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New i30: Not just a hatchback

Despite Hyundai Motor’s dominance in sedan segments in Korea, the carmaker’s hatchbacks have, so far, not been popular here. Hyundai’s first i30 series debuted in 2007, but had a lukewarm response in the face of imported hatchbacks that included Volkswagen’s Golf series invading at the time.

The new i30 unveiled here last month and also at the Paris Motor Show that kicked off last week apparently inherited the hatchback legacy as well as its identity as a practical compact vehicle. But the latest version seems to be something more than that.

During a 58-kilometer test drive from Jamsil, southeastern Seoul, to Hongcheon, Gangwon Province, the new i30 proved it is no longer just a small car useful for the family routine, including grocery shopping and short rides to school. It has become faster and sportier than before. It seemed as if it injected sports car DNA in the existing hatchback constitution. It’s no wonder Hyundai has been employing race car drivers at its promotion events and in TV commercials to highlight its high-performing features.

The new i30
The new i30

For a former driver of the first i30 series, the transformation of the Korean hatchback was obvious. The overall height is 15 millimeters lower and the steering wheel is steep, just like a quasi-sports car, offering a full balance while speeding up to 130 kilometers per hour on the highway.

The sports premium model with a 1.6-liter gasoline engine used for the media test drive on Sept. 23 was agile and responsive to its seven-speed dual-clutch unit. The vehicle is sleek-bodied, but rock solid at the same time. Hyundai said 53 percent of the new i30’s body is made of high-strength steel -- twice more than that used for the previous model. High-strength steel is 10 percent lighter, but twice as strong as existing steel materials, the carmaker said.

The car is capable of producing about 204 horsepower and 27 kilogram-meters of torque, 19 percent and 29 percent increases from the previous model with the 2.0 gasoline engine, respectively. To improve the dynamic qualities, the carmaker said it went through extensive testing at its research and development center at Nuerburgring in Germany. It took 41 months to finish developing the new i30 line.

Inside, the new i30 boasts greater space -- 40 millimeters wider and 15 millimeters longer -- is equipped with high-tech features, including an 8-inch (20 centimeters) navigation screen, a set of JBL premium sound speakers and cool seats. The highlight was its panoramic sunroof that stretchs from the front to back seats -- a rare design for a compact car. It surely reduced visual dullness while driving, as it offered a full view outside. However, the sunroof seemed to hamper its noise control.

The South Korean carmaker expressed confidence in its sales of i30 vehicles, stressing that 55 percent of preordering customers were those in their 20s and 30s, and 35 percent were women.

Prices of the i30 range from 19.1 million won ($17,330) to 25.15 million won, with the panoramic sunroof offered at 850,000 won as an optional product. The hatchback is offered in nine colors, including black, red and blue. The Korea Herald’s choice of color was the marina blue, as it seemed fitting with the car’s dynamic performance as well as its identity as a young vehicle.

By Cho Chung-un (christory@heraldcorp.com)
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