A Korean contender with European pretensions?
The Hyundai i40 is a weird sort of offering. In the same size-class as the Hyundai Sonata, the i40 has always been marketed as a plusher, more luxurious alternative to the bigger Sonata, and the i40 was the only way to get an estate in this size with a swoopy-H badge on the nose. The gap between the two mid-sized Hyundais used to be a little too close for comfort, with plenty of cross-shopping in showrooms.
However, the i40 recently saw a refresh that saw the saloon drop its petrol engine, and drop its prices. As a result, people walking into Hyundai dealerships have likely had a headache on their hands, with top-shelf i40 Premiums undercutting range-topping Sonatas by some way. It must be said though, that the i40 trades on its European finesse & class, with a far more upmarket, solidly-built interior than the Sonata it shares floorspace with.
That European flair we’re talking about comes from the fact that the i40 was designed & engineered in Germany, and was set up to satisfy European preferences. As a result, the i40 (allegedly) packs more refinement and poise than its Japanese and Korean competitors, while giving the more sophisticated offerings on the market a run for their money. Has it, though?
“Here’s another sign of the new-found maturity of the Hyundai brand: the firm is now employing designers with the talent to create cars as handsome and contemporary looking as any in the mass market. The i40 is proof of that.” - Autocar
If you think the Hyundai i40 looks decidedly different than its cousins, you’d be right. And it looks the way it does because it was designed in Europe, by Europeans. The i40 was actually conceived as a contender for the European mid-size saloon market, while everyone else would have received the Sonata.
The designers say the i40’s headlights were inspired by “the eyes of a falcon,” and its flanks by “desert sand dunes at dusk.” While these are exaggerations, the i40 is a handsome looking thing. While it lacks the visual bulk that other contenders in the mid-size segment carry, it means that the i40 has little athleticism about it, though it’s not overly-sporty to the point where it might turn off some buyers.
Despite its diminutive size, it’s really very practical, and interior dimensions don’t suffer.
Engine & Drivetrain
“It has — wisely — dealt with what loomed as an obvious issue of cannibalisation. How? It has axed all petrol-powered versions of the i40 sedan, because that void is already filled by the Sonata.” - CarAdvice
The i40 Tourer gets a choice between a 2.0-litre gasoline-direct injection petrol engine, and a 1.7-litre turbodiesel that also sees use in the saloon. The petrol is good for 121kW & 203Nm, while offering a decent official fuel consumption figure of 7.5L/100km. The petrol works exclusively with a 6-speed automatic gearbox.
The gem of the two engines is, undoubtedly, the 1.7-litre turbodiesel. Its 104kW power figure might not suggest much oomph, but the 340Nm of torque on offer means that the little oil-burner can give you a shove in the back like the best of them. Aiding its case further is the miserly 5.1L/100km fuel consumption figure it boasts, aided by the 7-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox that comes as standard with the oil-burner.
“Interior quality is good – the cabin is fashioned from high-grade materials and overall the i40 is an appealing purchase.” - Carbuyer
One of the biggest leaps forward that Hyundai’s made over the past few years has been in terms of interior quality, and the i40 is the best example of that. Sit in an i40, and you will immediately be banished of all assumptions that ‘Korean’ means ‘cheap,’ because there isn’t a single panel inside the i40 that will leave a bad taste in your mouth.
The saloon models also come with a panoramic sunroof that further aids to the general ambiance, while the futuristic look of the dashboard continues to divide opinion. What doesn’t polarise is the standard inclusion of a touchscreen infotainment system, with base models losing out only on satellite navigation. In-cabin storage is good too, with a large central cubby between the front seats as well as a big bin ahead of the gear lever to store loose bits and bobs.
Practicality is top-rate here. 505-litres in the saloon and 506-litres in the estate means it can swallow just about everything and the kitchen sink, though the Tourer offers 1672L with the rear-seats folded flat, making it the ultimate shopping companion. Comfy seats and plenty of space means that the i40 makes for a great long-distance companion.
