It didn’t take long for deja vu to set in, after we were given the new Hyundai i30 hatchback for a day to see what the South African countryside around Cape Town had to offer.
Sure, the scenery was familiar enough – it could have been Australia – and the weather was extremely pleasant – southern England in autumn, perhaps – but realisation gradually dawned that it was the car.
It was as if I’d been in the cockpit before and taken the car out for a spin. The layout and ergonomics were no strangers to me. Then, it struck me – of course!
The Korean cars of today are a quantum leap from yore and are no longer fodder for the scoffers, from any perspective.
The i30, which was designed based on Hyundai’s “fluidic concept” styling philosophy, had a familiar feel to it because my home ride is a Korean car (a Kia, actually). I intuitively settled into the i30 within the hour.
That it possesed a distinct Hyundai-Kia DNA was beyond doubt to me. Given that both marques are under the same roof, it only makes sense to adopt a shared approach in some areas.
There’s also the Gamma 1.6-litre multi point injection D-CVVT petrol engine of the test-drive vehicle, which was equipped with the newer six-speed auto transmission (my car’s a four-speed auto).
The unit, not untypical in this class and price, isn’t the liveliest powerplant around but because the hatchback is lighter, responded more willingly than a sedan version of this model would.
Which, of course, is befitting of the i30’s sporty demeanor.
The six-speed transmission exhibited smooth changes through the range, marginally nipper through the low revs as it shifted quickly from start.
Those craving a bit more control can always switch to the manual shift buttons.
There are two other variants of the i30 – a six-speed manual transmission mated to this 1.6-litre engine, and a 1.8-litre Nu MPI derivative (with only a six-speed manual option).
Power on tap for the 1.6-litre version is 95kW (130bhp), with 157Nm of torque, both figures increasing to 110kW (150bhp) and 178Nm for the bigger engine.
At the time of writing this, no details on which versions will be made available in Malaysia.
Hyundai says both engines, with their lightweight aluminium construction and Continuous Variable Valve Timing (CVVT) from the double overhead camshafts, offer a balance between performance and economy.
The claimed fuel consumption figures are 6.4 and 6.8 litres per 100km for the 1.6L manual and automatic respectively, and 6.5 litres per 100km for the 1.8L.
The handling and steering had a familiar feel, too, while there’s a European-ness in the suspension, which felt tight and right for a car in this class.
The steering wasn’t the sharpest in terms of feel, but the less demanding driver won’t mind.
There was little difficulty easing the i30 into tight spaces, and when I negotiated more demanding stretches of twisting roads, there was a reassuring feel of confidence about this hatch that made me want to push it harder.
The i30 uses an electronic steering, which can be tailored to needs, depending on the situation. Of course, it also contributes to fuel economy.
Three steering modes are provided – Comfort, Normal and Sport, respectively for city driving, regular conditions and the highway, where there’s purportedly more feel and rigidity.
These modes are quickly accessed via a button on the steering wheel.
The cabin punches above class – it’s not spectacular but the high standard of fit and finish is obvious, while the range of features is a common trait of a Korean car these days.
The TFT display cluster on the dashboard provides a wealth of information, and here, there’s again a continental air about the overall layout. As for other useful features, there’s dual climate control.
Expect the local version to be equally well-specified, as the Koreans are known to be generous with the features.
The i30’s cabin was quite roomy, apparently more so than the previous model.
The overall length (4,300 mm) and width (1,780 mm) have been increased, but height has been reduced (1,470 mm) for a sportier look and better handling.
Cargo capacity in the new-generation i30 is 378 litres with rear seats upright – an increase of 10% compared to the original model.
The range of safety features is reassuring – electronic stability programme, anti-lock braking system, vehicle stability management and Emergency Stop Signal, along with six airbags.
Also comfortingly, the i30 has been awarded the maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP’s impact assessment programme.
I found little to complain about NVH levels – the i30’s interior was as quiet as you would expect a car in this class to be, on the highway and in town.
The i30’s design was conceived by the Hyundai Motor Europe Design Centre, and the car was initially unveiled at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show.
The original i30 was made with the European market in sight, explaining the internal and external styling cues.
This new-generation i30 also bears Hyundai’s signature frontal feature – the hexagonal-shaped grille.
The vehicle is scheduled to be launched in Malaysia soon, when the full local specs and price of the local variants will be announced.
It certainly will catch the eye of the younger driver in the market for a sporty hatch.