This is a fairly minor update, so the differences between this i30 and its predecessor are fairly minor. It’s still a car that majors on competence and ease-of-use, taking the sting out of the everyday driving grind but never adding enough sparkle to deliver any grins when the road ahead turns interesting.
That said, the adoption of the 48V mild-hybrid 1.0-litre engine is a definite boon, the well-integrated 16bhp starter-generator giving a little fillip of torque-fill at low speeds to give the car a bigger-hearted feel than its 998cc capacity would suggest.
It’s brisk, rather than quick, but the i30 never feels out of its depth and can happily go with the flow without resorting to frequent forays to the tachometer’s 7000rpm war paint. Even in tall-striding sixth gear, there’s enough pick-up for regaining speed if you’re baulked on the motorway; there’s a useful 127lb ft of torque from just 1500rpm.
There’s the typical three-cylinder thrum, but it’s fairly muted, and the engine spins smoothly enough even if the hefty, balancing flywheel effect means it doesn’t gain or lose revs as quickly as you would like. Still, that neat drive-by-wire manual works effectively, allowing for smooth changes despite a sticky shift action. Its party trick is the ability to automatically disengage the drive on a closed throttle, allowing the i30 to coast, engine on or off, to save fuel. Squeeze the throttle and drive is smoothly taken up again.
In combination with the 48V system, Hyundai claims the gearbox brings efficiency gains somewhere in the order of 4%. That’s marginal, of course, but there’s no doubting that the system operates effectively and unobtrusively enough.
Elsewhere, the i30 is as before, which means it’s an easygoing and composed partner, but not one that’s going to be flooding your system with dopamine everytime you hit the road. This smaller-engined car has a torsion-beam rear axle rather than the multi-link affair of the diesel and more powerful petrol (all have a MacPherson-strut front end), but exposure to both reveals that there’s little in it for agility and engagement.
The steering is surprisingly meaty (there are driving modes, but their effect on throttle response and steering heft is only slight) and it’s direct enough, helping the i30 respond crisply to your inputs and string together corners with real fluency. However, it lacks the crucial final points of poise and polish that mark out the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf. It can be hustled surprisingly hard and will cling on gamely, but there are no tactile rewards for doing so.
As before the ride is just on the acceptable side of firm, occupants being jostled a little by some low speed resistance in the springing and damping. It improves the faster you go and as the loads increase. It’s fairly quiet, too, combining with the relatively low wind and engine noise to make the i30 a relaxing long-distance express.
Niggles? Well, the new safety systems are welcome, but the Lane Following Assist is rather erratic in its operation. Sometimes it will almost tug the wheel out of your hand in its efforts to avoid crossing the white lines, other times it will totally ignore them and allow you to drift over as far as you like. Happily, just one long press of a steering wheel-mounted button is all it takes to disengage it. There are no multiple sub menus to navigate here; Volkswagen, take note.