BADGE snobbery is still much in evidence in the motor industry and some makers are working hard to break down the barriers.

Hyundai has been concentrating on improving its image and one of the cars that’s far better than the badge would have you believe is the stylish i30 hatch, which should calm your wallet at the entry-level price of £12,300.

The price is pitched below mainstream rivals such as the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and Toyota Auris and model for model the i30 also comes better equipped.

In 16-valve 1.4-litre petrol form, the Classic makes a lot of sense during the present economic times as it is cheap to buy, cheap to run at an average mpg of 46.3, and comes with a worthwhile list of standard equipment, which includes air-conditioning, electronic stability control, central locking and electric front windows.

Besides having six airbags, there is the satisfaction of knowing that the vehicle scored the top five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash tests for adult safety. And for further improved economy and emissions a stop-start system is available.

Awareness of the Hyundai brand would appear to be rising strongly, partly due to the government’s scrappage scheme which resulted in a whopping 43,000 vehicles being sold with most customers being first-time Hyundai buyers. The success means that Hyundai should end this year selling about 60,000 more vehicles than last year.

There is still more to come from the company as another nine motors, including MPV and family vehicles such as the i40, are to be launched by the end of 2011.

Dealership growth should also go from 148 to 165.

For the present, however, cars like the i30 are among the most popular choices. Besides petrol, there are cheap-to-run 1.6-litre diesel options but the 108bhp 1.4-lite petrol is notably cheaper and extremely cheerful.

Coupled with a five-speed manual gearbox, the motor is smooth and flexible with ample performance for the needs of most families. It is quick on paper and feels lively, too, accelerating from nought to 60mph in 11.6 seconds and going on to reach a top speed of 116mph.

Pleasing is the quiet and composed ride thanks to a well-sorted chassis and suspension set-up. There is loads of grip on twisty roads and not much body lean to dilute the fun.

The power steering feels sharp and nicely communicative but is on the light side which may not suit everyone’s tastes.

However, the roomy interior is particularly well laid out with the controls all nicely to hand. Some of the dash plastics look on the cheap side which detracts from the otherwise classy-appearance of the inside but a plus point is the generous amount of leg room in the rear which betters rivals. The boot is also spacious for this class of car and there is much more loading area with the rear seats folded.

Although the Hyundai might not necessarily have the same style and badge cachet of the leading contenders in this class, it boasts a fiveyear unlimited mileage warranty which now comes with a free health check to add to the owner’s peace of mind.

Such is the confidence in the brand that Hyundai is hoping to be in the top five manufacturers within five years. In the meantime it will have to face the challenge of the rise in VAT as during the present difficult economic climate manufacturers will almost certainly be unable to absorb the increase. No doubt there will be a rush for new vehicles well before the rise takes effect.


Hyundai i30 hatch 1.4-litre petrol Classic 5-door.

Price: £12,300.

Top speed: 116mph.

0-60mph: 11.6 seconds.

Fuel: 46.3mpg.

CO2 emissions (g/km): 145.

Verdict: Great value, cheap to run, drives well, well-equipped, stylish and good build quality.