The Hyundai i40 is one half of the South Korean car maker’s twin assault on the medium car market.
It first arrived in 2011 in Tourer (wagon) form to join the i45 before it was complemented in 2012 by a sedan version.
Similarities here with the Hyundai i40 can be drawn with Honda’s approach to the mid-size car segment with its Accord and Accord Euro.
The i45 is aimed primarily at North American and Asian markets with its focus on maximum space, comfort and value whereas the i40 is more targeted at European customers with a greater emphasis on driving dynamics, quality, luxury and efficiency.
The Hyundai i40 was even designed and engineered in Europe.
As the model name suggests, the i40 is smaller than the i45 – though not by a large margin. At 4740mm long, the i40 is 80mm shorter than Hyundai’s larger medium car. The i40 is also 20mm narrower.
The premium angle, however, sees the smaller mid-sizer start $3000 higher than the i45, with the range kicking off at $29,990 for the Hyundai i40 Active sedan manual.
At the mid level sits the Hyundai i40 Elite that’s priced from $36,990, with the range topped by the Premium trim.
Add another $2600 if you want a 1.7-litre turbo diesel - that adds another point of differentiation over the petrol-only i45 - instead of the 2.0-litre petrol.
It’s another $2000 premium for the wagon body style.
Every Hyundai i40 makes a safety statement with nine airbags, allied to vehicle stability control and a five-star NCAP safety rating.
Feature highlights across the range include electronic park brake, front and rear parking sensors, trip computer, cruise control, and Bluetooth with audio streaming.
Elite models add rain-sensing wipers, rear-view camera, satellite navigation, dual-zone climate control, partial leather seats, electrically adjustable driver’s seat, foglights, 17-inch alloy wheels (instead of 16s), and larger brakes.
Stepping up to the Premium grade introduces bigger alloy wheels (18s), panoramic sunroof, power and ventilated front sports seats, electrically folding side mirrors, cargo net, and headlamps that change angle in accordance with steering angle.
We specifically tested a Hyundai i40 Elite CRDi auto that comes with an RRP of $39,590 before on-road costs are added.
The CRDi’s 1.7-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel produces 100kW to the 2.0-litre petrol’s 131kW but brings more pulling power – 320Nm versus 214Nm, with the torque peaking in a more useful part of the rev range, between 2000-2500rpm.
Consumption is officially listed at 6.0 litres per 100km (4.7L/100km for the Active manual diesel), which is a good figure though is a bit higher than many rivals that also offer diesel options and will be beaten by the diesel variant of the new-generation Mazda6 arriving in December 2012.
The unit isn’t entirely lag-free, though is decently responsive and provides a meaty mid-range. It’s also relatively quiet for a small-capacity diesel, though the four-cylinder becomes harsh if the engine is pushed hard.
A paddleshift system is included but the double factor of cheap-feeling levers behind the steering wheel and an engine that doesn’t need to rev high means it’s best to leave the six-speed automatic to do the cog-swapping action – which it does well.
Steering and suspension issues have spoiled our report cards on the i45 but there’s more to like about the i40.
Hyundai Australia’s efforts to invest in proper local suspension tuning – like sister company Kia - is starting to pay dividends, judging by the i40 and more recently released i30 hatch.
While the steering isn’t as fluid as the best racks in the segment (think Mazda6, Ford Mondeo, Honda Accord Euro), it’s at least smoother and more consistent than the i45’s.
The i40’s ride is also vastly better despite its European-style firmness, though the suspension doesn’t quite take the edge off sharper, bigger bumps.
And dynamically, the i40 is one of the stronger Hyundais in this area.
You’ll find greater entertainment value from those aforementioned medium-car rivals from Mazda, Ford and Honda, but the Hyundai i40 offers more than enough grip and composure for the average buyer.
Inside, the cabin offers good ergonomics and a smart presentation. Hard plastics are aplenty though soft materials are also evident to lift the perception of quality.
Occupants will find plenty of spaces to place things and plenty of space to sit.
The i40’s wheelbase only loses 25mm to the i45 that has huge rear legroom, so there’s still loads of space for legs in the back seat. Three adults can legitimately fit across the bench, too, even if shoulders might rub a touch. Headroom isn’t as generous, though.
Head to the back of the i40 sedan and lifting the bootlid reveals a bad point in the gooseneck hinges but good points in the wide access, long boot and full-size spare wheel hidden beneath the floor.
The sedan’s 505-litre boot capacity is only a litre short of the wagon’s, though Hyundai only measures to the top of the rear seats so the Tourer does have the cargo advantage you’d expect.
The Hyundai i40 is also one of the rare medium cars that comes with a five-year warranty as well as three-year capped price servicing – which for this model with services at 15,000km, 30,000km and 45,000km totals $777 for the petrol variant and $987 for the diesel.
That gives the Hyundai some persuasive power against the Mazda6 and Honda Accord Euro that are ultimately the more satisfying medium cars to drive.
And if you can afford the extra over the i45, the i40 is certainly the pick of Hyundais two mid-size car offerings.