Hatch without a hitch
Hyundai is on to something fun and funky with the rewarding i30 Fastback, writes Philip Hedderman
There seems to be a bit of a revolution going on in Namyang as Hyundai designers find their groove in the fun and funky department.
First they go hell for leather with their GTi-slayer, simply named the i30N (after Nurburgring where it was developed by none other than Albert Biermann formerly of BMW's M division), then they go and reinvent the small family saloon, only with a coupe twist. A massive risk, I think you'll agree, considering the rise of the compact SUV and the disastrous efforts of the past - remember the Peugeot 306, Ford Focus and Opel Astra?
Done properly though and you'll have a sure-fire success on your hands - just take a leaf out of the Audi A3 saloon and the VW Arteon design books.
Thankfully, the Korean car giant has hit the nail firmly on the head with the stunning i30 Fastback.
Long flowing lines, lowered roof, a perky rear end and wraparound tail lights give it a curious yet unmistakable look.
Stretching the body by 115mm over the hatch gives added legroom and increases the boot space by 50 litres - boosting it to 450 - but the 25mm roof reduction will be felt by larger passengers, especially in the middle.
The view from the rear window is also restricted, although the colour reversing camera with guidelines more than compensates.
And the generous standard kit doesn't end there and also includes: 17in alloys, cruise control/limiter, 8in touchscreen (Android Auto/Apple Car Play), sat nav, front fog lights, static bending halogen headlights, electric mirrors, LED daytime running lights, air con, Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), lane-keep assist and rear-park assist.
But the big surprise came from under the hood where a peppy 1.0-litre three cylinder turbocharged petrol engine generates a sprightly 118bhp. Thanks to the lower chassis (5mm), stiffer suspension and tauter steering, the ride and handling is much improved over the standard hatchback, and it behaved impeccably on more challenging twisty roads.
The steering is an absolute joy and the level of feedback from the front wheels, especially under heavy acceleration, is second to none.
There's a nice little rasp from the three-pot at higher revs and on the motorway it cruises effortlessly. It's quite frugal, too - returning a not-too-shabby 50mpg (5.2 litre/100km), while emissions at 120g/km means annual tax of just €200.
Unfortunately there is only one variant of the Fastback here and those looking for a bit more oomph (the 1.4 litre with 138bhp is not available) will be a little disappointed.
Likewise, the cabin layout could have been more adventurous - it's the same as its siblings - even down to the fact that there are no USB ports in the rear as my grumpy teenager pointed out on day one of the test drive.
On the upside, a little bird tells me that the blistering N version is in the pipeline with the bonkers 2.0-litre twin turbo power plant with 271bhp.
The biggest lures here though are the price, which at €24,995 is just €500 more than the traditional hatch (of a similar spec) and the unrivalled five-year unlimited mileage warranty.
In a sea of crossovers, the Fastback is a refreshingly different take on the family hatch and well worth a look.