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You’ve seen it at KLIMS13, and read our drive report from South Africa yesterday. It’s now here – the new Hyundai i30 hatchback. Two variants are offered: a standard i30 1.8L Executive for RM127,888 and a bodykitted i30 1.8L Sport for RM132,888. Sounds like a lot of money for a Korean car, yes? Well, this is no ordinary Hyundai.

Like the i40 Sedan and Tourer before it, the i30 is part of Hyundai’s Europe-centric lineup – designed and developed at the Hyundai Motor Europe Technical Centre in Russelsheim, Germany. Let’s just say it’s quite a bit more sophisticated than the similarly-sized (C-segment) Hyundai Elantra (it’s sold as the Elantra GT in the USA). The same way that the i40 is just that bit more than the Sonata.

On the outside, the i30 cuts a fine figure indeed, looking like how a modern hatchback should. The front is dominated by a large grille opening, flanked by an intricately-detailed set of headlights. The grille, by the way, differs from the chrome unit shown at KLIMS13. This one looks more elegant, and matches that on the i40.

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The square-cut back has a very different persona. You just can’t accuse the i30 of not being interesting enough, can you? Aesthetically, at least. Hyundai proudly says that it’s aiming for the class best with this one. So that’s the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus, then, let alone the likes of the Civic and Corolla Altis. From looks alone, it’s right up there.

Inside, Hyundai has gone for a cockpit-like cabin, with a swoopy dashboard highlighted with silver trim pieces. Adding to the premium feel are the standard panoramic sunroof, a high-res TFT SuperVision instrument cluster, a smart keyless system (with a ‘welcome’ proximity sensor that unfolds the wing mirrors and lights up the puddle lamps and door handles as you approach it) and a rain/light sensor.

The whole car is bigger than before (20 mm longer), and with a class-competitive 2,650 mm wheelbase, it has a much more spacious interior than before. Larger than the Golf Mk6, Focus and Peugeot 308, in fact.

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It wouldn’t be a proper hatchback if it’s not both practical and flexible, and so it is. The 378 litre boot can be expanded to a 1,316 litre cargo area with the rear seats folded flat – a healthy 10% increase over the first-generation i30.

On the driving side, there’s Hyundai’s Flex Steer system (it was the first car to have it, actually) that offers three steering weights: Comfort, Normal and Sport. Connecting the car to the 17-inch wheels are MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam round the back (European models get independent multi-links).

Turning the front wheels is a Nu 1.8 litre MPI engine with 150 PS and 178 Nm of torque, working through a six-speed automatic transmission. Standard across the range (the Sport variant only adds on the bodykit) are six airbags, ESP (VSM in Hyundai language), Bluetooth handsfree kit and an MP3- and USB-compatible radio/CD player.

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Rounding it off are seven colour options: Black Bean, Brilliant Red, Coffee Bean, Creamy White, Dazzling Blue, Hyper Silver and Sleek Silver. And as always, Hyundai Sime Darby Motors (HSDM) markets the new Hyundai i30 with five-year or 300,000 km extended warranty programme.

Launched together with the new model is Hyundai’s latest 3S centre (sales, service and spare parts) – making a total of 25 – located in Cheras. Operated by Mawanis, the 65,337 sq ft facility is the largest of its kind in Malaysia, built at a cost of RM 6 million. It’s equipped with seven service bays, including two Quick Service bays.

Among the value-added services offered here are pick-up and delivery service, free labour service on Wednesdays, complimentary car wash upon service and a self-sufficient customer lounge.