What is it?
The entry-level diesel version of Hyundai’s new Mondeo-sized i40 – and it makes all the right noises for success in the ever-so-important fleet car market. No estate car in the class is more economical, cheaper to insure or has a lower ‘Benefit-in-Kind’ cost to its company driver. And it’s pleasing to report too, despite a price tag that undercuts most of its direct rivals by between £1500 and £2500, this car certainly doesn’t drive like it belongs in the bargain basement.
We’ve already had UK experience of Hyundai’s higher-powered, better-equipped and more expensive i40 CRDi Premium. This version uses the same 1.7-litre turbodiesel engine in a slighter state of tune. Like other options in the range, it also gets Hyundai’s Blue Drive efficiency-boosting technologies as standard: an automatic starter-generator, low-resistance tyres, an intelligent alternator and an automatically actuated radiator blank that makes for faster engine warm-up and reduces drag-increasing cooling capacity when possible.
Hyundai claims an identical 65.7mpg for this car as what’s claimed for the Ford Mondeo Econetic estate and Volkswagen Passat Bluemotion wagon. The i40 will even swallow slightly more cargo than the enormous Ford with all five seats in place.
What’s it like?
Like its more powerful diesel sibling, the 114bhp i40 CRDi goes about its business with little noise from its engine. Insulation from wind and road noise is slightly less impressive by class standards. But there’s not much wrong with the quantity or quality of the car’s performance; sure, there’s only a modest amount of outright thrust, but it’s served up quietly and with commendable throttle response for a small-capacity diesel engine. Max torque arrives from as little as 1250rpm in this car: you don’t get it until 2000rpm in the peakier tune.
A shorter final drive ratio contributes to this i40’s responsiveness on the road, too. And while that’s good news when you’re accelerating away from urban limits and overtaking slower moving traffic cross-country, there’s a price to be paid on the motorway. The longer-geared and more powerful i40 diesel pulls about 2000rpm at 75mph; this one about 2500rpm. And that means, while the engine’s barely audible on the motorway in the more expensive car, its hum is noticeable in the background in the cheaper one.
Although smoother-riding than an entry-level petrol model we tried, this i40’s rolling refinement leaves a little to be desired. The car fidgets a bit over broken surfaces, and doesn’t quite match the shock absorption standards of the classiest semi-premium D-segment cars. It’s also slightly restless-riding on the motorway. And it doesn’t steer with the precision or fluency of the best cars of its type, either.
Generally, you’d say the i40s control weights and handling responses show 90 per cent of the polish and fine-tuning of the best driving cars in the class. They’re good enough to put this car on a dynamic par with the likes of the Honda Accord, Seat Exeo and Toyota Avensis, for sure – but the gap to the very best handling cars is still noticeable.