Hyundai's 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 third generation i30 Tourer 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 i30 is, according to Hyundai, 'more than just a model' but 'a whole family of cars', consisting of four body types with unique characters united by 'coherent, timeless design'. Make of that what you will.
Here, we're looking at 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.
The engines on offer are the same as those on offer in the hatch variant - there are two petrol units and one diesel. If you're fueling from the green pump, you'll be choosing between a couple of advanced T-GDI units, a three cylinder 1.0-litre 120PS variant and a four cylinder 140PS 1.4-litre derivative, which can be ordered either with a six-speed manual gearbox or 7speed DCT auto transmission. The same transmission choices are also offered to diesel folk, who get the 1.6-litre CRDi 110PS powerplant carried over from the previous generaion line-up.
We're already familiar with the 1.0 T-GDI powerplant from the i20 - here it develops 170Nm of torque. Newer to us though, is the 1.4 T-GDI variant. This unit puts out 242Nm of torque and works well with the dual-clutch transmission where it offers the user 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.
Hyundai says it's put a lot more work into ride and handling this time round, developing this car in Europe at venues like the famous Nurburgring Nordschliefe. The completely reworked chassis should certainly make this generation model feel more responsive, aided by more accurate electric power steering that is supposed to be 10% more direct than before.
Design and Build
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 (74-litres more than before). Fold down the 60:40-split rear seats and this expands to a hefty 1,650-litres.
There can't be too many cars that can disguise their load lugging abilities quite as well as the i30 Estate. The upright front of this third generation i30 uses the brand's latest stylistic signature, its so-called 'Cascading Grille'. In combination with the three-projector LED headlamps and the vertical LED daytime running lights, this gives the car a much stronger visual presence than it had before. It's much smarter and classier inside too. The floating screen of the optional eight-inch navigation touch screen on the dashboard integrates all navigation, media and connectivity features and there's a redesigned multifunction three-spoke steering wheel too. For enhanced comfort, the front seats can be heated or cooled in three stages. When customers choose power seats, these can be adjusted in 10-ways including lumber support. There's an optional panoramic glass roof to fit with the current segment trend.
Market and Model
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 £17,500 and there are 'S', 'SE', 'SE Nav' 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'.
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. These can be as low as 99g/km if you opt for the 1.6-litre CRDi diesel, which also manages 67.3mpg on the combined cycle. The 1.0-litre T-GDI petrol unit puts out 115g/km of CO2 and manages 48.7mpg. And the 1.4-litre T-GDI variant delivers 129g/km and 42.8mpg. 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 introduced on the Ford Focus. All of this is aided by a slippery drag coefficient and the 7DCT auto gearbox provides an improvement in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of up to 20% compared to a conventional six-gear automated transmission.
Residual values of the old i30 Tourer suffered a little due to market oversupply which is a nice problem for Hyundai to have but one that can come back and bite them when looking for repeat business. That problem tailed off a little towards the end of the previous model's life when buyers were able to negotiate bigger discounts from the new list price, offsetting the depreciation somewhat.
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 Estate and Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer, however, the marking scheme just got a whole lot tougher. By and large this MK3 model i30 Tourer succeeds. It's big enough and capable enough at the right price to win enough orders.
Where the car 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.