Since its release in 2007 the i30 has been a hot seller for Hyundai and that has continued with the launch of the second-generation model, making up almost 12 per cent of the small cars under $40,000 sold in Australia this year.

And it's easy to see why. The i30 has always come with a range of options that makes it attractive to buyers of all budgets - it's economical, reliable and is not the worst-looking small car you've ever seen.

In fact, the latest i30 is quite the looker. It strikes a nice balance between sleek flowing lines and the spunky attitude a lot of buyers in this segment are looking for.

It's a duality in appearance which continues inside - after driving the i40 sedan a couple of weeks earlier, the i30 felt much like its bigger sibling.

Which, it should be pointed out, is a good thing and the top-spec Premium model we had offered a heap of features befitting its cost of $32,590 plus on-roads - panoramic glass sunroof, auto- dimming rear-vision mirror, electronic park brake, heated and electrically adjustable front seats and a whole bunch more.

So far, the i30 was putting big fat red ticks on the small-car checklist - even the automatic folding side mirrors seemed like the car was cheekily showing off.

And considering the i40 isn't too bad off the line for a 1.7-litre diesel, you'd think a much smaller car armed with a 1.6-litre powerplant wouldn't have any problems in zippiness, right?

Well...

The i30's first flaw becomes apparent when you take off. While no one's expecting to be pinned to their seats, considering the advances in turbos and the i40's ability to get going without hassle, there is noticeable lag going on in the i30.

It recovers well in higher revs and gears but even after driving the car for a few days you can become aware every now and then of just how much pressure you're putting on the accelerator to move at a satisfactory rate. One can see why 2.0-litre engines have been popular in similarly sized diesels such as the Cruze and Focus.

This need to be heavy on the pedal when taking off also affects fuel economy; after a few days of solely driving the i30 to and from work in peak hour with the air-conditioning pumped, it never dropped below 9.0L/100km.

To be fair, more use on weekends would undoubtedly lower this number and the fuel consumption for the same bumper-to-bumper work commute dropped to around 7.5L/100km when the Active ECO drive mode was engaged.

It's worth noting also that for a car of this size, the handling is surprisingly heavy. After turning and letting the steering wheel slip from your grasp, it rips back to the centre position, which on tight corners can cause the whole car to rock back and forth with surprising force - enough to scare the bejeesus out of a passenger when coming out of a roundabout on one occasion.

However, the issues above are hardly deal-breakers; the handling and acceleration would likely become unnoticed by owners after a fortnight or so and use outside of just the daily to-and-from work would improve the fuel consumption figures.

But considering how excellently the rest of the car performs, these annoyances stop the i30 from being the absolute home-run success it was close to being.

VERDICT
The i30 is pretty as a picture and offers a heap of features, especially if you’re willing to pay a bit extra for the higher-spec models.


HYUNDAI i30
Model: Premium CRDi hatch
Price: $32,590
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder diesel
Outputs: 94kW/260Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Thirst: 5.6L/100km
Safety: Five stars

COMPETITORS:
FORD LW FOCUS
Model: MkII Sport hatch
Price: $31,690
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol
Outputs: 120kW/340Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Thirst: 5.4L/100km
Safety: Five stars

HOLDEN CRUZE
Model: CD hatch
Price: $27,790
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel
Outputs: 120kW/360Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Thirst: 6.7L/100km
Safety: Five stars

PEUGEOT 308
Model: Access e-HDi
Price: $29,990
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder diesel
Outputs: 82kW/270Nm
Transmission: Six-speed auto
Thirst: 4.2L/100km
Safety: Five stars

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