Hyundai's i30 Turbo is the most performance-oriented model the South Korean brand has yet made. We asked the experts at Car & Driving to check it out....
Ten Second Review
Quite simply, this is Hyundai's first attempt at a hatchback that might be described as 'hot'. Part of the recently overhauled i30 range, the 1.6 litre turbocharged three or five-door model sits at the top of the range and promises more performance to add a little excitement behind the wheel.
The European-designed and built i30 first arrived back in 2007, with the second generation car debuting in 2012 and receiving a plethora of updates for 2015. Sharing platforms and powertrains with the Kia cee'd and pro_cee'd, it has helped the brand shake off much of its budget image, proving very popular thanks to high standard specification, reliability and a 5 year unlimited mileage warranty. One thing Hyundai hasn't ever showed too much interest in though, is high performance. Not in its road cars anyway: for years, it's been rallying, campaigning Coupe, Accent and more recently i20 models. The i30 Turbo variant we look at here at last builds on that experience, using the same turbo-boosted 1.6-litre engine as the Kia cee'd GT. Although just a few years ago 186PS was a serious figure for a hot hatch, times have changed. Don't compare this to the likes of the Golf GTI, Vauxhall Astra VXR or SEAT Leon Cupra: think more Astra SRi or Leon FR and you'll not be too far from the mark. This is very much a 'warm' hatch, supposedly blending acceptable levels of CO2 and fuel consumption with just enough grunt to put a smile on your face and enough styling changes to make you stand out from the crowd. With no possibility of an ultimate headline-grabbing power output to make this warm hatch feel exciting, the chassis will come under close scrutiny. So, have Hyundai's efforts under the skin paid off in delivering a dynamic drive. Or are the looks writing cheques the chassis can't cash?
Hyundai boast of a number of changes to the chassis of the Turbo to make it handle better and involve the driver more. The stiffer sports suspension has been tuned on the fearsome N??rburgring Nordschleife circuit, while the steering is quicker than before, needing less twirling to get the nose into corners. There's no limited slip differential, either mechanical or electronic, to help get the power down, although we doubt it needs one. True, 186PS is not an inconsiderable number of ponies but it isn't enough to cause the inside front wheel to bonfire its tyre at every opportunity. A 0-62mph time of 8 seconds flat confirms a car that will be noticeably quicker than your average hatchback but still a good second and a half slower than a true hot hatch. Top speed is 136mph, enough to lose your licence spectacularly but again down on spicier offerings from other makes. You can choose three different steering weights on Hyundai's 'Flex-Steer' system depending on whether you're pottering or hooning. What this won't change is the level of feedback you get through the electrically-assisted helm, so things are likely to be a bit on the numb side. On the plus side, the tauter suspension will no doubt improve precision and, along with the wider tyres, increase grip. So overall, this car will shift, but do so without ever truly stirring your soul.
Design and Build
Up front, the Turbo receives the latest take on Hyundai's hexagonal grille but loses the chrome trim of lesser models. The all-black mouth adds a little aggression, as do reshaped daytime running lights that sit above meshed vents that do without foglights. The lower bumper gains a red stripe and more angular detailing, while round the back you get a faux diffuser, two fairly big tailpipes, another red stripe and more angles. To top off the exterior, you get 18" wheels of split five-spoke design that certainly fill the arches convincingly. Inside, Hyundai have come over a little Eighties and splashed red detailing everywhere. Even though it reminds us of an old MG Metro, the red stitching in the steering wheel, doors, seats and gear lever do set the scene well. The seats themselves have enough support for all but the most enthusiastic cornering but won't be too tricky to get in and out of. The red panels on these chairs won't be for everyone but seem entirely suitable for this type of car, as do the drilled aluminium pedals. Unlike the MG Metro and more modern hot hatches like say, the Renaultsport Clio, the seatbelts are standard black: you missed a trick there Hyundai. As for boot space, you get 378-litres, 8-litres more than an Astra SRi but 2-litres less than a Leon FR. Opt for the five-door i30 Turbo variant and you'll get an especially practical proposition.
Market and Model
The i30 Turbo costs around £23,000 in three-door guise, with a £500 premium if you want the five-door version. Apart from colour, that's the only choice you'll have to make. That's around a thousand more than what is probably this model's closest rival, SEAT's Leon FR in 180PS 1.8 TSI petrol form. The Hyundai is better equipped and has a longer warranty but then the SEAT is very good fun from behind the wheel. Peugeot's 308 GT is a bit more expensive at around £24,000 but is more powerful and therefore faster. Not only that but it's also more economical too. For us though, the giant elephant in the room here is Ford's Focus ST. Although nowhere near as well equipped, the entry level ST-1 is about the same price as the i30 Turbo but a whole heap faster, the Ford's bigger 2.0 turbo engine producing a far stronger 250 PS. If it's the i30 Turbo you still want, you'll be getting plenty of gadgets for your money. Such niceties as dual zone climate control, a touchscreen sat-nav with Bluetooth connectivity, a rear parking camera, heated sports seats plus all the usual electric functions (windows and mirrors etc) we come to expect these days. If you do want to splash out on the only option of metallic paint, expect to pay around £500. As for safety, there's traction and stability control, ABS with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist to help you come to a stop quicker, plus seven airbags if you can't stop fast enough.
Cost of Ownership
While other models in the i30 range may offer sub-100 g/km C02 levels and upwards of 70mpg, the Turbo is not quite as kind to your wallet. It pumps out 169g/km of carbon dioxide, putting it in VED band H, plus there's combined fuel economy of 38.7mpg. You may think this is fair enough given the extra performance but bear in mind Peugeot's 308 GT is more fuel efficient, less polluting and also faster. Both the three and five-door i30 Turbo models are rated at insurance group 21A. As with the rest of the range, a 5 year unlimited mileage warranty is included, with a 3 or 5 year fixed price servicing deal an option.
To look at the i30 Turbo as a full blown hot hatch is a mistake. It doesn't quite have the speed or driver involvement needed to take the fight to more souped-up shopping trolleys - but then it isn't supposed to. If you want a truly hot Hyundai, you'll need to wait for one of the rumoured 'N' branded cars, developed with help from an ex BMW M-Division engineer. Still, if it's an exceedingly well equipped sporty yet quite subtle three or five-door warm hatch you're really after, then this quick i30 could make sense, especially with the peace of mind the warranty delivers. If you're in the market for something practical and quick - but not too quick - then this Turbo Hyundai's well worth a look.