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.