Behind the Wheel
“While you’re never going to mistake it for a petrol engine, the diesel engine stays smooth and refined unless you rev it hard.” - WhatCar
The i40 was never designed to set your heart on fire, and we won’t pretend like it can. The i40 was made to progress smoothly with little fuss, and offer as much refinement as you’d expect from a European offering. As such, we feel the diesel suits the i40 best, with its strong torque figures giving the car effortless shove at motorway speeds.
And it’s on the motorway where the i40 shines. Though the suspension was tuned for Australian roads, it doesn’t provide the i40 with any more agility and manoeuvrability than most cars in this segment. Instead, the i40’s suspension tune seems to be geared more toward comfort, ironing out bumps and lumps with a deftness that you rarely see at this price point. This further cements our opinion that the i40 is a great motorway mile-muncher.
What isn’t so great is the NVH levels in the cabin. At speed, there’s a decent amount of wind and tyre noise, especially over imperfect surfaces. Thankfully, the gearboxes make up for this by offering smooth, unruffled progress, which is capable of calming even the most furrowed brow.
Safety & Technology
“EuroNCAP tested the i40 in 2011 and awarded it a full five-star rating.” - AutoExpress
The i40’s European engineering is apparent in the safety department, too. With a 5-star EuroNCAP rating, the i40 offers great passive safety thanks to a rigid body structure that absorbs much of the energy in an impact. Active safety tech is good too, with things like all-round parking sensors, hill-start assist, emergency stop signal (which flashes the hazard lights in an emergency-brake situation), lane keep assist, and Smart Park Assist, which can steer the car into a parallel parking space.
Convenience tech is strong here, too. A standard 7.0-inch colour touchscreen sits right on top of the centre console, and offers satellite navigation in all but the base model. Cruise control and a multifunction drivers display also come in as standard, among others.
Hyundai’s i40 puts on a strong show, with great features and tech packed into a sleek, sporty-looking saloon, available at remarkable prices. Though the saloon may no longer be available with a petrol engine, we think it’s the better for it, as both the i40 saloon and Tourer work best with the small diesel powerplant. It’s smooth in operation and relatively refined, and the amount of torque on offer makes little work of inclines and heavy loads.
Our pick is certainly the pair of i40 Active diesels, be it in saloon or estate guise. The choice in body style is highly dependant on your lifestyle, so consider what you might be subjecting your i40 to in its lifetime before you opt for either. Regardless which i40 you take home, you’ll be treated to a plush cabin with great ride quality, and a wonderfully frugal 1.7-litre turbodiesel that will delightfully eat up the miles with very little fuss indeed.
AutoExpress - 4.0/5.0 - “The spacious and practical Hyundai i40 saloon offers bold looks, great economy, and lots of kit.”
TopGear - 7.0/10 - “Able, stylish i40 aims to take on the establishment with a been of good looks, ability, and keen pricing.”
Autocar - 3.5/5.0 - “The i40 isa car that Hyundai can be proud of. Combining compelling value with commendable practicality, quality, refinement, style, and efficiency, it easily deserves a mention in the same breath as the Skoda Superb.”
WhatCar? - 4.0/5.0 - “The i40 doesn’t undercut big-name rivals to the extent other Hyundais do, but it’ll still cost you less to buy than an equivalent Ford Mondeo or Volkswagen Passat.”
CarBuyer - 3.8/5.0 - “Practical, cheap to run, and good to drive, the Hyundai i40 is a top-notch car for all the family.”
CarAdvice - 7.5/10 - “The Hyundai i40 saloon & Tourer range is now cheaper, more streamlined, and has better fuel economy. It’s still a sharp looker, too.”
CarsGuide - 3.5/5.0 - “Overall, the i40 is a tempting alternative to the Sonata. The interior trim presents itself as more upmarket, the diesel engine in the sedan is punchier and more economical, and the car feels sportier to drive.”
WhichCar - 4.0/5.0 - “The turbo-diesel powered Hyundai i40 Premium sedan provides hybrid-beating fuel economy and heaps of technology for well under $50,000.”