Hyundai really do boast a fascinating history when it comes to their rise from a South Korean money brigade to global automotive player. The new i30 is a testament to the South Korean marque’s industriousness as its not only the first Hyundai product designed wholly in Europe, but its also the first to aim its crosshairs directly at the European establishment. You could argue that the new i30 is even more European then cars like the Ford Focus as its entire design and development was completed in Europe in contrast the global Ford, but does that mean that the Hyundai should now be considered above cars like the Focus?
Looking at the cars aesthetic sensibilities I would say not; this is not a Hyundai roast, and I will try to maintain my objectivity, but to my eyes the new i30 is deeply flawed, a disappointing early swing of the bat for VAG poached design star Luc Donckerwolke. The first thing that hits you is its obvious quest for Germanic substance in its overall shape. It looks to be emanating the same upright stance as the Golf and 308, but whereas the Golf is the original and the Peugeot a slick French interpretation, the i30 looks a total mess in profile and angle. The resolutely upright front elevation and boxy rear end clash with the smoother more curvaceous glasshouse and rear spoiler treatment, there is nothing particularly wrong with the surfacing, but the detailing just doesn’t fit with the design as a whole or look particularly well executed.
My biggest gripe is the front grill which in an attempt to bolster the corporate face looks like it’s just been plastered on the front as if it were done in a bad mid life facelift. Not only that, but the grill is poorly detailed, the chrome trim reminds me of badly applied lipstick. I don’t have issues with large grills, but when they are formed at the center of coporate design and a driver for the complete redesign, the grill graphic needs to drive the rest of the surfacing from front to back. I also don’t like the inverted curve on the grill, it may follow the concave shape seen on the bumper, but it makes the front look broken at some angles. The strong shoulder line is what marks out the i30 as having staid Germanic tendencies, but if you look at the junction of front wing, windscreen and bonnet, it just no where near as well executed as in other rivals.
The interior is perhaps a more radical departure, and although I don’t like the current Korean generation of plaster board style dashboards seen in most current Hyundai products, the new layout and design are screaming Fiat perhaps a bit too much. I’m also not a fan of floating infotainment screens, but if you have to for god sake don’t put hard buttons next to it. The interior as a whole is not as attractive as the Peugeot’s, or as obviously well constructed as the Golf’s. It’s yet another example of how the new i30 is defying it’s all new status and looking like a global committee design, rather then an expression of a new generation of premium small car.
So it seems that Hyundai has along the way returned to its corporation roots, the i30 may now be designed by the worlds best, with plenty of money in the budget and a nice specific target audience, but it’s design tells me is that Hyundai have yet to confidently attach themselves to their own style. The new Tucson, a car admittedly I am loathe to even consider liking does have aesthetic merit, it’s just a shame that the same sensibility over detail and design haven’t transferred through.