In Europe, Hyundai aspires to a near-premium image in every segment in which it competes. Low-cost vehicles? No way. A prime example of where the brand wants to go is the new, VW Golf–fighting i30 hatchback—the “best example yet of Hyundai’s commitment to a Europe-focused product strategy,” as the press release informs. Never mind that it’s sold in the U.S. as the Elantra GT. The use of the Elantra nomenclature in the U.S. is slightly misleading: The Elantra GT/i30 actually rides on a shorter wheelbase than do the Elantra sedan and coupe, at 104.3 inches compared to 106.3. And it also sports an entirely different dashboard. In short, it’s quite different from other Elantras.
In Europe, the i30 is now once again available as a station wagon. (The previous i30 wagon came to the States as the Elantra Touring, but we won’t get this one.) The wheelbase is of course the same, as is everything else forward of the B-pillars; the rear door skins are identical, too. Aft of that, the i30 wagon—which was developed especially for Europe—has a higher roofline and a longer rear overhang, changes which make the flexible cargo area more capacious. Depending on trim level, the appointments are almost lavish, and the build quality is impeccable.
Anja Bracht, who teaches transportation design at the Pforzheim University in Germany, is among the experts we spoke with who praise the wagon’s styling: “In this case, I believe [this] derivative has more character than the standard model. The wagon’s proportions are more substantial.” Substantive looks aside, what the i30 lacks to our eyes is the svelte sportiness and outward cool of its mechanical cousins in the Kia Cee’d lineup.
The i30 wagon comes with a choice of three gasoline and three diesel four-cylinder engines. The former include a 98-hp 1.4-liter and a direct-injected, 133-hp 1.6-liter. (Torque for those engines stand at 101 and 121 lb-ft.) An 89-hp, 162-lb-ft 1.4-liter and a 1.6-liter in two strengths—109 or 126 hp, both with 192 lb-ft—round out the diesel options. A six-speed manual is standard, with a six-speed automatic as an option on the higher-powered models. The gasoline engines are naturally aspirated, and given that they’re weaker than 148-hp unit offered in the U.S., they leave us cold. We’ll pass on the 1.4-liter diesel, but the compression-ignited 1.6-liter engine is stout in either state of tune.
The suspension calibration leans towards comfort rather than sportiness, and this is underscored by the electrically assisted power steering, which is adjustable to one of three settings, none of which is marked “Feel.” The i30 wagon is another step in the right direction for Hyundai, although the company still has a little way to go still if fine-driving cars like the Golf (and its spin-offs) are the target.