What is it?
The new Hyundai i40 saloon, which has just arrived on sale in the UK, six months or so after the estate. Regular four-doors usually come to market before larger five-door estates, so Hyundai’s UK distributor is doing this back-to-front according to the received industry wisdom. From a styling perpective, though, it’s saved the best ‘till last – which makes a pleasant change.
This is a mid-spec diesel version, which is broadly level on performance and price with Autocar class favourites such as the Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi 140 Zetec and Skoda Superb TDi 140 SE – so if you’re expecting it to cost you considerably less than an established European option, think again. The i40 is nonetheless well equipped, and as we’ll go on to explain, relies on very few allowances to measure up, even exceed, most relevant benchmarks.
What’s it like?
Armed with the optimal proportions of a traditional three-box body, the i40 is undeniably attractive. It’s not original; the debt that Hyundai’s designers owe to those of the original Mercedes CLS here is a big one. But Hyundai is just the last in a long list of car-makers to have ‘taken inspiration’ from that particular direction.
Taking the estate rear-end away from this car has affected one of the primary facets of its appeal – but only a little. The i40 Estate earned its three-and-a-half star road test rating partly because of its generous cabin and boot; the saloon isn’t quite as practical. Legroom’s good, but if you’re taller than 6’3”, you’ll find the headlining in the back with the crown of your head. And while the boot is a good size, it’s accessed via quite a narrow boot opening rather than a bigger hatch.
The estate’s other virtues remain intact though. The i40’s interior feels well appointed, contemporary in its design and is quite nicely finished. The driver’s seat is a little high, but in most other respects the car’s ergonomics – rear headroom excepted – are good.
In day-to-day use the i40 saloon is economical, refined and easy-to-drive. Its supple, quiet low speed ride is a real advantage around town. But it’s no driver’s car. The electrically assisted power steering feels elastic and strangely homogenous; it can feel overly light at higher speeds, lacks the smooth sense of precision of the class’ best, and is too keen to self-centre around town. Throttle response can also be poor at low engine speeds.