The finished i40 is competitive, but not as accomplished against its rivals as an i10 or i30

What is it?

We seem to have spent a lot of time driving Hyundai’s i40 already, firstly overseas with it as an early prototype, then in the UK with two potential chassis set-ups It has been fascinating to track its development, but now it has arrived in finished form, prior to going on sale in September.

Evidently, Hyundai is feeling pretty confident about it; it’ll tackle the Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat wagons head on. Prices start at a sturdy £18,395 and our test car was the range-topping 1.7 CRDi diesel manual Premium. It comes very well equipped but will retail at £24,395, which gets you into a tidy variant of all its competitors.

What's it like?

Certainly, the i40 Tourer looks the part. See it next to an i30 estate and it looks much more dynamic, showing just how far Hyundai has come even in the past three years.

It’s relatively well finished inside, too. There are some neat graphics and design touches, while fit/finish is good, but the materials still trail those of the class best. The door pulls and door-skin plastics are harder than the dashboard plastic (common practice but something I can never quite fathom), while dashboard switches and column stalks are on the shiny side. The Mondeo, Passat and Peugeot 508 are still ahead of the i40 here.

Room in the back is respectable and there’s a very decent boot, competitive with a Mondeo wagon’s in overall volume, despite the i40 being usefully shorter (at 4.77m versus 4.83m long).

The Hyundai’s 1.7-litre diesel seems quieter than in the last i40 we tried, probably to be expected from a full production variant. The gearshift is fairly slick and throttle response is fine. With 134bhp, it’s never going to be a fast car, but it gets along well enough, with a broad spread of power and no discernible weak spots.

Curiously, while lower-spec trim levels with this engine get stop-start to cut their CO2 output to 119g/km, the Premium variant doesn’t, so it is left with the 134g/km output.

When we last tried an i40, the firm’s engineers were still deciding between two different chassis set-ups. It feels to me like they went for the more mature of the two settings. The i40 feels substantial around town, riding with a fairly flat body and allowing surface imperfections to be heard more than felt.

The steering is a touch odd, though – heavier than it needs to be. Presumably this is to give the i40 a premium feel. Trouble is, it doesn’t quite work out like that. Instead, it just feels sticky and overtly weighty. It robs the i40 of any dynamic feel. It’s worse still on a motorway.

Sure, the body is still composed – and noise levels are impressively low – but, seemingly, nearly all assistance goes from the steering, so it’s massively heavy. This is supposed to give a feeling of straight-line stability. To an extent it does, but a more overriding feeling is one of deadness and woodenness.

That’s a shame, because somewhere in the development process there was more agility in the i40’s chassis – not totally appropriate, perhaps, but certainly elements of it would have been worth holding on to. It means that whereas the i30 entered its class with some of the most impressive ride, steering and agility traits among its peers, I don’t quite see the i40 doing the same thing.

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Should I buy one?

Still, it’s competitive – well into the upper half of the class – and there’s a strong case to be made for it on its equipment levels. Less than we’d have expected and hoped, though, when it comes to dynamics and pricing.

Hyundai i40 1.7 CRDi Premium Tourer

Price: £24,395; Top speed: 124mph; 0-62mph: 10.6sec; Economy: 55.4mpg (combined); CO2: 134g/km; Kerb weight: 1495kg; Engine: 4 cyls, 1685cc, turbodiesel; Power: 134bhp at 4000rpm; Torque: 240lb ft at 1250-2750rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

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Woland 23 June 2011

Re: Hyundai i40 1.7 CRDi Estate

Flash Harry wrote:
I can see why Hyundai are so successful these days with great cars like this.Its probably the most stylish car in its class and it seems up there dynamically too.The competition need to up their game it would seem

"Great car" is a bit strong. Do you work for Hyundai!?

It doesn't appear to be a great car, unless judged by the standards of previous larger Hyundais, which is not exactly setting a high bar. I also personally fail to see what is so instantly stylish about it. There are elements of Honda Accord and Vauxhall Insignia about it, but as usual with Korean cars, the execution is not as good as either of those. As a previous poster alluded to, it suffers from an odd mixture of blandness and overstyling - if you really want unpretentious then there are plenty of less showily-styled rivals. The interior is also described as adequate, a dangerous word if ever there was one.

Frankly, for anyone other than a committed Hyundaiphile, this continues to be automotive white goods for the type of motorist who is so disinterested that they wouldn't even have a car but for the fact that they actually need to have one. Here, price, space, reliability and warranty are the watchwords and everything else can go hang. Bit like me when buying, oh I don't know, something like a vacuum cleaner or...

si73 23 June 2011

Re: Hyundai i40 1.7 CRDi Estate

complaining about the price seems unfair as its the premium model, drop down the range and its prob' similar in price to the focus zetec also tested, so poss' not that badly priced for a larger car. looks nicer than the focus aswell and with the stop start the emissions aren't much worse either.

Engelbert 23 June 2011

Re: Hyundai i40 1.7 CRDi Estate

As I said in an earlier post, appearance will sell this car - big time. Behind its appearance, the public knows that Hyundai vehicles are reliable and relatively inexpensive to run - so buying this vehicle is hardly a risky activity. But those people who want straight-line performance with sports car handling will obviously look elsewhere. Engelbert