Lane Keeping Assist System', a 'Speed Limit Information Function' and 'High Beam Assist'.
The introduction of new engine technology has kept Hyundai right on the pace of the class best when it comes to efficiency and carbon dioxide emissions. The brand says that the mild hybrid 1.5-litre T-GDi petrol powerplant in use here can return up to 45.6mpg on the combined cycle and up to 141g/km of CO2. That's for a manual. For the DCT auto, the figures are up to 47.1mpg and up to 136g/km. As ever with Hyundai, a strong buying incentive is the five year unlimited mileage warranty that comes as standard. It's backed up by breakdown cover that last the same length of time and free annual vehicle health checks over this duration. True, rival brand Kia claims to better this package by offering a similar seven year deal, but there, you're limited to 100,000 miles. As for servicing, well your i30 will need a garage visit once a year or every 10,000 miles, whichever comes sooner. If you want to budget ahead for routine maintenance, there are various 'Hyundai Sense' packages that offer fixed-price servicing over two, three or five-year periods. You can pay for your plan monthly and add MoTs into the three or five year plans for an extra fee.
There's not much wrong with the standard i30 hatch: it just needs a bit more style and character. Perhaps aware of this, Hyundai has provided the i30 range with this much better-looking Fastback bodystyle and it's enough to put the finishing touch to a very complete package indeed. We think this to be the most refined car in the family hatchback class - and it also offers possibly the best quality of ride you'll find in this segment. The level of standard safety kit is un-bettered in the sector too, plus this Hyundai also makes the grade when it comes to the important questions of practicality and media connectivity. Lots of boxes ticked then. As ever with Hyundai.