Dinzo Tabamo sees for himself if Hyundai can jostle for space in the competitive compact-car market with an ambitious hatch
True to its music-player-inspired name, the Hyundai i30 has a rocking sound system. You connect your iPod--non-Apple devices need not apply--to the cable inside the glove compartment, and the music streams through the flashy head unit up front. It's a completely integrated connection, meaning the song titles, artists and albums are shown on the display, and you control the iPod from the dash or steering wheel-mounted buttons.
It's a well-implemented audio system, and it's troubling that that's the first thing I remember about this car. The cockpit does a good job of complementing the stereo. The i30 has a very good driving position, a chunky steering wheel, and ergonomic switches. Kudos to the HVAC controls for being among the simplest designs we've seen on any car. And while the interior may be stark, it's a spacious place to be in. Botchi and I were quite comfortable inside the gasoline unit that we drove.
It's when you start driving the car that things begin to get a little dicey. Once you plant your foot on the gas pedal, you will regret not getting the CRDi variant. The independent MacPherson strut (front) and multi-link (back) suspension setup and the 16-inch tires will give you a jolly ride around the corners, but the 119hp coming from the 1.6-liter powerplant isn't transferred to the wheels fast enough by the four-speed automatic transmission. During acceleration, the tranny doesn't hold the gears long enough for lively sprinting.
But as a city car, the i30 excels. We were stuck in one of those traffic jams along C-5, and the i30 proved to be a very easy drive in crawling gridlock. Our new online managing editor Barbara slept fitfully in the backseat, while photographer Chino turned geek on me again as he discussed the upcoming range of Intel computer chips. Beats watching the car ahead move at one inch per minute, I suppose. Perhaps this is the way Hyundai designed the i30 to be.
It certainly looks like a city car. It's tall and spacious enough for five urban commuters, and with a length that's shorter than a Toyota Vios, it's easy to maneuver in tight situations where there are lots of cars and pedestrians.
The design influences are easy to spot. The front resembles a Subaru Impreza, while the rear looks like a BMW 1-Series, so much so that former BMW designer Chris Bangle can put this on his resumé.
The car is comfortable, reasonably accessorized, easy to drive and roomy. So why aren't there more i30's on the road? Hyundai has made big strides in quality and brand perception, but when you're a potential buyer, it's still difficult not to frown when you see the price tag. For nearly the same amount, you can buy two of its smaller i10 brother, and expect the same kind of build quality.
With more competitive pricing, it would have been easy for me to recommend the i30 to those looking for a good city car. Hyundai may have shot for the moon a bit too soon.
Source: Top Gear Philippines, April 2009