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Click to view road test review picture gallery“It takes a lot to
  impress David Miles.
  So when he rates
  Hyundai’s all-new i30
  range as the ‘best
  budget family car buy’
  so far this year, you
  know you should sit up
  and take notice...”

On 1 SEPTEMBER HYUNDAI LAUNCH their new i30 — their first range of cars designed 'for Europe in Europe'. Before going any further, motorists will be keen to hear the headline figures. First, prices: these range from an entry-level 10,995 to 16,595. The range consists of 1.4 and 1.6-litre petrol and 1.6 and 2.0-litre CRDi turbodiesel engines with three trim and specification choices.

Automatic transmission options are available for the 1.6 petrol and 1.6-litre CRDi Comfort and Premium variants. Automatic models cost 1,000 more than manual models, and 1.6 diesel engines have a 700 price premium over the 1.6-litre petrol units.

Another core figure potential customers will be pleased to learn about concerns fuel economy. The most fuel efficient engine in the i30 range — the 1.6-litre CRDi, fitted with a manual transmission — returns 60.1mpg on the Combined Cycle with CO2 emissions of 125g/km, giving it a Vehicle Excise Duty rating of Band C — 115 per year. Insurance group ratings range from 4E to 8E. These are definitely figures motor-ists will like.

More good news: all i30 models have air conditioning, electrically-operated windows, an ESP electronic stability programme and alloy road wheels as standard, and all are covered by a five-year unlimited mileage warranty that is transferable between owners. The Hyundai
i30 is the only C-segment range to be covered by such a generous warranty.

Hyundai's new i30 offers a range of C-segment, five-door hatchbacks — Ford Focus/Vauxhall Astra in size — which will compete in the second largest (and very competitive) sector of the UK's new car market. This sector attracts 500,000 registrations annually, with fleet sales taking 38.3 per cent and diesel models 38 per cent.

Although the new i30 range has been designed in Europe (in the main
in Frankfurt, Germany), production until 2009 will take place in Korea before it moves to a new Hyundai manufacturing facility in the Czech Republic.

The i30 is the first of several new Hyundai ranges to carry their new 'i' prefix. Next year sees the launch of the i10 — a small city car — fol-lowed by the i20: a new 'supermini' range. After that will comes the i40 D-segment and i50 E-segment executive models. Reference is also made to future i60 and i70 model ranges but, in the shorter term, Hyundai says their 4x4 and SUV models will, until they are superseded, continue to carry brand names rather than letters.

At this week's launch of the i30 range of hatchbacks to the UK's motoring media, Tony Whitehorn, managing director of Hyundai Motor UK, said: "The i30 is a car that is set to change the face of Hyundai in Europe. It is not only the most important car that Hyundai has ever launched in the UK, it heralds a dramatic shift in image and attitude that will drive change in people's perception of the whole Hyundai brand.

"A key contributor to this shift will be the sheer quality and equipment levels of the i30, matched to incredible affordability." He added: "By moving to an alpha-numeric naming system it will be much easier for customers to understand the breadth and depth of Hyundai's range."

Jim Campbell, marketing director of Hyundai UK, said: "The i30 is a hugely significant car for Hyundai; it offers style, practicality and competitive pricing — the three main considerations for most buyers in the C-sector. The i30 allows us to compete in this important but com-petitive sector for the first time. I anticipate that we will sell between 12,000 and 15,000 i30s in the UK each year once the range is com-pleted, with the introduction of the i30 five-door estate models, in the first quarter of next year. Currently we have no plans to introduce three-door i30 hatchbacks but that decision will be constantly re-viewed as we see how the overall C-segment develops in the UK and Europe as a whole."

The i30 is Hyundai's version of the already well-received Kia c'eed
five-door hatchbacks, which will shortly see the addition of SW estate models and three-door hatchbacks. Kia itself is part of the giant Hyundai Motor Corporation of South Korea.

Hyundai is a 'young' company and started building vehicles in 1967, but already it is the sixth largest car manufacturer in the world. In 1998
it built 847,000 vehicles. Today it builds 3.7 million a year and it will shortly be ranked among the top five car manufacturers.

Hyundai has the world's largest car production plant, producing 1.5 million vehicles a year, and other factories being built outside South Korea will boost their overall capacity. In their domestic market, Hyundai with Kia have a 75 per cent market share of all new cars sold.

In the UK, Hyundai expects to sell around 33,000 new cars this year. But their plan is to grow their market share to 3 per cent — in the region of 70,000 vehicle sales annually by 2012. This growth will be brought about by the introduction of more all-new models, designed
in Europe for Europe. The i30 is the first of these.

Hyundai says it is essentially a retail brand, with 80 per cent of sales going to private buyers. They plan to concentrate on the retail sector, although their new European styled and engineered products will make it easier for them to penetrate the fleet and business car sectors as well.

To help achieve their target of 70,000 annual sales, Hyundai is aiming to expand its UK dealer network from the current 140 outlets up to between 180 and 200.

The new five-door Hyundai i30 range of hatchbacks is a wake-up call to European and Japanese manufacturers that — as far as design, development, quality and driveability elements go — the Korean car industry has caught them up.

If Hyundai does what it says and look for growth from new model introductions with products designed in Europe for Europe they will, so long as the rest of their new models are as good as the i30, succeed.

