Doing tha airport run in Hyundai's i30 wagon reminded me how good this thing is, and how many punters still don't realise how far the Korean company has come.
For example, my guest was impressed at the car's smart looks and build quality, before he noticed the growly diesel engine.
This wagon's lines are more extended hatch than conventional load hauler, though it's 230mm longer than the hatch, with a 50mm wheelbase extension, which means every panel from the B-pillar back is different. The small increase in height helps the overall proportions, as does the modest increase in track, which also assists cornering stability.
This 1.6-litre common rail diesel with its variable geometry turbo is a goodie. The modest 85kW power peak hits at 4000rpm, but it's the 255Nm of torque you feel. The engine pulls strongly from low revs, best appreciated around town _ especially by diesel-doubters. That torque makes short work of hauling the compact wagon away from lights and out of junctions, and masks the compromises made by the widely spaced gears of the four-speed transmission.
You barely notice the additional weight over the hatch _ though admittedly I never tried it fully loaded. Really the powerplant's only downside is a rather agricultural soundtrack when it's cold.
Hyundai claims 6l/100km. I averaged 6.9 litres _ not bad considering most of it was on demanding hill swervery or urban drives, and little on open highways.
Speaking of swervery, the launch drive had suggested competent handling, but my own road's a demanding one. Still, the wagon impressed. This is a tidy chassis that handles capably with limited body roll through corners. Ride is biased to comfort, but the car doesn't feel out of place on standard New Zealand byways.
The cabin's just as capable. My 1.8m passenger had plenty of leg and head room, there's lots of cabin storage that swallowed iPods, notepads and drinks, and we both appreciated the plentiful extras. This Elite spec delivers leather seats and trim, a six-disc CD player with MP3, USB and aux inputs _ and even an iPod cable. Anti-dazzle mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, a glovebox cooler, illuminated vanity mirrors, reversing sensors _ the list goes on, not bad for this $37,990 price.
As for safety, stability control and ABS brakes are standard for Hyundai, as is the safety pack with its high-vis vest, fire extinguisher and first aid kit, while this car also has six airbags.
Hyundai expects the i30 wagon to grow the compact wagon segment, and admits it may lose some hatch sales as buyers trade the extra cabin capacity for minimal looks and handling compromises. My passenger was surprised by how good this Hyundai is. But i30's hatch and wagon confirm the brand has come of age, with cars that are good, not just good for the price.