First drive: 2020 Hyundai i30 N Line MHEV prototype

That’s not to say the i30 is a reluctant old crate – far from it, in fact. But as a marginally more driver-focused take on a regular family hatchback, its demeanour is just a bit too normal.

However, it does have a sweet manual gear shift. Accurate and tactile, it’s arguably the most noticeable feature that has managed to trickle its way down from the i30 N. So it’s a bit of a shame that the process of using it is slightly marred by a clutch pedal that feels almost ridiculously light, although I can certainly see how it might appeal if you found yourself on the M25 in rush-hour traffic.

The cabin is classic Hyundai fare, in that it feels well made and is sensibly laid out but lacks any real sort of visual pizzazz. Still, I guess the same can be said about the Focus, and there is in fact a decent amount of space on offer in the i30.

Second-row passengers will find they can sit in relative comfort, and the boot is a good size, too.

Hyundai has also updated the i30’s infotainment suite so that there’s now a 7.0in digital instrument cluster behind the wheel and a larger (10.25in) touchscreen on top of the dashboard. As this wasn’t fully operational in our pre-production test car, it’s tricky to say just how good it will be when ready, but its sat-nav mapping looked suitably detailed in any case.

If a refined, comfortable and sporty-looking family hatchback is what you’re after, you could do worse than opt for this new i30 N Line mild-hybrid. Even in pre-production guise, it feels like a nicely polished car, so it seems fair to assume that this side of things might only improve when it’s finally signed off. An updated arsenal of active safety systems will no doubt appeal to family-minded buyers, too.

However, there are absolutely more entertaining and characterful rivals out there, with the Focus ST-Line being the most serious threat to the Hyundai’s success. Some may prefer the Korean car’s slightly more laid back, no-nonsense set-up, but a shortage of punch and a character that just seems a bit disinterested make it a bit trickier to get excited about.

Hyundai hasn’t said anything about pricing just yet, but based on existing figures for the current N Line models, we would guess that prices for the new 158bhp i30 N Line will start at around £23,000. We’ll no doubt find out in a month or so.

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