Because it shares many of the same design, structure and core com-ponents as the already-launched, award-winning Kia c'eed, the i30 comes with a good pedigree and even better value-for-money specif-ication. The starting price for the c'eed and i30 ranges is the same — 10,995. However, the Hyundai models have better specifications. They have the same long wheelbase and it's the longest in the C-seg-ment, which includes the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, VW Golf, Honda Civic, Renault Megane, Peugeot 307 and Citroen C4 as competitor models.

The i30 offers better value for money than all of them, and driving performance at least equal to the best. The downside might be that past excursions into heavy discounting has done long-term harm to the brands residual values, and that will take time to recover. But good, well-equipped new models and very competitive prices with no distress marketing will reap its rewards for Hyundai and its customers from now on.

Just by looking at the new i30 you know this new car is a world away from previous Korean hatchbacks. I'm not convinced about the design of the nose — to my eye it still looks slightly Far Eastern — but
the rest of the car is sharply styled, well balanced and with good pro-portions, with a neatly styled rear-end and good load area access.

The rear seat passenger space is impressive, thanks to the longer wheelbase, while folding rear seats maximise this car's versatility. All the seats are comfortable and the squabs (the bit you sit on) are now 'proper' European size. The quality of the interior trim is up with the very best that Europe can offer — indeed, it is better than most. Soft-feel trim on the facia and doors and either cloth or cloth and leather or all-leather upholstery combinations are available, depending on the model chosen.

The specification levels are to be praised. Even the lowest Comfort specification, which Hyundai says is not aimed at being a base model, offers real value for money. I'll just list some of the most significant items to be found in the cheapest Comfort i30: front active head res-traints, three rear adjustable head restraints, front, side and curtain airbags, anti-lock braking with electronic brake assist, electronic stability programme with traction control, automatic and central door locking, electronic power steering, tinted glass, alloy wheels, sports steering wheel, six-speaker sound system with radio/CD and MP3/iPod connectivity, air conditioning, electric and heated door mirrors and speed sensitive wipers. And this is the cheapest model!

Move up to the Style and Premium levels of specification and there is even more to add to this already long list.

The specification is excellent, the workmanship and fit quality is first rate, the passenger space is best-in-class and the price is exceptional. The i30 has it all, with very little to complain about.

In the handling department the car is probably more accomplished
than the majority of any of its European rivals — high praise indeed.
It is well balanced, has good cornering grip with little body roll, the ride comfort is exceptional, road noise intrusion is low, the steering is precise and, despite being an electronic system, gives pretty good feedback.

The engine options are wide. All are four-cylinder and feature the latest in design and technology; they are most definitely not hand-me-downs from Japan. The petrol 1.4-litre produces 107bhp and 101lb ft
of torque and the 1.6-litre petrol puts out 120bhp and 114lb ft. The turbodiesel units are equally impressive: the 1.6 CRDi gives 113bhp with 188lb ft of torque from 1,900rpm, and the 2.0 CRDi produces 138bhp and 224lb ft of torque.

Hyundai UK says the split between petrol and diesel sales is expected
to be 50:50. The 1.4-litre engine should take at least 25 per cent of
all sales while the 1.6 CRDi unit will be the main selling diesel engine.

I tried them both. The 1.6 CRDI diesel unit is really quiet for a diesel; little engine clatter, it pulled strongly with loads of low- and mid-range 'grunt' and returned 45.7mpg overall driving on a combination of roads. The official average fuel economy is 60.1mpg. Top speed is 116mph and 0-62mph is covered in 11.6 seconds. High mileage private or business users will go for this model.

Choosing this engine with the 5-speed manual gearbox, with what is anticipated to be the best selling Style specification, the i30 costs 13,995. I would personally choose the cheaper Comfort specification with the four-speed automatic transmission — it costs exactly the same.

However, the star of the show for me was the cheapest model in the range. The 1.4-litre petrol with a 5-speed manual transmission and Comfort trim, priced at a bargain 10,995. This is the ideal cost-effective car to buy whether you are single, a young or older couple
or even a young family.

The 1.4 petrol engine is not, due to its size, bursting with power. But it is willing and responsive although, of course, it cannot match the mid-range pulling power of the diesel. Pushed hard, it sounds slightly harsh; but that is really nothing to put any customer off choosing it. Being short-geared it copes very well with most roads and traffic conditions, from heavy in-town traffic to motorways.

Only at high-speed motorway cruising is there a suggestion that a 6-speed gear-box — or a longer fifth gear — might be of benefit. Top speed is 116 mph and 0-62mph takes a little longer than the 1.6-litre diesel, at 12.2 seconds. My overall fuel economy with this model was 39.3mpg (the official figure is 46.3mpg). In cost terms this is the most sensible model to buy in the range unless you cover really high mile-ages or need an i30 with automatic transmission. Then my recom-mendation would defin-itely be the 1.6 CRDI diesel.

It says a lot that the only thing I can find to complain about is the bland front grille design! On the plus side there is much: the European design, high build quality and high specification, value for money, long warranty, interior space, excellent driveability and ride comfort. No surprise then that the Hyundai i30 goes straight to the top of my list for the 'best budget family car buy' so far this year. And not just on price, because it really is an accomplished performer as well. — David Miles

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Hyundai i30 1.4 Comfort 5-door | 10,995
Maximum speed: 116mph | 0-62mph: 12.6 seconds
Overall test MPG: 39.3mpg | Power: 107bhp | Torque: 101lb ft

CO2 145g/km

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