This weekend I went up to Canberra to doggy- and house-sit for a friend. It was a chance to help her out, and a chance for me to get the hell outta Dodge... sorry, I mean Melbourne... for a few days. Looking at the cost of flights, I figured I'd just hire a car, and that'd give me a way of getting around while I was up there (for those who aren't familiar with Canberra, it is NOT a place to be without a car). I ended up with a Hyundai i30. I thought I'd share my opinion with y'all.
With around 30,000km on the clock, the little 2.0L auto hatchback sounded like it'd had a few too many cigarettes, and sometimes it seemed like the gears slipped when I accelerated. I put that down to, mainly, the fact that it's a hire car and probably been thrashed to death.
The base model (after all, we're talking about a hire car here) came with air con, MP3-compatible CD player (halfway decent sound from the speakers, once I tweaked the settings to suit my taste), funky blue dashboard lighting, 2 x 12V plugs, and not much else. Certainly no cruise control, which would have been nice on a journey where I covered just shy of 1,400km or thereabouts. Oh, wait, and I remember seeing side air bags on the drivers side at least, and 2 cup holders between the front seats... but anyway. Once I'd put some air in the tyres (attention anonymous blue-logo hire-car company, 29psi is not enough), this actually turned into a moderately comfortable highway drive.
The seats won't win awards for comfort, but neither are they anywhere near as bad as what you'll get in a Getz. Or a Barina. Or a Focus, for that matter. Despite feeling a bit sluggish and underpowered on acceleration, the car sat quite happily on 110kph once it got there, and coped quite well with the hills. Around town the steering felt fairly heavy, and the car isn't nearly as nimble as I would prefer, or expected. Much as it galls me to admit, the Nissan Tiida beats the i30 for handling easily (although I think it may also be a little smaller... it's certainly got a slightly smaller engine).
Fuel economy was fairly decent... mainly highway driving, with a bit of around-town at the ends, gave average figures of about 7.8L/100km.
Would I hire an i30 again? Yeah, probably. It's comfortable enough, would easily seat 4 people, or 5 if the people on the back seat were (a) friendly, or (b) slim-ish, and (c) not overly tall/didn't have long legs. Plenty of room in the boot for a few medium-sized suitcases. It's a good compromise between cost and comfort in the cars offered by this company - I mean, a Getz is cheaper, and a Falcon/Commodore is more comfortable, and smack-bang in the middle of them is where I'd stick the i30.
Would I buy one? Probably not. Maybe if I could get over my bias against Hyundais, and got a top-of-the-range model with Bluetooth compatible stereo and cruise control and all the other options, and then heavily modified it to dramatically improve the handling, and... who am I kidding?
For someone who just wants a car to get from point A to point B, they'd probably love this car. And I'm sure plenty of people do, cos it's been voted best mid-sized car a couple of times (I think), but for me, I like something different in a car. It's just a sad fact that the i30 can't compare to my current front-runner favourite.