I think we can safely call Hyundai a mainstream brand now, can’t we? Where once the Korean giant was prolific in a 'bargain-basement' sort of way, it has in the past few years moved very firmly into the same territory occupied by the likes of Ford, Toyota, Opel and Volkswagen. Its cars can now stand direct comparison with the very best from Japan and Europe and I think no model in the range exemplifies that more than the i40, a car we’ve been running as a long term test car here at Motorcheck.
Funnily enough, it’s not a car you would have expected Hyundai to expend much time and effort on creating, being as the market for mid-size, mid-price saloons across Europe is contracting, as people at one end of the scale downsize and at the other end trade up to premium-badge products. But I’ve long reckoned that, because of this, the saloon market is where you actually get the best value for money of all. Why? Because a car wearing a Hyundai badge can never be too expensive if it’s to compete. Yet if it’s to stop buyers being tempted by the Germans it has to be as good to drive and to look at.
And so it proves. The i40 really is a very handsome thing (possibly more so as a Tourer estate than as a saloon, but that may just be my personal preference) and it cuts a striking dash on the road. In fact, it’s one of the most recognisable cars on the road, because of the distinctive outline of those LED daytime running lights embedded in the headlamps.
Inside, it’s a car that manages to mix everyday practicality and family-friendly ruggedness with a sheen of high quality and proper ‘premium’ feel. In fact, I dare you to find any German or Japanese car within shouting distance of the i40’s €27,995 price tag. It’s comfy, roomy and quiet and is one of those rare cars that makes a long journey seem somehow shorter.
A major part of that is down to the comfort of the suspension, which rides beautifully over the sort of scarred, lumpy tarmac we have to put up with in this country. Hyundai recognised with the i40 that most buyers really wanted something that was comfortable, not sporty, and so tuned the chassis appropriately.
Which is not to say that it’s no fun to drive. The steering is surprisingly sharp and the i40 corners keenly, with plenty of grip, but the overriding sensation is one of keeping the ills of the road at bay, rather than fitting pointlessly hard suspension or low-profile tyres.
Goes on a sniff!
The 115bhp 1.7-litre diesel engine is just brilliant. It’s refined enough for you to forget, sometimes, that it’s burning the stuff from the black pump, and while 115bhp doesn’t sound like much in a car this size, there’s a decent 260Nm of torque to help you along, so it certainly never felt slow. Best of all though is the fuel consumption. Hyundai claims you’ll get an average of 4.3-litres per 100km from it, which if you’re still counting in shillings, is 65 miles per gallon. Now, so often, these sorts of fuel consumption claims are just that – claims, and you’ll be lucky to get within a mile of them in real world conditions. The i40 though makes good on its claims. I reckon 65mpg is do-able if you exercise a little bit of restraint, and even if you’re pushing on a bit when the road is clear, you should easily still get 55mpg out of it. That’s a remarkable figure for a car as big and refined as this, and the 113g/km Co2 emissions figure means that you’ll only have to pay €200 a year in motor tax.
If you’re hauling your family around in an i40, it’s good to know that it scored a hugely impressive five-stars on the grueling EuroNCAP crash test, and with no fewer than nine airbags and standard-fit traction control and stability control, you’re looking at very impressive levels of active and passive safety.
Plenty of kit
Other standard kit on our Executive level model include fuel-saving stop-start, those twinkly daytime running lights, a hill-holder function, electro-chromatic rear view mirror with rear-view camera, an electric drivers’ seat, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, Bluetooth phone connection and media player, rain sensing wipers and 16” alloy wheels. I could go on but the list is exhaustive (and exhausting) and goes to show that although Hyundai’s prices have crept up to match the likes of Ford et al, you still get a lot more toys for your money.
You can even turn the i40 into a six-seater. No, really, you can. Have a look here (https://www.motorcheck.ie/blog/turn-your-hyundai-i40-into-a-6-seater/) to see the transformation in more detail, but thanks to the clever folk at Mooney’s Hyundai dealership, you really can fit four child-safety car seats abreast in the back seat.
Saloons like the i40 are supposed, these days, to be unfashionable at a time when everyone wants an SUV or a coupe or some other such trinket. But I reckon the canny buyers will always come back to this segment eventually, when they remember that there’s nothing else out there that can so easily mix comfort, enjoyment, economy and practicality. The i40 may not be everyone’s idea of a status symbol, but it suits me down to the ground.