Published on Sunday 8 December 2013 09:05
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 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.
Hyundai knew what sort of reception the original version of its i30 hatchback was going to get at its introduction in mid '07 because pretty much the same car had been launched a couple of months previously, badged as the cee'd by sister company Kia. By the time Hyundai came to announce the i30 Estate version of their contender in early '08 (its sister cee'd SW design having been launched in late '07), it was clear that history was going to repeat itself again.
So, when it came to launching the second generation version of their i30 family hatch, Hyundai wanted first crack at the market, not only with the family five-door but also with the Tourer estate version, the car we're going to look at here. More to the point, they also wanted to be able to bring compact estate car buyers more than just a re-badged, re-styled Kia. As a result, this i30 has a more distinct appeal these days and 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 six 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 128PS variant. The 110PS diesel and the 120PS petrol engine are available with an automatic transmission, otherwise it's a six-speed manual shift. In the UK, Hyundai expects a 50:50 split between petrol and diesel models, with its 1.6-litre variable geometry turbodiesel unit set to be the most popular engine in the range. The 128PS diesel develops its peak power at 4,000 rpm and this upgraded engine will accelerate the i30 from rest to 60mph in 10.9 seconds, with a top speed of 122mph.
The petrol powerplants offer a balance between performance and economy and represent 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
With most small estate cars, the designer has been 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 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 Estate 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
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. All four of the i30 Tourer's trim levels - Classic, Active, Style and Style Nav - 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 Active 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 below 100 g/km and an engine delivery of 128 PS, the 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. 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, 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.