TAKING on the likes of the Ford Focus and VW Golf is no mean feat but Hyundai has certainly raised its game with the launch of its latest i30 model.
It's a car which looks sharp, is packed with technology and is very competitively priced.
The Korean company describes the third generation i30 as ‘a car for everyone' which, despite being quite a sweeping statement, is very accurate on so many counts.
That's because there is a choice of engines and trim levels that have their very own feel and character.
The new i30 has a fresh, modern design with a distinctive cascading grille with chrome-plated dots for a stylish appearance.
A lower front bumper helps achieve a wider-looking stance and the sweeping headlight clusters also include LED daytime running lights.
There is a black rear spoiler to add some dynamic flair and the wide rear end helps to convey a muscular stance. The optional panoramic sunroof completes the look.
The interior is modern, elegant and neatly laid out with lots of on-board technology to be explored.
There are all the connectivity facilities you could wish for with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, wireless charging, Bluetooth and USB points.
The eight-inch touchscreen is now free floating so information such as sat nav instructions are easier to see with just a single glance and the sound system is also of a high standard.
In addition there are heated or cooled seats, a heated steering wheel, parking sensors, climate control and, depending on the model, electrically-adjustable seats and leather upholstery.
Comfort levels within the new i30 are high for all occupants with ample space for at least two adults to stretch out in the rear. And the storage options are impressive too with a glovebox, door pockets, a central bin, sunglasses holder, cup holders, handy trays and a boot capacity that sees off most rivals.
It can hold 395-litres of goodies - a capacity that increases to 1,301 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat.
There are five trim levels to choose from called S, SE, SE Nav, Premium and Premium Nav with prices ranging from £16,995 to £24,745.
All i30s come with Hyundai's impressive five-year, unlimited mileage warranty and all models also boast a comprehensive list of safety specifications which is why the company is confident the vehicle will be awarded the maximum five stars when it is tested for its Euro NCAP rating.
Safety kit includes lane departure and forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, hill start assist, numerous airbags and smart high beam assist. The higher Premium and Premium Nav grades also feature blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert.
When it comes to powertrains, there is a good choice for customers with two petrol engines - a three-cylinder 1.0-litre 120ps and a 1.4-litre 140ps - plus a 1.6-litre 110ps diesel model.
All cars are available with a manual gearbox and the 1.4 and 1.6 models can be fitted with a seven-speed dual clutch transmission.
We tried out the range of cars on sweeping country lanes, dual carriageways and in stop/start town centres in beautiful Cornwall and they all have their own identity and appeal.
First up was the 1.6 diesel in Premium trim priced at £23,030. This car has a 0-62mph sprint time of 11.0 seconds, tops out at 118mph and can deliver combined fuel economy of 74.3mpg with carbon emission of 99g/km.
In fairness, this is the sensible member of the family. It's economical, very practical, spacious and comfortable plus the engine has ample gusto.
The six-speed gearbox is smooth and responsive and this car is the ideal model for anyone who clocks up the long motorway miles and wants to see good economy along the way.
Road-holding is assured and although there is some engine noise when pushed hard, the car is generally fairly quiet.
Next up was the three-pot 1.0-litre petrol car in SE Nav. This car had a price-tag of £20,230 and could reach 62mph from a standing start in 11.1 seconds. It topped out at 118mph and could achieve 56.5mpg on a combined run with CO2 emissions of 115g/km.
There was a time when the thought of a three-cylinder engine was dismissed pretty swiftly. But those days are long gone. It is the power output that determines the car's performance rather than the capacity and with 120ps at its disposal, this car has fun factor written all over it.
It felt much lighter than the first car we tried and fizzed around the lanes in Cornwall where the i30 was launched.
The acceleration is sharper and the all-round driving experience is more for driving enthusiasts who like a lively response. The engine tends to scream if pushed really hard, but generally this car is a delight to drive.
Finally we tried the 1.4 petrol model in Premium priced at £22,780. This car can reach from 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds, has a top speed of 130mph, with combined fuel efficiency of 52.3 and carbon emission of 124g/km.
Like the little three-cylinder car this petrol model is a thrill to drive.
Once again the response is far quicker than the diesel counterpart, but the economy is not so impressive.
The road-holding is very assured, the acceleration is smooth and responsive and steep inclines are easily dealt with. It's the higher performance car of the line-up and will certainly get from A to B in the fastest time.
I also managed a short run out in a pre-production model fitted with the automatic box and whilst the length of time behind the wheel was limited, the DCT box did seem very smooth. The gear changes were slick and there was always ample power to overtake slower moving vehicles at short notice.
The i30 comes in many guises and each has its own character. Whether it's a sensible economical diesel car you are looking for or a more entertaining petrol derivative, the i30 is certainly worth a look.
It's going to be a busy year for Hyundai with seven new models on the way, and the first one is this i30, which is available in a choice of 11 exterior and three interior colours and goes on sale on March 1.