Well yes, that may be overstating matters, but Hyundai’s i30 Fastback is an attempt to offer something a bit less crossover and a little more louche. Stop giggling back there, it’s better than nothing.
As mainstream car manufacturers increasingly rationalise (read cull) available body styles, it’s somewhat refreshing to see someone offer something (slightly) different. The recent announcement of the Hyundai i30 Fastback was not an event the motoring press dwelt upon overmuch I’d have to observe.
On the face of things one can see why, given that it’s a fairly unremarkable extension of a fairly unremarkable model line. It would have been preferable if they had taken the theme a little further of course, but we’re well into the realm of small acorns here. What is interesting about it however, is that it marks one of the few recent attempts to break away from the increasingly binary hatchback or crossover narrative that currently dominates proceedings.
It’s a fine state of affairs when something as conservatively designed is hailed as a leftfield overture, but here we are. Billed by the Korean car giant as a four-door coupe in the manner of VW’s dearly departed CC, it is to all intents and purposes an i30 ‘liftback’, more akin to the sort of thing Toyota used to offer to Corolla customers a number of generations ago.
One can’t really blame Hyundai for trying. After all, sales of conventional hatchbacks are starting to be noticeably eroded by those of compact crossovers. By way of example, in the current year to May, Toyota’s outlandish C-HR™ has outsold its Auris hatchback equivalent across Europe. Who’d a thunk?
One can argue that part of the problem here is the torpidity of the cars on offer in the C-segment and for the most part I’d go along with that – certainly Hyundai’s current five-door i30 is a neatly styled, but rather tepid looking device. I don’t particularly covet a Tuscon, but I can understand why a good proportion of the i30 customer base does.
There’s something to be said for making hatchbacks a little sexier, so why don’t manufacturers try? The answer to that is probably the simple and complicated matter of the price of failure, and at this end of the market, that amounts to a very large number.
Call it a rival to Mazda’s pretty 3 Fastback, nee saloon then. Unlike the Mazda however, the i30 is a hatchback, although some considerable effort has been expended at its Mercedes C-Class Coupe-aping rear to disguise the fact. While broadly resembling the standard hatch, Hyundai’s fastback sports a 25mm lower roofline with its ‘cascading grille’ (does it actually cascade?) mounted slightly lower to emphasise the car’s ‘sophisticated silhouette and charismatic proportions’.
Pitched as a more upmarket offering to the penitential i30 hatch, the Fastback comes with firmer suspension settings for that premium road feel while the interior sports what is loosely described as ‘high quality materials and premium finishes’. Take this to mean lashings of piano black trim, brushed aluminium looking plastics and stitching. Lots of stitching. Three interior colours are available, ‘Oceanids Black, Slate Grey and the new and unique Merlot Red’. Yes children, the illusion of choice.
I don’t mean to sneer. I just find the language of press packs somewhat moronic – and this one is by no means the worst. Available next year with the same engine choice and suite of driver aids as the cooking-sherry i30 model, the only question worth asking really is whether the Fastback will make any noticeable inroads on a market that is quite literally moving up in the world. I rather hope it does – we need more of this sort of thing.