Hyundai i30
The launch of the latest i30 is a significant one, as it is the first of Hyundai's i models to be replaced.

The first-generation i30 was launched four years ago and proved to be in CEO and President of Hyundai UK Tony Whitehorn's words to be 'relatively successful' with over 15,000 sold in its peak year - 2010.

Now it is back and ready to the fight to the Astra, Focus and Golf with key improvements in quality, efficiency, comfort and design. Prices start at £14,495, which is less than the Vauxhall, Ford and Volkswagen, so we went to the UK launch to see what the new Hyundai hatch is like.

Another example of Hyundai's unique design language, 'fluidic sculpture', it almost looks like a scaled-down hatchback version of the i40.

Highlights from the front include the large headlights, which slash back far into the front wings and the distinctive LED light detailing for the foglamps. There are also two new interpretations of the Hyundai family front grille depending on the model.

Hyundai i30
From the side, the most obvious styling feature of the new i30 has to be the distinctive beltline which rises from the front wheel arch to the large rear light clusters, the sculpted wing mirrors and the distinctive undercut on the front and rear doors.

At the back, it's all about the i30's curvy tailgate with its sporty rear spoiler. Like the front, the rear is dominated by the lights. The large, sleek light clusters follow the beltline down the side of the car and also stretch across the tailgate.

The interior design of the i30 impresses too, with its stylish, logically laid out dashboard. The dials are easy to read and there's plenty of piano black and metal trim on range-topping Style models to lift the rest of the front cabin.

With the multi-adjustable steering column, the driving position is comfortable. The seats themselves are nothing particularly special, but are supportive.

Length has increased by 20mm and width by 5mm, as such rear space in the i30 is more than a match for rivals; I'm over six foot and there was more than enough head and legroom for me to stretch out. A Focus and Golf-beating 378-litre boot is also a surprise.

Hyundai i30Overall, the i30's cabin quality isn't quite up to rivals, but like the i40 before it, it's certainly not far off.

Despite most of the dashboard plastics being soft-touch, there are areas of harder, scratchier plastic. The graphics for the sat-nav, which is also shared with sister brand Kia, are hard to read and look a bit cheap. Finally, the multi-function steering wheel is overcomplicated.

We had the chance to drive three different versions of the i30, with both diesel and petrol power. First up was what is expected to be the top seller, the i30 Active 1.6 CRDi with six-speed manual transmission, priced at £17,995.

With 109bhp, this is the entry-level diesel engine, it boasts a strong 76.3mpg fuel figure and a CO2 output of 97g/km that means you'll no longer have to pay for road tax. Top speed is 117mph, with 60mph coming up in 11.5 seconds.

This engine is well matched to the six-speed manual transmission, the gearchanges are quick and precise and offers a fine blend of performance and economy.

After the diesel, we moved on to the only petrol version available at the UK launch, the 98bhp 1.4 petrol in Classic trim. Compared to the 109bhp diesel, this engine is nowhere near as satisfying to drive. Noisy and lacking in torque, you need to work it hard to perform. C02 emissions of 139 g/km and a combined consumption figure of 47.1mpg are less impressive too.

Hyundai i30
The high power (126bhp) diesel in range-topping Style Nav trim was next. It may have 20bhp more than the other i30 diesel, but we doubt you'd notice much difference between the two in reality. Plus it has higher CO2 emissions (100g/km).

The Hyundai is nowhere near as much fun to drive as rivals, but it is comfortable and the dynamics are sound. The ride is refined and body roll is well-contained. To score over the Ford, the steering could do with much more feel (despite three different modes) and the change quality of the six-speed manual transmissions should be improved.

Still, the i30 is a fine effort and should be given serious consideration against its rivals because it is such a high value package. All models have Bluetooth connectivity with voice recognition, LED daytime running lights, electric front windows and air-conditioning.

On top of these, there's the standard five year warranty and breakdown cover, with a servicing package for three years available for £299 across the range.

So we'd advise anyone in the market for a new small-family car should take a close look at the new Hyundai i30.