Hyundai i30 Fastback 2018 Road Test

If you haven't noticed, traditional two-door coupes made by mainstream manufacturers are a dying breed. Their lack of popularity easily explained – modern buyers are no longer willing to sacrifice space and practicality for a little extra car park swagger.

This renders the affordable coupe's future bleak, but before they disappear completely, a trend that began with the premium brands could soon see the sporty body style return to favour. It's luxury cars like the Mercedes-Benz CLS that's leading the charge, a four-door coupe that has all the style of a two-door with the added benefit of another pair of doors, plus the space and practicality of a saloon car.

Inspired, Hyundai claims it's the first of the non-premium brands to dip its toe into the affordable four-door coupe market with its new 'Fastback' version of the popular i30 hatchback. Effectively replacing a three-door hatch in its line up, the Fastback features a 30mm lower roofline and a more rakish, tapered rear end that features a pair of new tail lamps and a cheeky ducktail spoiler normally found on sports cars.

We'll leave it to you decide if the changes are a success but Hyundai hopes, for just £500 more than the standard i30, its sense of style and superior practicality (compared to a traditional three-door), will win over style-conscious buyers. Measuring in 115mm longer than the hatch, as well as its new looks, boot space of the 'long tail' i30 improves by 50-litres to a total 450-litres - respectable for the segment, but it's not a total win for the Fastback's packaging.

Hyundai I 30 Fastback 3

That boot, for example, has a surprisingly high lip that heavy loads will have to navigate and, if you're unlucky enough to be taller than five foot seven, you'll feel robbed of headroom in the rear seats. Sticking to the sporty theme, Hyundai has developed a new sports suspension for the i30 Fastback that sees it sit 5mm lower than the normal car but make no mistake, engineers haven't created a hot, or even warm, hatchback.

For now, there's the choice of either a 120PS 1.0-litre turbo or a more powerful 140PS 1.4-litre turbo. Towards the end of the year a 1.6-litre diesel also lands but, for now, most buyers will plump for the entry-level engine. The smallest engine is combined with just a six-speed manual, so buyers who prefer an automatic have to spend more for the 1.4-litre turbo that, as well as a manual comes with the option of a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic (£1000).

Inside the i30 Fastback, if you're familiar with the i30 hatch, you'll be right at home. There's the choice of some new colour combinations but, overall, the interior is mostly unchanged which is both good and bad. Good because the layout is straightforward and logical to use and, bad, because some of the hard plastic coverings feel low-rent. Despite the similarities, behind the wheel it doesn't take long to spot some significant differences between hatch and with the way the Fastback drives.

The biggest change is a noticeable reduction in ride comfort. As well as sitting lower, engineers have added springs that are 15 per cent stiffer – we wish they hadn't. In a bid to reduce roll through corners and boost agility, on the smooth roads we drove the Fastback felt unsettled. Strangely, wheel size doesn't alleviate the choppiness. We tried both a 1.0-litre turbo rides on 17-inch alloys and a more powerful 1.4T on the largest 18s and smaller wheels didn't smooth out the ride.

Hyundai I 30 Fastback 2 

Another surprising area is the amount of road and tyre noise that's emitted into the cabin. It's no deal-breaker, but it's disappointing as the i30 hatch is quieter. With the choice of the 1.0-litre turbo or larger 1.4, we would have to choose the latter. The little three-cylinder petrol is a willing and enthusiastic companion, offering reasonable refinement, but it needs working to keep on the boil out of the town. Part of the issue is overly long gearing that demands constant gear changes to keep up with traffic.

Against the clock, the more powerful i30 Fastback is capable of hitting 62mph in 9.2 seconds while still be able to return a claimed 50mpg. With more pulling power, the 1.4 has less need for all those gear changes. Curiously, on the larger 18-inch wheels and low profile tyres the steering is also better than its smaller engine sibling with more faithful weighting.

As well as the manual, we took the chance of sampling the i30 Fastback 1.4-litre turbo automatic. Using a smooth seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, the two-pedal Hyundai is effortless around town but venture out on to country roads and sometime the auto isn't quite as intuitive as you'd hope.

Pricing for the i30 Fastback range kicks off at £20,305. As we've already mentioned, that's £500 more than the equivalent hatchback. Hyundai says, currently, the Fastback doesn't have any rivals and, if you buy into the styling, we think that's a small price to pay for a distinctive hatch in the crowded small car segment. That said, we can't help think the standard, cheaper, more refined and better-riding i30 hatch will remains a better proposition for most.

The Hyundai i30 Fastback is on sale now

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