What stands out?

The Hyundai i30 is quiet and comfortable, with lots of equipment – including a reversing camera and rear parking sensors - and a five-year warranty. A diesel engine that is very easy on fuel is an option even on less costly models. Sportier SR versions are more engaging to drive and have leather trim. This review covers i30s on sale prior to May 2017.

What might bug me?

You might find that the steering feels a bit lifeless, on all models.

Fuel efficiency for the most popular petrol engine is only moderate for a small car.

If you have chosen an auto-gearbox diesel, getting the hang of stop-start driving. The i30 diesels use a twin-clutch auto gearbox that operates much like a manual gearbox with robotic control. These shift very smoothly once moving, and save fuel. But they don’t match the fluid, elastic feel of a conventional or CVT auto when starting from rest. (Other i30s have conventional autos.)

What body styles are there?

Five-door hatchback.

(A wagon version named the i30 Tourer was available until about February 2016. It was 185mm longer than the hatchbacks, with the extra length all in the cargo area.)

All are front-wheel drive. The Hyundai i30 is classed as a small car, lower priced.

Hyundai also makes a sedan about the same size as the i30 but treats it as a separate model, the Elantra.

What features do all versions have?

Cruise control, heated exterior mirrors, foglights, rear parking sensors and a reversing camera.

Bluetooth connectivity, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen that controls cabin functions. (On the less costly i30s – the Active, Active X and SR – the touchscreen enables Apple CarPlay. If you have a compatible iPhone, this allows you to operate and view many phone functions, including navigation, from the screen.)

Tilt and reach adjustment for the steering wheel, which carries buttons for operating cruise control and the sound system.

Electronic stability control, which helps the driver avoid dangerous skids. All new cars must have this feature.

All but one model has aluminium alloy wheels, which look nicer than the steel wheels on the exception, the i30 Active hatchback. All carry a full-sized spare wheel.

Seven airbags: two directly in front of the driver and passenger; two protecting the upper bodies of driver and passenger from side impacts; full-length side-curtain airbags that protect the heads of front and rear passengers; and an airbag at knee level for the driver.

All have a five-year warranty (two more than most other small cars), with no limit on kilometres travelled in that time.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

The 1.6 litre turbocharged diesel is the most fuel efficient engine, using a mere 4.9 litres/100km with automatic transmission in official tests (urban and country combined).

The main reason you would not order the diesel is the significantly higher initial cost. There is also the greasy state of some diesel pumps at fuel stations. Like most diesels, this one runs a bit rougher than the petrol engines. But for a diesel, it’s good – and good value.

Most people go for the 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, however. By today’s standards it is basic but honest, and there is enough power for relaxed highway driving. Fuel use in auto form is rated at 7.3 litres/100km.

The 2.0 litre petrol engine that drives the semi-sporty SR and SR Premium models has a more sophisticated, direct fuel injection system. It is a good performer and only slightly more thirsty for fuel than the 1.8, on the official test.

In real-world comparison conducted for the November 2014 edition of Wheels magazine, an i30 SR averaged 10.2 litres/100km – marginally more than a 2.5-litre Mazda3 SP25 and less than the two other sporty small hatchbacks reviewed.

The petrol engines in i30s drive through six-speed manual or six-speed conventional automatic gearboxes.

Diesel models come with either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, which works much like a computer-controlled manual gearbox and helps save fuel.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

Stepping past the least costly i30, the Active, and spending more for an Active X brings you aluminium alloy wheels, partial leather seats, and a nicer-feeling steering wheel. Mirrors fold electrically , to keep them out of the way if you park in a tight space.

Spend more again for an i30 SR and you get a subtly different car. To begin, there is the bigger and more powerful 2.0-litre petrol engine. The wheels are an inch bigger also, at 17 inches, and they are fitted with wider, lower profile tyres, which sharpen steering response and add grip. Firmer suspension delivers more precise cornering.

The SR also has dual-zone air-conditioning, which permits the driver and front passenger to set different temperatures. Headlamps switch on automatically when it is dark, windscreen wipers operate automatically when it rains, and paddle-shifters on the steering wheel give you convenient control of the gearbox in auto versions. The seat covering remains part-leather (since July 2017), and a smart key can be left safely in your pocket or bag while you unlock and start the car.

