A couple of weeks ago I praised and criticized Hyundai’s new i30 N high performance hatch. Its handling and performance credentials compare and compete equally with the segment champion, VW's Golf GTi – but it’s interior design is a big letdown.
I criticized the plain, drab design of the dash and doors, noting that a premium interior trim treatment is what makes the Golf GTi the undoubted primary competitor.
This week I have been driving the Mazda 6 diesel wagon, and if ever there was a pointer to how Hyundai could improve the i30 N, then this is just one, albeit excellent, example of the things that matter.
In this collage of elements of the dash, doors and overall premium appearance created by the combination of tiny details, like stitching, brightwork, mouldings and the subtle and sophisticated blending of surfaces, then this is the reason why Mazda excels at presenting a premium 'feel' in all its current models.
I know that my comments reflect the views of many automotive writers.
I’m also certain the criticism has been noted by Design Chief Peter Schreyer and his fellow designers at Hyundai.
However, one Hyundai insider says that at the time the total project budget was tallied, when the question was asked about where the money is spent, the overwhelming response at Nanyang was one word - 'Performance'.
The dynamic performance of the i30 N will not disappoint any of its buyers, but it’s in the ‘shopping phase’ that Hyundai will not do well in comparison with any of the premium European performance competitors.
I expect we will see an ‘interior facelift’ soon, because three of my closest friends in the American automotive media have been involved in lengthy discussions with Hyundai’s US corporate executives and the criticisms have had considerable impact.
Expect to see email traffic in the next few months from Hyundai’s biggest export market, and I suspect a rethink among the interior design teams in Korea.
Finally, I apologise for the corny positioning of the Mazda 6 in a Queensland sugar cane field - but driving this wagon was, S-W-E-E-T.