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Hyundai's improved i30 Tourer estate might be all the vehicle you'll ever need. Jonathan Crouch reports
The i30 is, according to Hyundai, 'more than just a model' but 'a whole family of cars', consisting of three body types with unique characters united by 'coherent, timeless design'. Make of that what you will. Here, we're looking at an improved version of the Tourer estate version, which is a great choice if you want to impress somebody with quite how far Korean cars have come. Thanks to a 620-litre boot, you certainly won't need to pack light.
As you'd expect, the Tourer model drives just like its hatch counterpart. The engines on offer are the same as those on offer in that hatch variant - which means that they've been much improved as part of the recent round of updates to this third generation design. The volume 1.0-litre T-GDI 120PS petrol unit can now be ordered with 7-speed auto transmission for the first time. But the key news is that this volume 1.0-litre petrol unit now comes with 48-volt Mild Hybrid technology for better fuel efficiency and for the first time with a 6-speed iMT Intelligent Manual Transmission (iMT). 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. For those who prefer to drive automatic, the 48-volt Mild Hybrid option is also available with a 7-speed dual clutch transmission. The 136PS version of the 1.6-litre diesel also gets the 48-volt mild hybrid set-up - and the same two-way transmission choice. Across the i30 range, Hyundai has improved its SmartSense advanced safety package with 'Lane Following Assist, ' 'Rear Collision-avoidance Assist' and 'Leading vehicle Departure Alert'.
With most small estate cars, the designers are given the unenviable brief of working with the existing 'hard points' of the hatchback model, merely grafting a conservatory onto the back and hoping that it looks halfway cohesive. The i30 Tourer isn't like that, delivering a very neat piece of styling, with a sharply rising beltline giving it a poised, aggressive look. There's plenty of luggage space too, offering 602-litres with the rear seats in position. Fold down the 60:40-split rear seats and this expands to a hefty 1,650-litres. As for the changes made to this revised model, well the front is now characterised by a wider-looking, more modern stance. The wider grille features an accentuated 3D pattern that emphasises 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. As before, 53% of the underlying framework is fashioned from Advanced High Strength Steel. Inside, there are fewer changes, though there's a new 7-inch digital instrument cluster screen and a fresh 10.25-inch navigation touchscreen for top models. Across the range, the air vents have been restyled and there's also an extra interior garnish colour ('Pewter Grey') if you don't like the usual black. The seats can be covered in cloth - or in a combination of cloth and leather. Otherwise, things are much as before. The cabin architecture doesn't quite have the quality feel of a Volkswagen Group product but it's not too far off and the interior's certainly practical enough. When customers choose power seats, these can be adjusted in 10-ways including lumber support. Two adults can fit comfortably on the back seat. And there's an optional panoramic glass roof to fit with the current segment trend.
Hyundai quickly realised that it couldn't achieve its global ambitions by maintaining a pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap philosophy and has instead adopted a strategy with rather more potential for building the brand. The aggressive pricing remains, but now quality has improved drastically and Hyundai is trying to differentiate itself in terms of equipment levels. Prices start at around £21,500 and there are 'SE Connect' and 'Premium' equipment levels. As for specification levels across the range, well Hyundai isn't holding back. There's dual-zone climate control to ensure a comfortable environment for all occupants during long journeys. Plus niceties like a panoramic sunroof and a heated steering wheel are optional, as is a Navigation system you operate via an 8-inch touchscreen on the dash. 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'. Pluds you can also now have 'Lane Following Assist, ' 'Rear Collision-avoidance Assist' and 'Leading vehicle Departure Alert'.
The introduction of new engine technology has kept Hyundai right on the pace of the class best when it comes to WLTP efficiency and carbon dioxide emissions. These can be as low as 120g/km if you opt for the 1.6-litre CRDi diesel, which also manages 61.4mpg on the combined cycle in base-spec form. In conventional form, the base 1.0-litre T-GDI petrol unit puts out 119g/km of CO2 and manages 54.3mpg in base-spec form. Fuel saving technologies include Integrated Stop & Go (ISG), low rolling-resistance tyres, an alternator management system (AMS) and a drag-reducing 'active air flap' in the front grille, similar to the technology offered on the Ford Focus. All of this is aided by a slippery drag coefficient. Satisfied owners will tell you that the i30 proposition is about a whole lot more than just a five year warranty with a car thrown in for good measure, but there's no doubt that the comprehensive after-sales package does remain a major attraction for city segment customers. It's a really good unlimited mileage deal that also includes annual vehicle health checks and roadside assistance to add peace of mind.
We judge Hyundai by higher standards these days and, by and large, this improved third generation i30 Tourer estate largely meets them. It's practical as it needs to be and the engine updates, safety enhancements and interior improvements bring it back into strong contention with key segment rivals like the Ford Focus Estate and Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer. Where the car still falls a little flat is in terms of personality and charismatic interior design. Remember though, that these judgements are against the very best in the class and when price and equipment levels are taken into account, the i30 Tourer states its case quite eloquently. Hyundai remains a work in progress but at this rate, the sky's the limit for the Korean giant.