Small capacity petrol Hyundai falls short of the standards of its rangemates. Avoid it.

What is it?

The most modestly endowed petrol version of Hyundai’s all-new family model, the i40, which has just launched in the UK in estate-car form. And it could, nay should, be a car that benefits from the improvements made in petrol engine technology relative to diesel by the motor industry at large recently.

Hyundai isn’t a car company that skimps when it comes to R&D, after all. Given the significant strides that petrol combustion technology has taken by way of direct injection, leaner combustion, cylinder downsizing and turbocharging, it’s worth wondering if a Hyundai i40 Tourer with a 1.6-litre petrol engine – since it’s cheaper – is a wiser buy than either of the diesels.

What’s it like?

No knockout, on the basis of the UK test drive we’ve just conducted in a mid-spec Style trim example. Fitted with dual zone climate control, cruise control, a rearview parking camera, touchscreen sat nav, 17in wheels and more besides, this I40 isn’t poorly equipped for its princely £20k, and it’s got the same accommodating and solid interior as the rest of the range. What it lacks is not just the drivability and economy of either of the diesel versions, but somewhat unexpectedly, also some of their handling precision and rolling refinement.

A smaller, lighter engine with simpler induction and exhaust systems means this directly injected 1.6-litre i40 carries just over 100kgs less kerbweight over its front wheels than the 1.7-litre CRDi, which you might expect to improve its ride and handling. In the case of our test car, however, that absence of mass seemed to spoil the i40’s ride composure slightly, causing it to pogo a little over short, sharp urban lumps and bumps.

The i40’s six-speed manual gearbox does at least allow you to fully deploy the lump’s rather meager-feeling 121lb ft helping of torque more often than a five-speed ‘box would – and it’s nothing if not quiet at cruising revs. You can make acceptable enough progress on most roads, although overtaking will certainly test your commitment.

More disappointing, however, is the fact that the 17in wheels you get with Style spec, wrapped in wider, lower profile rubber than the standard car gets, do so little to enhance the steering accuracy or outright grip of the i40. They simply add extra load and unsprung mass to the front axle, which the power steering system would better function without, and yet seem to contribute little extra to outright grip.

Should I buy one?

Almost certainly not. If you’re intent on buying an economical petrol family holdall of this size, we’d wait until the all-new 175bhp 2.0-litre i40 arrives in the UK later this year – or better still, visit your local Skoda dealer and try out a 1.4-litre TSi Superb estate, which has many of the same things to recommend it as the i40 and a broadly similar price.

Meanwhile, if you’re not wedded to petrol as a fuel and like the sound of the i40’s other considerable charms, either diesel model’s a much better bet than this.

Hyundai i40 Tourer 1.6 GDi Style

Price: £20,195; Top speed: 121mph; 0-62mph: 11.6sec; Economy: 42.8mpg; Co2: 155g/km; Kerbweight: 1534kg; Engine type, cc: 4 cyls in line, 1591cc, petrol; Power: 133bhp at 6300rpm; Torque: 121lb ft at 4850rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual

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Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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superstevie 25 August 2011

Re: Hyundai i40 1.6 GDi

I spotted an i40 this morning on the way to work, driven by a tourist (you can spot them a mile off in Edinburgh at the moment!) and I was right about the looks, it is fuzzy, but not as bad as you would think. It is a lot bigger than it looks in the pictures.

the DLR's are the worst I have seen so far. Too bright, and look like sad eyes.

Lee23404 18 August 2011

Re: Hyundai i40 1.6 GDi

superstevie wrote:
I can't help thinking that it's a little over styled. Too many creases, lines and curves.

I agree. It's like the designer just didn't know when to stop.

VX220EDDIE 18 August 2011

Re: Hyundai i40 1.6 GDi

exterior wise this is one of the best looking estate cars on our roads and i would be happy to choose one, it would be interesting too see just how many ordinary non car buffs would actually think this more of an upmarket car than it actually is.