ONLY a few years ago Hyundai was pitched very much as a budget alternative to established European brands.
One might have bought one first and foremost to save money but combined with the expectation of getting a decent car too.
There would however be shortcomings and the ‘pretenders' from Korea seemed to lack the style and sophistication of the Europeans and Japanese.
But Hyundai, like its sister brand Kia, has been getting better and better - to the point where it is now very much on a par with the mainstream manufacturers and no longer in their slipstream.
Both car makers have arguably made their biggest steps with SUVs and crossovers but they are competing well in several segments and Hyuindai's i30 represents a thoroughly decent alternative to a Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf or Vauxhall Astra.
The hatchback was launched in the UK in the spring and the Tourer estate model followed a few months later.
Hyundai also has plans to expand the range with an N hot hatch and a Fastback.
The i30 is firmly aimed at European buyers as Hyundai seeks to establish itself as the top Asian car brand in Europe by 2021.
Indeed not only is it built in Europe, it was also designed there.
The latest version of its latest contender in what was traditionally the biggest selling C segment boasts an eye-catching profile that's easy to like.
Perhaps its defining character is the new front end set to be rolled out on all Hyundais henceforth.
It features a larger grille and combined with the i30's more upright stance and sculpted design lines gives it real presence.
Both the hatchback and the estate look good and the estate in particular has a sporty look that's more lithe and less load-lugger. It manages to achieve this without sacrificing practicality either, which is no mean feat.
Hyundai might have come on leaps and bounds over the years but it hasn't lost sight of offering good value for money.
The i30 Tourer range starts at £17,495 for an S 1.0-litre T-GDi 118bhp manual.
Standard equipment, even on that entry-level version, is generous.
Standard safety features in particular are impressive with a lane departure warning system, forward collision warning system, lane keep assist and autonomous emergency braking.
Other entry-level features include 15-inch alloys, digital radio with USB and aux connections, Bluetooth with steering wheel controls and electric front and rear windows.
Ascending the range SE trim adds bigger alloys and a five-inch LCD touchscreen, rear parking sensors and camera and roof rails.
Move up top the SE Nav and you'll get a navigation system along with a larger touchscreen.
Premium and Premium SE trims up the luxury levels, with even more imposing alloys, dual zone climate control, an electronic parking brake, privacy glass, heated front seats and more besides.
The flagship Tourer Premium SE with an auto box costs £25,785 and offers a panoramic sunroof, leather seat facings and a heated steering wheel.
As mentioned the i30 Tourer scores highly for practicality. The kind of nifty storage solutions one's come to expect on a family car these days are scattered throughout the cabin and the boot offers 602 litres of space.
Put the seats down and that extends to 1,650 litres.
Engine-wise there's the customary mix. As well as that small but potent 1.0-litre petrol unit there's a 1.4 T-GDi 1138bhp petrol engine and a 1.6-litre diesel in either 108bhp or 134bhp form. Transmission options are a six-speed manual or seven-speed DCT automatic.
The lower-powered diesel in this car delivered a decent blend of performance and economy and was also impressively refined.
The i30 scores highly in terms of switchgear, fit and finish and crucially it also offers a decent drive.
In terms of doing battle with those European rivals that once had a clear advantage it performs surprisingly well.
In truth dynamically it lacks very little and combined with a supple suspension set-up is a driver's car that definitely pleases and is comfortable.