Although the i40 meets or exceeds European class standards in so many other respects, Hyundai is struggling with the last piece of the jigsaw in building cars that rival the best from Volkswagen, Ford, Peugeot-Citroën and Europe’s other established motor industry powers.
Like the ix35, ix20 and i30 before it, the i40 handles and rides well enough – much better than owners of older Hyundais would believe. But it’s missing that final fraction of driver involvement, dynamic composure and polish that separates great mass-market cars – the kind that keen drivers are naturally drawn to – from the merely good ones.
Driving the i40 is a perfectly acceptable experience. Its controls are light enough and easy to get on with, and its handling is precise, predictable and benign. Only when you begin to ask more of the car do you discover any dynamic shortfalls. For example, a steering system that seems light and responsive enough in town takes on unwanted weight and stickiness around the straight-ahead as speed rises.
Meanwhile, the i40’s suspension, which has enough compliance to deal quietly and comfortably with speed bumps and potholes at everyday speeds, begins to run out of damping control. The car’s body feels a little too easily disturbed by small intrusions taken on motorways.
And at higher speeds on country roads, the i40’s body control lacks the subtlety and tautness of the best. Strangely, these damping issues are not rectified by selecting the 100kg lighter petrol model, which in fact appears to further upset the i40's compusure.