Development drive shows i40’s potential; it just needs tweaking to make it class competitive

What is it?

A drive in any modern Hyundai will tell you that the company is serious about making its cars ride and handle well. We’ve tried two versions of its upcoming i40 big family wagon, still in prototype form, to assess how it might do when it goes on sale.

What's it like?

Given they’re early-build cars, one has to make allowances for fit and finish. For what it’s worth, though, that’s pretty good already. The cabin design and layout are tidy, too.

Hyundai has two i40 chassis settings in development. One it calls ‘ride’ and the other ‘handling’, but they’re both slightly different takes on the same upper-medium theme. The thinking is that one, the other, both, or a compromise could reach market.

We tried the ‘handling’ car first. Its steering is consistently too light, albeit accurate, and it fidgets a little on pockmarked town roads. The upshot is mostly well contained body movements at higher speeds. It fails, though, to absorb bumps in a ‘premium’ fashion. When you hit a pothole, you hear and feel it.

The ‘ride’ settings mostly counter that. You feel bumps less and hear a lower-frequency noise, more akin to how a Ford Mondeo or Volkswagen Passat might ride. That makes a difference to how expensive it feels.

The ‘ride’ variant has better steering weight, too, at the expense of responsiveness; it’s rather sticky. Also worse is higher-speed body control; the ‘handling’ car is quite enjoyable, in its way. The ‘ride’ car is flat footed.

Should I buy one?

With a bit of tweaking, either of the settings could be competitive, but some kind of combination would be ideal. The 1.7-litre diesel is louder than, say, a Mondeo oil-burner but is within the limits of class acceptability.

Given the right tweaks and good pricing and warranty, the i40 could be another highly competitive Hyundai.

Hyundai i40 1.7 CRDi estate

Price: £18,000 (est); Top speed: 115mph (est); 0-62mph: 10.0sec (est); Economy: 55mpg (est); CO2: 119g/km (est); Kerb weight: 1495kg; Engine: 4cyls, 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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Ruperts Trooper 18 April 2011

Re: Hyundai i40 estate

SimonRH wrote:
Why when all the direct (but more expensive) competitors offer 2 litre diesels are they launching this with a 1.7? Hyundai are already pretty good with the bigger diesel in the Santa Fe (194 BHP on a 2.2) etc so why not do a 2.0 like everyone else.
The new Hyundai Kia R-series diesel is built in 3 versions, 1.7, 2.0 and 2.2 - but sales around the world of Hyundai Kia models in markets where diesel is sold are way above estimates so there's little point introducing engine options which will just result in even more frustrated potential customers.

Hyundai Kia is the 4th largest car manufacturer in the world, ahead of Ford, although "only" in 5th place if you also include commercial vehicles.

The trigger for Hyundai Kia Group's big increase in sales outside North America seems to have been the abandonment of the "world car" concept and creation of seperate R&D function in the US and Europe

jelly7961 17 April 2011

Re: Hyundai i40 estate

March1 wrote:
Not entirely fair to hold this against them when clearly both cars tested were engineering prototypes designed to find the final customer setup

I think that one thing that H/K do well is listen to criticism and respond promptly. A year ago we hired an i45 (what they seem to call it in Asia/Pacific) and it was such a sloppy thing it bordered on dangerous IMO. Anyway fast forward a year, back in Oz and guess what - another i45 but this was brand spanking and when I asked if they had anything else the guy said - they have changed it - wait and see. And yes they had - the difference was palpable and in a good way. Certainly no 5 series but then I didn't expect it to be. Also given the price down under - about 10,000 pounds less than a base 3 series it's bo wonder that they sell
Mr£4worth 13 April 2011

Re: Hyundai i40 estate

Fascinating reading, and I prefer the Kia styling to Hyundai, it looks like Joe Public agrees with me.