On looks alone Hyundai’s i40 Tourer is a winner. It’s also loaded with more luxury kit than most Euro cars costing twice its price.
Hyundai i40 Tourer: 2.0-litre GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection) petrol engine 130kW/213Nm or 1.7-litre CRDi diesel engine 100kW/320Nm with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission
Hyundai i40 Tourer Active 1.7-litre CRDi diesel with six-speed automatic transmission: $36,490 (Manufacture’s List Price)
Hyundai i40 Tourer Premium 2.0-litre GDI petrol with six-speed automatic transmission: $44,490 (Manufacturer’s List Price)
On looks alone, the Hyundai i40 Tourer is a winner. It’s also loaded with more luxury kit than most Euro cars costing twice its price, and the leather and materials used throughout the cockpit are as good as, if not better than, those used by the premium Japanese automotive marques.
Hyundai is still very much a fast-moving automotive giant (indeed, it's the fastest growing car company in the world) with no less than a 5.2 per cent share of the global market. At the start of 2011 the company announced a global sales target of 3.9 million vehicles across 5300 dealerships. It's on track to exceed that target. Moreover, it remains the fifth-largest carmaker in the world with manufacturing facilities and design studios spread over several continents.
Penned under the watchful eye of Hyundai’s chief designer, German born Thomas Bürkle, the i40 Tourer is a stunning looking vehicle from any angle. Far more European in its styling than any other design from the Korean manufacturer, the view from the rear three-quarter angle is especially pretty.
For me, there are certain similarities to the C-Class Estate, with the tapered roofline and the central styling line that swoops from front to back.
That’s hardly surprising when you learn that Thomas had previous positions with Volkswagen and BMW. He also told us that one of his favourite cars is the beautiful Mercedes-Benz SL-Class Pagoda roof model of 1963, which he used to sketch during his childhood.
Hyundai is the first to admit the i40 Tourer has been designed and created with Europe in mind. The 28 EEC markets that the company operates in have so far accounted for 208,000 units this year, and are on track to achieve a total of 360,000. Those numbers translate into a 2.8 per cent market share and while that’s significantly down on the global share figure, it also highlights the level of growth possible on the continent and the importance of the Euro-styled i40 to push those numbers and share further north.
If you like what Hyundai has done with the exterior styling, then you’re going to love the i40’s interior. It’s not just the ultra contemporary design of the facia and centre stack, it’s as much about the sheer quality of the materials and surfaces that have been used throughout this car. It all feels first-class and certainly on par with the best Japanese brands, if not some of those more aspiring marques from Europe.
In fact, even though I was fairly sure that my colleague and I had secured the base model Active variant, the level of kit and touch and feel of the materials had us both wondering if we had in fact slipped into the mid-spec Elite model. Equipment such as electric parking brake (just pull on a small button and hey presto, the hand brake is on), or the keyless entry, LED daytime running lights, paddle shifters, side bending lights, auto headlights, Bluetooth audio steaming and phone connectivity, nine airbags, and the list goes on…
The easy way to tell the Active model from its Elite and Premium siblings is by the lack of front fog lights and if you have a keen eye, the 16-inch alloys as apposed to 17-/18-inch wheels for each step up on the trim level ladder
Although the Active gets keyless entry, it misses out on push-button start, but frankly, that’s no big deal. There’s a stack of other standard kit on board that should keep you entertained.
From an exterior perspective, the Hyundai i40 isn’t what you would call a large wagon, more of a compact sports tourer. Inside, however, it’s deceptively large through clever design. Of special mention is the rear-seat legroom: it's better than ‘Premium Economy’ and that’s with the driver’s seat set up for my normal driving position. Those folks behind the front seat passenger have it even better.
The fabric seats are well bolstered (including rear seats) on the back and seat cushion with a 60:40 rear seat split in two steps. Luggage space is massive. Try 553 litres of load space with the rear seats up and a van-like 1719 litres when folded. That’s enough for bikes, boards, or plenty of scuba gear.
There’s a full size spare wheel too and although that’s something we consider mandatory in Australia, it’s a feature that’s becoming all too rare these days, especially on many of the European models. They tend to use space saver tyres or cans of goo in the interest of reducing weight and utilising more useable space and that’s something Hyundai hasn’t had to compromise on with the i40.
Hyundai likes to do everything in-house. That goes for engines, transmissions and even the steel it uses for body panels. Yes, it is the only car manufacturer in the world that produces its own steel, which many in the industry believe is the best ultra-high-tensile steel in the business. It’s also one of the reasons why the i40 weighs in from as low as 1420kg for the Active petrol manual. Even the 1.7-litre CRDi diesel-powered versions start at a low 1495kg. It’s a high-tech diesel powertrain too, with direct injection and a variable geometry turbo with an exhaust gas recirculation cooler, which produces 100kW and 320Nm. On paper, the torque band seems a little narrow from 2000-2500rpm, but let’s see how it drives...
