Cheapest i40 diesel is spacious, well-mannered and great value – but could still drive better

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.

Should I buy one?

You’d be a fool not to seriously think about it. Given this Hyundai’s refreshing style, pleasant and spacious cabin, laudable efficiency and appealing price, we’d say that it drives more than well enough to convince almost anyone as an all-round package.

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The Koreans may never have had a credible family-sized estate car before, but they’re making one now alright. And with one eye on value for money, it’s a car you might easily turn down a lower-rung Vauxhall Insignia, Ford Mondeo, Skoda Superb or Peugeot 508 wagon for.

Hyundai i40 Tourer 1.7 CRDi 115

Price: £19,395; Top speed: 118mph; 0-62mph: 12.9mph; Economy: 65.7mpg; CO2: 113g/km; Kerbweight: 1638kg; Engine: 4cyls in line, 1685cc, turbodiesel; Power: 114bhp at 4000rpm; Torque: 192lb ft at 1250-2750rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual

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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Juleshuffers 12 August 2011

Re: Hyundai i40 1.7 CRDi

I so agree, I'm feed up with a choice of light grey, mid grey, dark grey and black, what has happened to reds , greens , blues etc, These greys are starting to become dangerous as they blend in with the road. If this car is 90% of the top of the crop it must be a good car as it must at least be where the last generation of the top flight ones were. I'd have one on that basis at this price for the equipment and the 5 year unlimited mileage warranty, plus it looks quite good.

Mart_J 12 August 2011

Re: Hyundai i40 1.7 CRDi

jonfortwo wrote:

ThwartedEfforts wrote:
gosh you've changed your tune

Indeed I have, about the i10 anyway. Maybe its because i always go for city cars as thats were the true innovation is, but the quality of engineering and design in this little motor is very high indeed.

In the unlikely event that i needed a large estate car i would definitely give the i40 a look first, though it does seem a bit sad that they have missed the mark in a few key areas.

A superb dealer also helps the Hyundai cause in my book.

I have broad enough shoulders to admit an error of judgement.

Sorry Jon, but I can't agree with you on i10. I had one as an interim hire car not so long ago and it completely reaffirmed my views on Hyundai. The one I had seemed quite basic, even though it had enough gizmos when I went searching for them. Ride was ok, handling was ok but very 'Japanese'. However, one design fault was the lack of adjustment on the seat. The runners were just too short, exactly like an last shape Micra. In fact, it did remind me a lot of the last shape Micra.The interior's 'spartan' feel was heightened by the black trim. Interestingly Hyundai say: "The interior of every Hyundai vehicle in the range has been styled to complement its exterior design." yet a quick check online reveals only the same black as a colour choice. On the outside, I noticed some really bad orange peel on the 3/4 pillars. Something that I thought had been erradicated from modern car production. Overall, it felt bult to a price, and nothing felt 'substantial' and a bit fake. Yes the grades of plastic were good, but it all looked a bit contrived, and not in an Audi kind of way. Perhaps the next generation of cars will be up with the best, after they they have pilfered yet more talented European designers and engineers.

audiolab 12 August 2011

Re: Hyundai i40 1.7 CRDi

The most important part of the review for me, and what would clinch the deal between the two diesel models:- 2000rpm or 2500rpm for 70mph its not a hard decision to make really.