If you’d shown us a Hyundai i40 six months ago without any badges we would’ve said it’s likely to be a next-generation wagon from one of the three German luxury marques. Its European-inspired styling is the most successful example yet of the South Korean brand’s ‘fluidic sculpture’ design language.
As with all Hyundai cars that start with the little Apple-inspired “i” (except for the Hyundai i45), the Hyundai i40 tourer was designed for Europe. That shouldn’t mean much to us in Australia but let’s be fair, the Europeans have pretty high standards when it comes to cars, meaning the i40 had a lot to answer to. Despite Hyundai being a South Korean company, the i40 was actually styled at its design centre in Russelsheim in Germany, which probably explains why it looks so darn good.
Hyundai has loaned us an i40 Premium diesel for six months, so that we can properly and comprehensively test its new flagship model. Priced from $46,490 the Premium diesel automatic is the second most expensive model in the Hyundai line-up (behind the Santa Fe Highlander diesel) and we were initially a little hesitant to welcome the i40 wagon as our main family car, given its relatively large size (4770mm long). But one month after picking up our silver wagon, it has already become a near-inseparable part of our family.
Our test car is powered by a 1.7-litre turbo diesel with 100kW of power and 320Nm of torque. It has a kerb weight of 1610kg but manages to officially sip just 6.0 litres of diesel per 100km. So far this month our overall fuel economy has been around the 7.5L mark, quite reasonable considering it has spent most of its time in suburbia.
From the outside the Premium i40 is a standout on the road. The curvy LED daytime running lamps (DRLs) portray a new Hyundai signature look that can be mistaken for an Audi from afar. The sweeping silouhette shape flows from the bonnet all the way through to the sharp and edgy rear end with an overstated line going through the doors.
You might think the low roofline and sporty look would cause visibility problems, but it’s actually a rather open and spacious cabin.
Our first job was to fit our four-month-old son’s baby seat to the i40. This may seem like a straightforward task, but the i40’s baby seat anchor points are actually located on the boot floor behind the rear seats, making the use of an extension safety cable necessary.
Despite the enormous room taken up by the backward-facing infant seat (which we have difficulty fitting in most of our test cars), the i40’s generous cabin space presented no problems. It’s also handy to have the window-mounted sunshades placed separately to the window itself, so you can open and close the rear windows without affecting the sun block. Clever stuff.
The Hyundai i40 Premium gains leather for all seats, with heated and ventilated front seats, a 4.2-inch TFT LCD display and a unique centre door trim. You’ll also be on the receiving end of a gigantic panoramic glass sunroof that encompasses the entire roof. This is perfect if you have kids but it also changes the whole ambience of the cabin, paving the way for a very spacious and open atmosphere.
The front seats are powered and the option for air ventilation (air blowing through the seats) makes it ideal for the scorching Queensland summer. (Incidentally, don’t go leaving the i40 in the Queensland sun with the panoramic roof wide open as it makes for a nice oven.)
There is an overwhelming amount of blue backlighting for the controls, but the missus, who’s spent the most time behind the wheel so far, says it’s one of the things she loves about the car.
One thing it does lack, though, is satellite navigation and a more advanced entertainment system. Given the low cost of electronics (and particularly the world-dominating electronic industry of South Korea which includes the likes of LG and Samsung), it’s surprising that Hyundai is yet to offer a more compelling multimedia system in its range-topping models. We hear that’s coming before year’s end and if it's anything like the one found in the Hyundai Veloster, we think it'll be a hit.
Behind the wheel the Hyundai i40’s diesel engine is well suited to the six-speed automatic transmission (it’s also available as a manual but not in Premium trim), with effortless gearchanges and no hesitation when driven around town.
It’s not the most powerful car in the Hyundai stable and suffers from the common turbo diesel lag, but it does the job of getting up to speed and performs the occasional overtaking manoeuvre with ease.
On the highway it sits quietly in sixth gear and the diesel clatter is barely noticeable inside.
Steering feel and ride quality is substantially better than the i45 with more feedback and a more assured ride. Overall, it presents painless steering thanks to the motor-driven power steering system.
We haven’t yet had a chance to treat it like a sports car on winding roads but as a city runabout and for daily trips to the shops (which, let’s be honest, is what the majority of buyers will use it for) – it’s perfect.
Safety wise it comes packed with all the common active safety systems, which in combination with driver and front passenger SRS and side airbags plus a knee airbag, full-length curtain airbags and a rear seat outboard side airbag, has earned the i40 the maximum five-star safety rating from ANCAP.
The missus says:
The Hyundai i40 is very smooth and easily manoeuvrable for a large car. It looks fantastic and I love the daytime running lights in the front and the panoramic sunroof. The audio interface is easy to use and looks great in blue.
The car is roomy and comfortable both in the front and back. The boot can fit most items easily, but given the car’s length, it should. The length of the car can make parking an issue but thanks to all the sensors (eight in total) and the built-in rear-view camera, it’s made easier.
The Hyundai i40 is a great, safe and convenient family vehicle. If I could add anything to the car, I would have a button to automatically open and close the boot and a satellite navigation system.
Check back next month as we bring you more on our Hyundai i40 long-term test car. Also make sure to checkout the gallery for more detailed photos.