It began with a sponsor’s commercial on TV, wrapped around Weeds on Sky 1, and a man too easily influenced by advertising to ignore it. Hyundai were showing off their new mid-range 5-door family car, the i30. Marcy and I had talked idly about maybe replacing our current Hyundai, an Accent 1.3, and this seemed to me to be a very eye-catching bit of kit. So we popped into our local Hyundai dealer, Simonstone of Weston-super-Mare, just to have a look-see.
Well, not right away — it had to be ordered and we had to wait, but only for about ten days. There it is on the right. Sales Controller Konrad Hoogesteger (in the white shirt — Philip Melville, wearing the suit, sorted our finance) showed us the 1.4 manual transmission model they had at the showroom and I test-drove it home to the bungalow (where we made sure it fitted under the car-port!) and back to the showroom. It was enough to convince us. We wanted an automatic, which meant we had to have either a 1.6 petrol or diesel version. (There’s a 2-litre diesel version too, but available in manual only — the only model with cruise control.) As we’re so used to petrol-engined cars, we opted for the 1.6 petrol version. It would be so embarrassing to get a diesel one and then accidentally put petrol in it one day out of habit. We should get about 40 miles per gallon out of it.
There are three flavours of i30: Comfort, Style and Premium, and five colours — Shine Red, Continental Silver, Steel Grey, Vivid Blue and Stone Black. The Comfort and Style versions have black fabric interior while the Premium boasts black leather seats; other differences between the flavours include bigger alloy wheels (15″ on the Comfort, 16″ for the Style and 17″ on the Premium) and, as you go up the line, several other refinements.
We decided to go a bit mad and blow sixteen and a half grand on a Continental Silver 1.6 Premium automatic. Konrad made a phone call and discovered there was just one of that particular colour and specification in the entire UK, over at Tilbury in Kent. He said it might take a couple of weeks to get it shipped over to our location, so we filled in the paperwork and awaited the arrival of our new little baby with bated breath. This was on a Monday. On the Friday of that week, Konrad phoned to say it had arrived and would be ready for collection the following Wednesday! This meant we had it in time to take it to Cornwall for our week’s holiday at the end of September — a chance to put it through its paces.
There’s nothing quite like driving a brand new car off the forecourt. The smell of new leather. The controls all familiar and yet strange in the hands: everything seems more substantial, more solid than the other car. This new one had just four miles on the clock. I drove it home alone, Marcy driving the Accent. There’s certainly more headroom, more space all round.
A multi-function trip computer displays the current mileage since the last reset, the miles left to the next petrol refill, average speed and average miles per gallon. The dashboard also displays loads of other stuff, such as the Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) which tells you if any tyres are flagging; seat-belt warnings; lights to indicate that things like the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), the Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) and Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) are all working OK, and there are temperature and fuel gauges, a rev counter and speedometer. The book says the 1.6 petrol auto should do 0 to 62mph in 12.1 seconds and hit a top speed of 119.3mph. I don’t suppose we’ll ever find out!
The leather steering wheel carries controls for the six-speaker entertainment centre — which includes a natty iPod/MP3 player USB port buried in the central front seat arm-rest. Connect an iPod using the Hyundai-provided USB cable and the playlist/track info comes up on the radio display on the central dashboard column (and it also recharges the iPod too). So far, this is the only thing on our car that’s not worked properly: using my old first-generation iPod, it works OK for anything up to about an hour, until it loses the connection and the music and display freezes — not very good when you’re on a motorway and can’t stop to fix it! (Update: we tried it with Marcy’s new iPod classic, and it worked fine.) Fortunately, the FM radio is excellent. It’s able to ‘chase’ FM frequencies along the band when you move from one transmission area to another, so you never lose the station you’re listening to, which is really useful, as that’s one of the things that annoys me no end when driving. It’s also got AM and Long Wave, as well as RDS for local traffic news (which I’ve switched off because I don’t like having the station I’m listening to interrupted.)
