Hyundai's improved i30 Tourer might be all the vehicle you'll ever need. Jonathan Crouch reports
Ten Second Review
If you require a practical and well built car that's manageably sized and won't break the bank, Hyundai have something that is well worth a look. The improved i30 Tourer estate model may not be the most charismatic choice in the sector but it could be the most sensible. It scores strongly for build quality and no-nonsense utility.
The second generation i30 family hatch has been a strong seller for Hyundai and the UK numbers have been bolstered by the availability of the Tourer estate bodystyle we're going to look at here. This is the much improved version that gets a minor facelift and the option of the brand's slick 7DCT auto gearbox.
Like most compact estates, this one isn't the most spacious load carrier in the world but it offers enough for most families. And, as ever, this i30 remains a great choice if you want to impress somebody with quite how far Korean cars have come. Do so with this Tourer bodystyle and you certainly won't need to pack light.
The Koreans have pared back the engine choice when compared to the i30 hatch. Whereas customers of that body style get no fewer than five engines to select from, i30 Tourer buyers are left with a stark choice: 1.6-litre petrol or 1.6-litre diesel. Perhaps that's simplifying things a little because the diesel engine is available in 110PS or a higher-powered 136PS variant. All engines come with an auto gearbox option, but the diesels get the more sophisticated 7DCT self-shifting transmission. Otherwise it's a six-speed manual shift. The 136PS diesel develops its peak power at 4,000 rpm and this upgraded engine will accelerate the i30 from rest to 60mph in around 10 seconds, with a top speed of well over 120mph.
The petrol powerplant offers a balance between performance and economy and represents a cost-effective choice for the motorist who covers lower mileages. The 1.6-litre unit is a lightweight affair that helps the i30's handling. The suspension of the i30 is a strut front and multi-link rear design, the same kind of thing that's been adopted by the best-handling cars in the class, such as the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf. One interesting option is Flex Steer. With three operating modes - Comfort, Normal and Sport - the system can be used to vary the level of steering assistance and feedback in order to suit driving conditions.
Design and Build
This is the lightly facelifted model that has received changes to the hexagonal grille that defines its front end. Otherwise, the recipe's much as before. With most small estate cars, designer tend to be 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, in contrast, is 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 528-litres with the rear seats in position. Fold down the 60:40-split rear seats and this expands to a hefty 1,642-litres.
There can't be too many cars that can disguise their load lugging abilities quite as well as the i30 Tourer and there's a little subterfuge inside too, should you need it. You'll be able to keep your valuables out of the way of prying eyes in an under-floor compartment and there are other features such as roof rails, a cargo security screen and a rear power outlet. The fascia is a little busy but interior quality is excellent and many of the controls have been clustered onto the steering wheel, which improves ergonomics quite markedly.
Market and Model
There's an £1,100 model-for-model premium to pay if you want this Tourer estate version of the i30, rather than the standard five-door hatch. Pricing starts from around £17,000 - that's a slightly higher level that the hatch because with the Tourer, you don't get the option of the entry-level 1.4-litre petrol engine.
All four of the i30 Tourer's trim levels - S, SE, SE Nav and Premium - are very well finished. Even the entry-level model gets Bluetooth connectivity and voice recognition, multi-function steering wheel and air conditioning. Body-coloured door handles and mirrors are standard on the entry level trim, along with LED daytime running lights. This means that no i30 is going to leave the showroom looking like it's just been winched up from the bargain basement, a factor that can only enhance the car's public perception. Electric windows are fitted all round, there's air-conditioning and remote central locking is also standard, along with an MP3-compatible CD stereo.
Safety hasn't been overlooked and the i30 features ESP (Electronic Stability Program), ABS (anti-lock braking system), VSM (Vehicle Stability Management) and an Emergency Stop Signal that flashes the brake lights if you have to suddenly throw on the anchors. In terms of passive safety, the i30 is fitted with six airbags as standard - front, side and curtain - while a driver's knee airbag is optional. Hyundai expects the Tourer to account for 15 per cent of the i30's overall sales. The SE 1.6 CRDi 110PS Blue Drive model is forecast to be the most popular variant, with 45 per cent of total i30 Tourer sales expected.
Cost of Ownership
Those looking for the lowest running costs should direct their attention to the Blue Drive sub-brand which is Hyundai-speak for high efficiency and low emissions. Energy-saving measures include Integrated Stop & Go (ISG), low-rolling resistance tyres and an alternator management system. With CO2 emissions of 102g/km and an engine delivery of 110 PS, the standard 1.6-litre diesel i30 features a best-in-class power-to-efficiency ratio.
Hyundai and Kia seem to be doing their best to initiate some kind of warranty war, with the UK car market as the main theatre of conflict. The major players have yet to take the bait but the i30's five-year unlimited mileage package with 10-year anti-perforation cover must be a source of some annoyance to the major brands when the best you'll get from them is three years protection. In fairness, a lengthy warranty is no good to anyone if you're constantly having to make claims on it but the peace of mind that accompanies the i30's extended deal is not to be underestimated. If the car proves to be reliable as well, the Koreans could really be onto a winner. Over to you JD Power.
Hyundai's ambition with the i30 Tourer is such that it requires a change in mindset to assess the vehicle. In years gone by, we would have been dumbstruck by this car's styling, its engineering and its finish, largely because it was a cheapie and wasn't expected to be particularly special. In pitching the i30 against talented mainstream contenders like the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra, however, the marking scheme just got a whole lot tougher. By and large the i30 Tourer succeeds, particularly in this improved form. It's big enough and capable enough at the right price to win enough orders.
Where the car still falls a little flat is in terms of personality, interior design and the sophistication and cleanliness of its powerplants. Remember 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.