The small family hatchback segment is one of the most popular, so the stakes are high to get things right. Hyundai achieved exactly that with the i30, which is good to drive, well made, well equipped and keenly priced. Yes, the Golf beat the i30 in a twin test that we ran last year, but it was a close match, with the Hyundai trumping the VW in a few areas. Similarly, while an i30 N Performance came last when we pitched it against a Civic Type R and Focus ST, the exercise reminded us just how good the hot i30 is – just not quite good enough to topple some fearsome competition. These results notwithstanding, if you’re after an affordable family hatch (or estate) that’s easy to own, the i30 is very much worthy of your consideration.
The original i30 was a game changer for Hyundai when it arrived in 2007. Until then, the Korean company’s cars had been unremarkable, and bought largely because they offered excellent value with impressive reliability, but little in the way of a feel-good factor. Then the accomplished i30 went on sale and everything changed.
An all-new i30 in 2012 raised the bar even further, but by the time the third-generation car appeared five years later, Hyundai had really got into its stride. Plusher and more sophisticated than ever, with a design to match, the company now found itself snapping at the heels of semi-premium brands. By this point prices had risen noticeably, too, but the i30 was still well equipped and as easy to own as ever.
The Mk3 i30 hatchback arrived in April 2017, in five-door form only, with 119bhp 1.0 T-GDi and 138bhp 1.4 T-GDi petrol engines, plus a 109bhp 1.6 CRDi diesel.
In July 2017 a Tourer (estate) was added to the range, then in January 2018 came the Fastback, another five-door hatch but with a swoopier design. Also launched in January 2018 was the i30 N, with a 2.0 T-GDi engine and a six-speed manual gearbox; a Fastback N followed in January 2019. The i30 N Line from September 2018 featured a 138bhp 1.4 T-GDi engine (with a 119bhp 1.0 T-GDi option from February 2019).
Car group tests
A facelifted i30 went on sale in September 2020 with mild-hybrid tech for the 1.0 T-GDi and 1.6 CRDi engines (the 1.4 T-GDi was dropped), and a 157bhp 1.5 T-GDi engine for all N Line editions.
Which one should I buy?
If you do a lot of miles, the i30 diesel is probably the one for you, but the petrol models are also frugal and flexible if you do more urban driving.
The entry-level i30 S came with 15-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth, DAB radio, electric windows and cruise control. SE trim added an eight-inch touchscreen, 16-inch alloys, electrically folding door mirrors plus rear parking sensors and a parking camera; SE Nav also featured navigation. N Line came on 18-inch wheels while N Line+ added dual-zone climate control, LED headlights, heated front seats plus leather and suede upholstery. The i30 Premium featured 17-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, privacy glass, front and rear parking sensors, plus keyless go, with the range-topping Premium SE adding a heated steering wheel, leather trim and an opening panoramic glass sunroof.
Alternatives to the Hyundai i30
The Volkswagen Golf impresses with its wide model range, efficient engines and high-tech dash, although the latter isn’t quite as user-friendly as you might expect.
The Ford Focus is readily available and great to drive, and decent value too, while the Mazda 3 is also dynamically adept and it looks stylish. The SEAT Leon and Skoda Scala are closely related to the Golf and are also well built, good to drive and very easy to live with. The Kia Ceed shares a lot with the i30 and we’d say it builds on the Hyundai’s strengths, while the Toyota Corolla is efficient, reliable and looks neat if you’re interested in hybrid power.
What to look for
The 1.4 T-GDi and 1.6 CRDi engines were offered with a seven-speed automatic. A six-speed manual was the standard gearbox.
Options were few. The SE Nav trim was offered with a Visibility Pack, N Line+ with an eight-inch display, and metallic paint was available on all.
The i30 estate had the same engines as the hatchback, but there was no diesel Fastback. Fastback N Line options used the 1.0 T-GDi or 1.4 T-GDi.
The entry-level i30 S came with a tyre-repair kit, but the SE and above got a space saver spare wheel. Aftermarket wheels are available for the S.
We haven’t been inundated with complaints about the i30 Mk3, but some owners have reported build-quality issues to us, as well as some minor technical glitches. It’s only been recalled twice, however, which is a good sign.
If you haven’t sat in a Hyundai for a while, you’ll be impressed with how far its interiors have come in a short space of time. The i30’s cabin has an excellent standard of fit and finish, while the seats are comfortable and supportive, although headroom is a bit tight in the back. The pay-off is a large boot that can stow an impressive 395 litres (1,301 with the seats folded), whereas Tourer figures are 602/1,650 litres.
Hyundai has historically received good marks in our Driver Power surveys for its infotainment systems. The firm’s touchscreens are clear and easy to use, even though some of the graphics may look a little dated. However, physical shortcut buttons are a big plus with owners because they avoid having to navigate through a maze of menus.
All i30s need to be serviced every year. Buy a petrol-engined i30 (including the N Performance editions) and there’s a 10,000-mile limit between services, whereas the diesel models stretch this to 20,000 miles. Services alternate between minor and major, but it’s worth shopping around for the best price, because even within a small area there can be significant variations.
Minor and major services are priced at around £160 and £260 for petrol models (£180 and £300 for N Performance editions), while diesel services cost around £210 and £380. All i30 engines are chain-driven.
Once out of warranty, Hyundai dealers offer Base (£99), Interim (£169) and Full (£229) service options, each of which come with a year’s breakdown cover.
The i30’s warranty is much longer than the industry standard, at five years; even more impressively, there’s no mileage limit (unlike Kia’s, at 100,000 miles).
Hyundai has recalled the i30 Mk3 on just two occasions so far. The first time was in February 2019, but it affected just 11 cars built in September and October 2018. Although the problem was claimed to be down to faulty software, which could lead to the sunroof’s anti-pinch sensor not functioning properly, Hyundai fitted new sunroof and roller blind motors.
The most recent campaign was launched in August 2021 and this time it was aimed at 171 i30 Mk3s, all made between June 2020 and September 2021. This time the problem centred on the tyre pressure monitoring system, which might fall foul of European regulations. The solution was to update the system’s software. Whereas the first recall affected some examples of the i30 N, the second one didn’t.
Driver Power owner satisfaction
Surprisingly, the Mk3 i30 has never appeared in any of our Driver Power surveys, but the original model came top of the pile in our 2007 poll. When Hyundais have appeared in recent surveys, they have tended to do pretty well; the Kona came first in last year’s poll, for example. However, Hyundai came 11th out of 29 in our 2022 Brands survey, achieving decent scores in areas such as reliability and value.
Head over to our sister site Buyacar to get a great deal on a used Hyundai i30…