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Is this the best car in Singapore for under S$100K?

Hyundai decided that the only way to crack the apparently fussy European market was to move into the neighbourhood, and so in 2003, it opened a technical centre in Germany.


QUESTION: When is a Korean car not a Korean car?

The answer is - when it's a Hyundai i30. Here's a car that was designed, engineered and tested in Germany. It comes to you from an assembly plant in the Czech Republic. Essentially, the i30 is as Korean as Lucy Liu is Chinese.

Hyundai decided that the only way to crack the apparently fussy European market was to move into the neighbourhood, and so in 2003, it opened a technical centre in Germany. It's from the loins of that facility that the i30 has sprung.

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Another reason for its Germanic germination is that it's aimed at what is traditionally Europe's best-selling car: the very German Volkswagen Golf. Accordingly, the i30 takes the same form as the Golf (a five-door hatchback), only it's 82mm longer and has 30mm more in the wheelbase department.

Another cue from the Golf is the drivetrain, which pairs a peppy 1.4-litre turbo engine with a fast shifting twin-clutch, seven-speed auto. Respectively, those are Hyundai's take on the TSI engines and DSG transmissions that form such a key part of VW's identity today.

All of that suggests that the i30 is a sort of imitation Golf on paper. But in reality it's been beautifully executed, resulting in a car that's fun to drive and pleasant to be in.

Very often you find yourself merrily outrunning other cars, chivvied along by the i30's ready reserves of torque, the lively engine aided in its efforts by a transmission that's both smooth and quick. You drive some cars, and some cars drive you, in the sense that they impose a bit of their character on you. The Hyundai belongs in the latter category, and its personality is a jaunty one.

It zips around corners in a similarly bubbly way, even though the suspension lets it tackle bumps with well-mannered grace. Maybe there isn't the scalpel-sharp response of a hot hatch, but the i30 strikes a delightful balance between refinement and ebullience, and it's an easygoing car that feels right, whatever your driving style. A bit like a Golf, really.

That poise is no accident. When you peek under the rear of the Hyundai, there's a tricky multi-link suspension set up for you to see, which is something only the pricier versions of the Golf use.

Inside, the i30 is pretty solidly built and is at least as roomy as the other cars in its class, while the dashboard is plain but sensibly laid out; even if you've just beamed down into the driver's seat from another planet where cars don't exist, you should be able to figure out most of the controls in minutes.

While it isn't particularly posh inside (the Golf has the i30 licked there), the Hyundai does at least feel quite generously equipped. There are bright and easy-to-read colour displays, and many of the latest conveniences you expect in a modern car are present: the lights and wipers are automatic, you start the engine by pressing a button, that sort of thing.

Unexpected treats include a rear view camera, an electronic parking brake and a wireless charging pad for compatible phones.

The real surprise, and it's a delightful one, is that you get all that for a five-figure sum. Even if the first figure is "9", the fact that the cheapest 1.0-litre Golf lists for S$108,900 (including Certificate Of Entitlement) makes it abundantly clear what a bargain the i30 is.

In fact, given its general sophistication, the Hyundai could well be the best car on sale today for less than S$100,000.

Of course, some schlemiels would rather chew on broken glass than tell their friends they drive a Korean car, even if it happens to come from Europe, and the i30 obviously isn't for brand snobs. Everyone else gets to enjoy the European engineering at Korean pricing.

Hyundai i30 1.4 GLS

Engine 1,353cc, 16V, turbo in-line four
Power 140hp at 6,000rpm
Torque 242Nm at 1,500rpm
Gearbox 7-speed twin-clutch automatic
Top Speed 205km/h
0-100km/h 9.2 seconds
Fuel efficiency 5.5L/100km
Price S$90,999 including Certificate Of Entitlement
Agent Komoco Motors
Available Now