The Climate Control is below the entertainment display. It works really well for me as a driver, but we seem to be having a little trouble setting it correctly at the moment — on auto, Marcy complains of cold feet on her side, so for the time being we’re using it on manual.
Amazing how they pack all that stuff under the bonnet. The electric power assisted steering, linked to the 17″ alloy wheels with the chrome trim, gives the steering wheel an incredibly light and responsive feel. The power assisted brakes (ventilated disc at the front, solid disc at the rear) really caught me out at first — at low speeds, the slightest touch of the pedal stopped the car dead, but after a while (bearing in mind everything was brand new) things loosened up a little and at higher speeds, such as when driving around Cornwall’s twisty, narrow country lanes, I soon found I was getting the feel of it and became increasingly confident in the car’s ability to handle bends at speeds a little faster than I would have risked in the old Accent. All those safety features on the braking and steering system also began to boost the confidence I feel in my own skills as a driver. (Is that a good or bad thing? Discuss.)
The auto transmission produces beautifully smooth gear changes and has a responsive kick-down when you need it. There’s no overdrive, but the three forward gears do the job without it. Whether motorway driving or pootling gently down country lanes, it’s a quiet, comfortable, relaxing journey. Reverse is a bit aggressive, though — I had to pay particular attention to how I used the accelerator when reversing in tight spots, particularly on backward-facing slopes, because the slightest over-touch has it suddenly leaping backwards unexpectedly if extra care isn’t taken, but the reversing sensors (on the Premium version only) help to avoid embarrassing prangs.
Additional luxury items I really like (the Premium has all these, the other flavours only some): electric windows all round; electric adjustable, folding, heated wing mirrors; a rain sensor that activates the (defrostable) wipers when set to auto; the great colours in the LCD dashboard displays; the foldaway key, with remote locking and engine immobilizer; lights that come on automatically in the dark when set to auto; a rear-view mirror that automatically dims itself electronically at night when a car approaches from behind with glaring headlights; heated front seats; air-conditioned glove box; built-in cup holders front and rear; airbags just about everywhere.
There’s plenty of space in the boot, with rear seats that fold down in a 60/40 split, providing a totally flat floor. Here it’s just carrying our picnic chairs and my bright yellow safety jacket (which will feature in a future, hopefully somewhat mirthful, post about our holiday visit to The Eden Project).
We paid extra for Gard-X, a magical coating applied both inside and out that promises to protect the leather from spillages and the outside from things like corrosive bird muck. Once a month, we’re to wash the exterior with a solution of Gard-X and water to keep it in tip-top condition. (It remains to be seen how long it’ll be before I call in the Boy Scouts to do that.) It comes with a five-year warranty, as does the car — and this is one of the things that really sold it to us: a five year parts and labour unlimited mileage warranty. Along with a 10,000-mile/annual service interval (and none of that running-in nonsense of the past, these days it’s just plug ‘n’ play), this car packs a lot of punch, luxury, safety and value for money. You could spend rather less than we did — prices start from £10,995 — but we took the view that this car, with what we already know about the build quality of Hyundai cars, represents a good long-term investment: it needs to keep us mobile long after the Accent has gone to that Great Big Showroom in the sky, probably in a couple of years, and we return to being a one-car family, so it needs to be a bit future-proofed with all the extra whistles and bells that’ll probably be standard on all vehicles in ten year’s time. Right now, it feels like we made the right choice.
But then again: we’ve only done 560 miles in it so far. My last car, a much-beloved fifteen-year old Toyota Carina II, clocked up 186,000 miles. So it’s got a way to go before it proves itself to be in the same league as that baby.
I think we’re probably driving one of the few i30s on the UK roads at present. I’ve not seen another one yet. Have you? Have you bought one? What do you think of it? (Autocar loved it.)
Many thanks to Konrad and Philip at Simonstone of Weston-super-Mare, who made the purchase of our new best friend such a hassle-free and pleasant experience. It’s not often you can say that when parting with the best part of seventeen thousand pounds!