The most expensive i30s are the Premium and SR Premium, the former fitted only with the diesel engine and auto transmission, while the latter has the 2.0-litre petrol and a choice of transmissions. Both have partial leather seats, with the front seats ventilated and heated and the driver’s seat power adjustable. Both have satellite navigation and a CD player (but neither has Apple CarPlay). There is a glass sunroof, and the auto-on headlamps are extremely bright, self-levelling HID units.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

The wider and lower-profile tyres on the SR and Premium models ride more roughly and are likely to cost more at replacement time. The firmer suspension tune on the SR has a comfort penalty also.

Automatic gearboxes on diesel i30s are the computer-controlled twin-clutch type. These reduce fuel consumption, especially in country driving, and are great once you’re moving. But many drivers do not find them as smooth and easy in town as conventional autos, such as those fitted to petrol i30 hatchbacks.

The i30 Premium and SR Premium models do not come with the Apple CarPlay feature supplied with the less costly i30 Active, Active X and SR.

White is the only standard colour. All other colours cost extra.

How comfortable is it?

The i30’s cabin has been well thought-out, with good storage options for those in the front seats. The seats themselves are comfortable but have less side-support, for cornering, than those in some other small cars.

The presentation is good, although some of the silver-look plastics look a bit cheap. The instruments and radio screen are illuminated in a distinctive blue hue.

A tight turning circle and good vision help make the i30 an easy around town companion. At highway speeds it is quiet and disposes of bumps confidently.

The 1.8-litre petrol engine is a little short on urge when you first press the pedal. The turbo-diesel is in some ways friendlier to drive, thanks to its broader, more accessible pulling power.

What about safety?

All i30s come with a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, six airbags and stability control. The more expensive models get features that contribute to safety such as auto-on headlamps (which switch on reliably when visibility is poor) and automatic windscreen wipers (which draw less on the driver’s attention).

The i30 is not available with autonomous emergency braking, or related active driver aids.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) rated this i30 at five stars for safety, most recently in May 2015.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

The 1.8-litre petrol has no reluctance to rev. The popular six-speed automatic gearbox shifts decisively and makes the most of what acceleration is available.

Steering feels a little remote. There’s a system called FlexSteer, which allows you to toggle between lighter or heavier steering weight. Unfortunately the heavier setting does not bring much more feedback from the front tyres. It is the mid-level Normal setting that makes most sense.

From a performance perspective, there is work to be done on the i30 suspension and body control. A big bump mid-way through a fast corner can lead to unwanted body movement.

The petrol 2.0-litre engine in the sportier SR models brings about 15 per cent more power and much-needed zing. The SR’s recalibrated suspension provides excellent body control, and the ride is well judged. Steering, however, remains uninformative.

How is life in the rear seats?

Those in the rear are well catered for in an i30, with respectable head and leg room and rear air-conditioning vents.

How is it for carrying stuff?

There is a 378-litre boot, which is about average for a small hatchback. The rear seats split-fold 60/40.

Where is it made?

Hyundai builds the i30 Hatches in South Korea.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

Crash-avoidance aids such as autonomous emergency braking, which can warn you of an obstacle ahead – typically a car that has slowed suddenly – and apply the brakes automatically. This is standard on a Mazda3 and available on the Toyota Corolla and Volkswagen Golf, for example.

Perhaps the more immediate shove when you press the accelerator that you get from turbocharged small cars such as the Golf, Ford Focus or Holden Astra.

The all-weather security of all-wheel drive, which is standard on a Subaru Impreza.

Other small cars worth considering include the Honda Civic, Peugeot 308, Kia Cerato, and Hyundai's own Elantra.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

Our reviewers like the i30 Active – it is a lot of car for the money, and a reversing camera is standard.

When did Hyundai update this i30?

The second-generation i30 range covered here went on sale in 2012 and was updated with Series 2 versions in mid-2015. At that time the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox was introduced for i30 diesels and the i30 Tourers, and the sportier three-door SR was replaced with five-door SR and SR Premium models.

About January 2016, Apple CarPlay was added to the less costly i30s (Active, Active X and SR). About the same time, Hyundai ceased importing the i30 Tourer, which had a longer, wagon-style body. In July 2016, the i30 SR gained part-leather seat trim.

A third-generation i30 arrived in May 2017, bringing more powerful engines, more engaging steering, bigger touchscreens, better smartphone integration, and auto braking, among other changes.