There’s a six-speed automatic transmission to put the power down, and again, that’s designed and built by Hyundai technicians and engineers in-house. You can leave in it auto mode or use the paddle shifters for more driver engagement.
Even the remote key is more substantial and a nicer design than any previous Hyundai vehicle, which is clearly an indication that the i40 is regarded as flagship model in the company line-up.
As diesels go, especially those with a small displacement, this unit is on the quiet side. From inside the cabin, there’s very little intrusion of that common diesel clatter. It’s there all right, but it’s heavily muffled. Clearly Hyundai has paid close attention to its NVH management and the abolishment of unwanted noises in the cockpit.
Hard acceleration onto an open country road reveals little to no turbo lag, certainly nothing to complain about, and there is reasonably good pick-up through to the 100km/h speed limit. Time to hit the neatly positioned Sport button, which I suspect will hold the gear ratios a little longer, but within a few minutes I’ve resorted to the paddle shifters as we come across a few nice bends.
While the automatic transmission is smooth, it’s noticeably slow to upshift. It doesn’t feel quite so slow on the downshift into corners. It won’t be an issue for the vast majority of drivers, but I can only hope Hyundai is well on the way to producing its proprietary dual-clutch transmission for even more driver enjoyment.
There are no such gripes in the ride and handling department. Hyundai has that down pat this time. The i40 on the same level as the Hyundai i30 in this regard and that’s a big call.
The chassis feels wonderfully stiff, especially for a vehicle of such dimensions. Throw it into a corner at speed and the car tracks exactly where you point it. Steering is courtesy of Speed-sensitive Motor-Driven Power Steering (MDPS) and while it’s nice and light at low speed for those urban parking duties, as soon as you are moving along at anywhere near the national speed limit, there's plenty of weight and feel in the steering from dead centre to full lock.
Find yourself a quiet stretch of 'S' curves and this family Tourer will put a decent smile on your face.
There’s some predictable understeer if you carry too much speed into a corner, but that’s mostly about the additional 70-odd kilos over the front end of the diesel engine over the all-alloy petrol unit. Nonetheless, the i40 feels wonderfully agile and great fun to drive.
One thing is for sure, there’s little or no body lean into these corners even when you’re pushing on with a fair old dollop of enthusiasm. That’s down to a new front suspension setup and some extensive local tuning of these components on Australian roads. Local technicians at Hyundai Australia looked at springs, shocks, stabilisers and bump stops and how they performed over a range of different road surfaces for the best possible ride and handling package for the i40.
The result is hard to fault. Exceptional handling with high levels of pliancy for a cushioned ride over the worst of surfaces. This is a very comfortable ride, particularly for a wagon.
If I have an issue with this car, it is that the chassis is so damn good that it feels underwhelmed by this engine, notwithstanding its ultra frugal nature. But an i40 Tourer with Hyundai’s 2.0L R-Diesel engine would be something very special indeed. Power and torque would be increased to 135kW and 392 Nm respectively and that folks would mean some serious overtaking ability, but without giving too much away in terms of additional fuel consumption. We’ve even got a badge for it – the i40 RD.
We then hopped into the more lavishly appointed i40 Premium with the 2.0-litre GDI petrol engine, mated to the same six-speed automatic transmission.
If I had an issue with lacklustre mid-range torque from the diesel, it’s an even bigger issue with the petrol engine. It might be direct injection and the latest creation from the ‘Nu’ engine family, but with 130kW and just 213Nm of torque to call on at 4700 rpm – you need to make sure you are well and truly revving this engine before you decide to overtake another car. You’ll need to leave yourself plenty of distance too, because there is precious little grunt to call upon.
Any criticism I have for the i40 powertrains needs to be carefully tempered with the fact that the principle market for this vehicle is Europe and over there, less is best when it comes to engine displacement.
So which i40 would we choose? That’s a tough question because although the diesel has the grunt, it’s also significantly heavier over the front end.
The i40 GDI petrol responds amazingly well at speed through some of the more bendy stretches of road and better exploits the superb ride and handling prowess of this car.
From a trim level perspective, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the entry-level Active, given the extensive standard features inventory laid on in the i40. But with the i40 Premium, Hyundai has thrown in everything but the kitchen sink. There are more than a few luxury automotive brands at close to twice its price that don’t have this level of creature comforts, not to mention nine airbags. Things like heated and cooled front seats in a high-quality leather, heated seats in the rear, electric folding mirrors, HID headlamps with adaptive front lighting, panoramic glass roof with power one-touch function, rear-view camera, luggage rail and cargo net, as a sample of the kit on this variant. The glaring omission from the entire i40 line-up is the lack of an integrated Sat Nav system as part of a large centrally mounted touchscreen. Hyundai says it's working on a system but can't tell us when it might be available.
Hyundai will sell plenty of i40 Tourers as it’s an exceptionally good all-round package with loads of features and ultra-low fuel consumption to boot.