Hyundai's i30 Fastback brings a sense of style to the family hatchback segment. Jonathan Crouch reports
Ten Second Review
With this i30 Fastback, Hyundai has taken the 'five-door coupe' design concept championed by executive models like Audi's A5 Sportback and BMW's 4 Series Gran Coupe and brought it within the reach of family customers. Aside from the sleeker styling, the car shares all the attributes of the third generation i30 Focus-sized family hatch - which is no bad thing.
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 the introduction of this variant 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 get their pick of the better powerplants from the standard petrol range. That means a choice between two T-GDI units, a 120PS 1.0-litre variant and a 140PS 1.4-litre version. Both come mated to 6-speed manual transmission, but if you go for the 1.4, you'll also be offered a 7-speed dual clutch auto transmission option. Go for the auto petrol variant 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. In the 1.0-litre model, 62mph from rest takes 11.5s en route to 117mph. The 1.4-litre variant improves those figures to 9.2s and 129mph.
Our experience with the standard i30 hatch suggests that ride quality will be 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 should also be 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.
Design and Build
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.
There are very few changes over the ordinary i30 inside though. So, as with that car, customers get an optional eight-inch centre-dash infotainment touchscreen including state-of-the-art connectivity features, such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Both systems enable users to connect their devices to deliver and control music, telephone or navigation functions on-screen. The navigation system moreover comes with a seven-year subscription to LIVE Services, offering updated information about weather, traffic, speed cameras and online searches for points of interest in real time. Customers can choose between different audio options: the standard monochrome five-inch display radio with Bluetooth connectivity or the optional audio system with a five-inch capacitive LCD touch screen and an integrated dynamic rear-view camera.
Market and Model
i30 Fastback buyers pay a £500 premium over the standard i30 hatch and trim choices start with mid-level 'SE Nav' spec. There are also plusher 'Premium' and 'Premium SE' options. All of that leaves the i30 Fastback priced in the £20,500 to £24,500 bracket. To justify that, Hyundai isn't holding back when it comes to equipment. Standard kit includes things like power-folding door mirrors, front foglights and powered driver's seat lumbar support, plus dual-zone climate control will ensure a comfortable environment for all occupants during long journeys. Plus niceties like a panoramic sunroof and a heated steering wheel are option, 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'.
Cost of Ownership
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 1.0 T-GDI petrol model will return a combined cycle figure of 54.3mpg and a CO2 return of 120g/km. For the 1.4 T-GDi manual, the figures are 49.6mpg and 134g/km, while for the 1.4 T-GDi auto, you're looking at 50.4mpg and 129g/km.
What else might you need to know? 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.