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Car reviews - Hyundai - i40 - Active CRDi

Our Opinion

We like
Styling, dynamics, diesel efficiency, cabin comfort, wagon practicality, value, warranty, driveability, safety, accessibility, refinement
Room for improvement
Low back seat cushion, child anchorage points intrude in cargo space, shallow side glass area, not much else

5 Apr 2012

IF THIS car were any more European, it would qualify for the Eurovision Song Contest complete with nonsense lyrics, a key change halfway through, hilarious hair and a truly iffy outfit.

As if to reflect the newly trans cultural internationalism of the world today, Hyundai has developed a German designed and engineered, Korean-made medium-sized wagon expressly for sophisticated European tastes (while meeting advanced EU legislation).

To target the Ford Mondeo, Opel Insignia, Volkswagen Passat, Peugeot 508, Mazda 6, Skoda Octavia and Subaru Liberty, tapping into global know-how has clearly been helpful.

The company that until recently offered only the iffy Sonata in this class has – with the $36,490 i40 Tourer Active CRDi diesel automatic – managed something that the Japanese have been unable to match specification-wise.

Yep, it joins the i20 (but not the Accent, Elantra or i45) as an example of Hyundai making affordable world-class cars. It will be interesting to see which group the upcoming second-gen i30 falls into.

Stylistically the look is Euro-fussy and thematically in keeping with a theme, if perhaps a little derivative (Mercedes, Mondeo and even BMW cues abound) except for that very distinctively Hyundai proboscis.

The Koreans have long managed to make its models appealing from a showroom perspective, and this is no exception.

In the age of the Holden Cruze ‘small car’ being 1978 Holden Commodore sized, the i40 is quite compact for a medium wagon – certainly not as large as a Mondeo. Yet five adults will easily be accommodated inside.

Even though the Active is the i40 opener, it still manages to convey a sense of solid quality. It’s also no stripped-out special, with alloy wheels, auto headlights, cornering lights, LED driving lights and nine airbags included.

From the chime that greets the driver to the very-now white, blue and red instrument illumination, piano-black plastic and metallic-look trim, this is a car of the moment.

While you wouldn’t call the busy dash elegant, it reeks of modernity, is undeniably logically laid out (with the exception of the odd push-button fan toggle near the sizeable glovebox), and boasts smooth, soft touch surfaces that show Hyundai has been watching Volkswagen closely. Don’t forget: the Passat is a competitor.

Similarly there are no complaints about the driving position, steering wheel location (or design), well-padded and supportive front seats, ample levels of ventilation, or amount of personal storage provided. The dials are as crisp and clear to behold as the sound quality from the audio system.

There’s more besides: All four windows have an auto one-touch function (though not remote activation) the Bluetooth phone and audio streaming integrates seamlessly, although on the Active model the latter neither displays the artist/track nor allows for remote operation and the (one-touch lane-change) indicator is on the correct side of the steering wheel (this is a Euro car after all).

The rear seat area is a very pleasant place to spend time in – as long as you don’t mind sitting low with your knees pushed up a bit. As well as providing plenty of space for heads, legs, shoulders and feet, the i40 also features a pair of rear vents, overhead grab handles, a centre armrest with cupholders, more storage solutions and four coat hooks. Plus the backrest offers two angles for added comfort.

So it’s surprising to find that the Active model does not have any sort of cargo cover, the child-seat anchorage points are located a little bit too intrusively on the load floor (instead of directly behind the backrest or on the ceiling), and the rake of the rear window limits total luggage capacity compared to, say, the Liberty. That’s the price you pay for the stylishly ‘sporty’ Tourer silhouette. Unfortunately, folding the split-fold backrest forward leaves an uneven load area.

On the other hand, the available space is long and wide (ranging from 553 litres with the rear seat erect to 1719L with everything folded), as well as agreeably deep considering there is a full-sized alloy spare wheel living underneath. Hyundai also provides a tailgate exit button for folk who like to lock themselves back there, a pair of small lights, 12-volt power outlet, a quartet of luggage hooks and some shallow underfloor storage options.

And like the tailgate, struts support the stubby little bonnet, which is quite unexpected and fancy. And that’s just the start of the surprises in store.

At only 1.7-litres, the new CRDi common-rail direct-injection turbo-diesel/six-speed auto combo is at the pointy end of Euro tech, offering reasonable power (100kW) and torque (320Nm) outputs with impressively low consumption (5.6L/100km) and carbon emissions (149g/km). Saving $2K and choosing the (330Nm) manual slashes the latter to a barely believable 4.7L/100km and 124g/km respectively.

Now, with at least 1514kg to haul around, you might think the i40 Tourer CRDi would struggle to move off the line quickly, but a low first gear and relatively flexible, revvy powerband means that turbo kicks in fast to mask any low-speed languidness.

Load it up, or try to race off at the traffic light GP from standstill, however, and the Hyundai will hesitate for the first few moments like most modern turbo-diesels, but after that there’s enough torque to have the Hyundai humming along decisively.

An occasional incline might catch the six-speeder in the wrong ratio, but the transmission will react in time, while the driver has both an auto lever override and set of paddle shifts to manually select the appropriate gear.

Even under moderate revs, there is no forgetting that a diesel is working hard just ahead of you, but it is adequately quiet and refined enough not to annoy.

Driven hard across the open road, the CRDi on-song turns into quite the spirited performer, settling down into an easy and relaxed cruiser with a bit left in reserve should you need a quick overtaking manoeuvre. Just remember is to keep the engine in the 2000rpm to 3500rpm torque band.

It isn’t thirsty either, considering how much we worked the CRDi. Over our week together the fuel consumption average oscillated between 8.0L/100km and 9.4L/100km.

Better still, though, and perhaps the biggest giveaway to the i40 Tourer’s Teutonic development regime is the steering/handling/ride balance – which is a revelation after the sloppy and remote i45 driving experience.

You wouldn’t call the steering especially sharp but it feels substantial, responsive and absolutely faithful to inputs. Unlike any large Hyundai in recent memory, the rack doesn’t rattle or wobble over rough roads, with the i40 remaining firmly planted on the road.

If you lift off the throttle midway through a fast tight corner the tail will lighten up and start to swing outwards, but it is all controllable and quite a bit of fun if you’re prepared for it. A fun big Hyundai … there’s a turn up for the books!

There’s more too. On gravel the Tourer takes everything in its stride, keeping steady, calm and composed, even at speed, with an equally comfortable and controlled ride quality (on the standard Hankook 205/60 R16 tyres), and brakes that bite hard and without fade with every application.

It is not clear if the final dynamic shakedown for the i40 Tourer included Australia, but the results pleasantly shocked us. Hands down this is the most accomplished and competent Hyundai we’ve ever tested.

Wow. What a result. The i40 Tourer can hold its head up proudly alongside Mondeo and co, at a price (and with a five-year warranty) that redefines the notion of value for a midsized family wagon.

We kid you not. This is the most convincing and appealing vehicle Hyundai has offered in Australia.

Forget Eurovision. If the i40 Tourer were a song it would be worthy of a Grammy nomination.

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