Like a child accustomed to savouring the fruits of the sweet-cake counter, it can take a bit of getting used to being back on the brown bread and butter. I’m sure Hyundai won’t take offence with me comparing their new i30 Fastback, five-door coupé with many-a-one’s staple diet.
It was just such a change from the recent glut of sugar-buzz crossovers and SUVs, that I suffered a little from withdrawal symptoms for a while.
And in doing so, the sugar-starved cynic in me asked, where in God’s name do Hyundai think they are going with an estate/coupé – call it what you will – at a time when all we seem to want is an SUV? Especially as it is not so salubriously styled within or without. Yes, the Fastback look lifts, and gives the rear some visual dynamism but it’s nothing to drool over.
And God, to my early-days way of looking at it, I thought it looked even less appetising in the deadpan greyish colour – inside and out – that it was decked out in.
Compared with some of the mouth-watering delicacies in cabins adorning some crossovers these days, it was underwhelming to say the least.
So after a couple of ‘bread days’ I asked again: who’d buy such a car for €25,000 or so when you could have, say, a tastier Volkswagen T-Roc for the same sort of money?
I won’t insult your intelligence by suggesting I came up with an instant answer because I don’t think there is one as such.
Suffice to say, however, that I get enough queries from people looking for a ‘different’ type of small-family car who DON’T want an SUV (or a people carrier for that matter). So there is hope.
I usually suggest a Toyota Auris, Honda Civic, KIA cee’d, sometimes a Hyundai i30 hatchback.
I must say I rarely advocate the estate (Tourer) version. Could this new five-door Fastback coupé impress enough to make a shortlist? Let’s see.
It costs €24,995, which is €1,000 more than the estate and a good deal in excess of the €20,245 for the basic hatch. Is it chocolate-cake versus brown-bread different enough to warrant that premium?
Compared with the hatchback, there is a slightly lower roofline, a stretch of the nose/front, which adds 115mm to the overall length.
And then you have the up-sloping lines of the rear with its wrap-around lights.
It is definitely smarter looking but, given the relatively modest visuals on the basic hatch, that is not a mould-breaking achievement.
The chassis is 5mm lower – hardly noticeable to look at but I think it gave it a snugger feel on the road. They’ve also slightly tweaked the suspension for a bit more agility.
All in all it’s a good deal more pastry than sliced pan; understated, slick, smooth and totally at ease with the variety of drives I managed to get in.
I’m not saying it is that much better than the excellent-for-what-it-does hatch but it had a nice assured touch that underlined all my drives. I’d call it an undemanding, if less-than-thrilling, driver.
A stand-out element for me was the 1-litre turbo petrol (118bhpp) which, in keeping with its genre, was enjoyably flexible and full of pep.
I had a couple of lovely long drives in it and pushed it hard with the 6spd manual box at my disposal. I had several more cautious excursions in the snow.
And that reminds me: the lack of a rear wash-wipe was not a drawback – I found the rear window kept clear and clean without help.
You might think I was being critical of the price earlier, and in a way I was, but I can see justification for it if you glance at what is a more-than-decent comfort and safety spec list (see ‘facts & figures’, left).
The rear hatch set-up has (at least) one practical side-effect as it also allows for more boot space than the hatch.
And head room back there didn’t appear to have suffered from the lower roofline.
Even allowing for the drab colour of my test car I can’t just dismiss the Fastback. As I’ve said about other motors of that ilk before, I often only appreciate how well put together a motor is when I get into something else. There is just enough ‘difference’ to make you think twice – if you are one of the minority in the market for a five-door coupé.
Sweet-cake is fine and, God knows, we all need a bit of flavour in our lives. But sometimes a nice cup of tea with a slice of nicely buttered home-baked brown bread (and a little smear of jam) can work its own bit of magic.
I found myself liking the Fastback but I’d love to see it in sharp blue or red before I’d commit. Just like a nice slice of cake, a bit of colour can whet the old taste buds.
FACTS & FIGURES
Hyundai i30 Fastback, 5dr coupé, 1-litre (998cc, 118bhp) turbo petrol, 6spd manual, 5.2 litre/100km, 120g/km, €200 road tax. Standard spec includes 17ins alloys, cruise control/speed limiter, 8ins touchscreen (Android Auto/Apple Car Play), satnav with Tom Tom, front fogs lights, static bending halogen headlights, electric mirrors, LED daytime running lights, high-beam assist, manual air con, 60/40 split folding rear seats, spare wheel, driver lumbar support, Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), lane-keep assist, rear-park assist, rear-view camera. Five-year unlimited mileage warranty.
Price from: €24,995.