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.