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Hyundai to continue upward march with i40 sedan

Heading Down Under: Hyundai Australia is set to introduce the Euro-chic i40 sedan within a few months.

Sub-i20 micro still off agenda as Hyundai locks in another mid-sizer, the i40 sedan

Hyundai logo13 Feb 2012

HYUNDAI will continue its ambitious upmarket march by introducing the European-oriented i40 sedan alongside the US-centric i45 four-door in Australia within a few months.

Forecast by GoAuto two weeks ago, the latest in a series of releases designed to position the steamrolling Korean car-maker as an affordable premium brand was announced at last week’s Veloster coupe launch, where Hyundai previewed both the i40 sedan and the Veloster Turbo previously confirmed for release here later this year.

While Hyundai Australia confirmed the four-door i40 will become its next all-new model within three months, it declined to offer local details of its replacements for either the i30 hatchback or the mid-size Santa Fe crossover, both of which are due here this year.

First seen at last September’s Frankfurt motor show, the redesigned i30 small hatch will follow the i40 sedan on sale here by mid-year.

However, Hyundai says it does not yet have an official local release date for its Santa Fe successor, which will make its global debut as the ix45 at the New York show in April.

1 center imageFrom top: Hyundai i30, Elantra coupe, Veloster Turbo and i15 hatch and crossover (i15 pics courtesy of Car and Driver Brazil.

Nor does Hyundai yet have a plan to enter Australia’s fledgling sub-light city-car segment – despite the fact it is now home to a number of sub-$13,000 models including the Holden Barina Spark, Nissan Micra, Suzuki Alto, Chery J1 and, soon, the Great Wall VX10 and Volkswagen Up.

Hyundai was the world’s fastest growing brand last year but its unbridled local growth slowed to just 1.6 per cent in January, following the discontinuation of its evergreen volume-seller, the Getz, which leaves the i20 light hatch (from $15,490) as its most affordable model here.

Along with the company’s smallest model, the India-only Eon, the i10 has been ruled out for Australia in its current guise because it does not come with one of the brand’s key new model pre-requisites – a maximum five-star safety rating.

As a result, Hyundai Australia is supply-constrained on its two cheapest models, the Indian-sourced i20 and Korean-made Accent.

Hyundai Australia has now also confirmed it will not import the new i15, a new i20-based micro-hatch designed to slot between the i10 and i20 in Latin American markets.

Seen here in renderings from Brazil Car and Driver, the HB-series i15 is expected to be produced in hatch, sedan and crossover body styles, each powered by 1.0-litre and 1.6-litre engines, with production due to begin in Piracicaba, Sao Paulo, by mid-2012.

The i15 was initially designed to be sold only in Latin America, but Brazilian reports say it will probably reach other developing markets like India, China and Russia, with countries including Australia also on the agenda.

However, Hyundai Motor Company Australia chief executive Edward Lee told GoAuto “i15 is not for Australia”.

Asked if HMCA had a sub-i20 in the pipeline, Mr Lee replied: “Not yet. Step by step.”

Also ruled out for Australia for the time being is the Elantra Coupe, which was unveiled at the Chicago show last week. Based on a variation of the platform that underpins Hyundai’s latest Korean-built MD Elantra sedan and new GD-series i30 hatch, the Elantra Coupe is produced only in the US in left-hand drive.

As we reported last month, the four-door i40 will not only give Hyundai a second medium segment sedan contender, but a second mid-size diesel offering.

First seen at the Barcelona show last May wearing a more subtle, European-focussed iteration of the US-centric i45’s ‘fluidic sculpture’ exterior design, the i40 sedan is essentially a booted version of the i40 Tourer, which went on sale here in October last year.

However, while the i40 wagon is available with both 2.0-litre petrol and 1.7-litre diesel four-cylinder engines – both matched with six-speed manual and automatic transmissions – the i40 will be a diesel-only affair here initially, although Hyundai has the option to add 2.0-litre petrol power later.

Therefore expect the VF-series i40 diesel sedan to cost less than the i40 Tourer Active diesel manual wagon (from $34,490), and to follow the YV-series i45 sedan and (VF) i40 Tourer in being available in three equipment grades: entry-level Active, mid-range Elite and top-shelf Premium.

The i40 sedan will come with the same new 1.7-litre common-rail direct-injection four-cylinder turbo-diesel as the i40 Tourer, in which it produces 100kW and 330Nm, or 320Nm when paired with the six-speed auto.

The i40 Tourer CRDi returns fuel consumption of just 4.7L/100km – in Active manual form, which therefore has a theoretical driving range of almost 1500km – and up to 6.0L/100km (Elite/Premium auto), so expect the lighter i40 sedan to be even more efficient in both guises.

Like the i40 wagon, standard safety equipment will extend to nine airbags, electronic stability control, ABS brakes, brake assist, hill-start assist, cornering brake control, automatic emergency stop signalling and daytime-running lights.

Alloy wheel sizes should range between 16 and 18-inch, while premium models will offer Xenon headlights with washers, a rear-view camera, front/rear parking sensors, panoramic glass sunroof, heated/ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry/starting and a 4.2-inch display.

Other high-tech i40 features in Europe include a self-parking system, lane-keeping assistance and reclining rear seats.

Like the i45, the i40 sedan will be fitted as standard with Amplitude Selective Damping (ASD) shock absorbers and hydraulic power steering that returns a turning circle of 10.9 metres, but the i40 has a slightly quicker steering ratio with 2.88 (versus 2.94) turns lock-to-lock.

The i40 sedan is more compact than the bolder i45, measuring 80mm shorter at 4740mm (making it 210mm longer than the Elantra sedan), 20mm narrower at 1815mm wide and the same 1470mm high.

Riding on a 25mm-shorter (2770mm) wheelbase than the i45, the German-designed i40 four-door is shorter than all but Suzuki’s Kizashi in Australia’s D-segment sedan category, yet is claimed to offer best-in-class front head, shoulder and leg room.

The i40 sedan’s boot is 20 litres smaller than the i45’s but is still large at 503 litres.

The addition of the i40 sedan will give Hyundai a three-pronged attack in Australia’s burgeoning mainstream mid-size car market, which was most recently joined by Toyota’s new homegrown Camry and the fresh VW Passat, and will be bolstered within 12 months or so by the all-new Holden Malibu, Ford Mondeo and Mazda6.

Almost half of all i40 Tourers sold last year in Australia were diesels, and oil-burners comprised almost two-thirds of all Passats sold in 2011.

In Europe, Hyundai expects diesel i40s to comprise 65 per cent of sales in a segment that is 75 per cent diesel there, with the i40 sedan forecast to comprise just 25 per cent of 60,000 annual i40 sales overall.

Last year, Australian sales of the i45 – launched here in May 2010 – soared by almost 140 per cent to 4872 vehicles, while the i40 Tourer found 394 homes in less than three months.

Together, they accounted for more than nine per cent of all sub-$60,000 mid-size vehicle sales, placing Hyundai fourth in class behind Toyota, Ford and Mazda.

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