Hyundai i40 review
The spacious and practical Hyundai i40 saloon offers bold looks, great economy and lots of kit
Bold looks, a spacious cabin and a long kit list helped the Hyundai i40 stand out from the crowd when it hit showrooms in 2012. Yet over the past three years it has been overtaken by newer mainstream rivals.
In an effort to push it back up the sales charts, Hyundai has given its big saloon – there’s also a practical Tourer estate – a bit of a nip and tuck. Tweaked looks, more efficient engines and revised trim levels underpin this update.
The Hyundai i40 was something of a watershed moment for Hyundai. The brand has already broken into the mainstream, but no model encapsulates its meteoric rise better than the i40. Hyundai’s last foray into the large family car class was with the woeful Sonata, but following on from the excellent i40 Tourer estate, the four-door model banishes any lingering association with the bargain basement and challenge the class leaders such as the Volkswagen Passat and Peugeot 508.
Top-spec models come very well-equipped but do come at a price, while the punchy BlueDrive 1.7-litre CRDi diesel is efficient and cheap to tax, which should make the i40 a hit with company car buyers.
Overall, there are three specifications - Active, Style and Premium - which all come with 16-inch alloy wheels, air-con, Bluetooth connectivity and automatic lights as standard. Hyundai is certainly trying to move the brand upmarket, but as a result, the prices start to rise.
On the plus side private buyers will be tempted by the excellent five-year triple care package, which includes five years' free warranty, servicing and roadside assistance, too. Sister company Kia also offers a stylish saloon in the form of the Kia Optima.
It shares the underpinnings and engines with the i40 but comes with a seven-year warranty, but there's little else to distinguish between the two.
Our choice: i40 1.7 CRDi 136 Style
The sleek i40 has never struggled to score points in the style stakes, so it’s no surprise that Hyundai’s designers have kept the changes to a minimum. Look closely and you’ll spot the new hexagonal front grille, reprofiled headlamps with LED running lamps and subtly tweaked front and rear bumpers.
Elsewhere, the styling remains unchanged, which means you get the same distinctive wedged profile, low-slung roofline and heavily sculpted flanks. The 16-inch alloys fitted to our SE Nav test car look a little lost in the i40’s large wheelarches and some of the body detailing is garish, particularly the chrome finished door handles, but overall the Hyundai
still packs plenty of kerb appeal.
Climb aboard and it’s immediately clear that less time has been spent updating the interior. The revised infotainment system features easier to reach controls, but otherwise the cabin is unchanged. That’s a shame, because the ‘wave effect’ dashboard design looks dated, while the imposing centre console seems cluttered, with numerous buttons for the air-conditioning and audio controls. On the plus side, the touchscreen sat-nav features clear graphics and is a doddle to use.
The rest of the interior feels solidly screwed together and most of the plastics are of a decent quality, but it doesn’t look and feel as upmarket as the latest Toyota Avensis. Still, there will be no complaints about the amount of standard kit, with the SE Nav getting heated seats, a DAB radio, Bluetooth and rear privacy glass. There’s even a heated steering wheel – although the button that operates it is tiny and hidden away on the steering column.
While Hyundai has kept the i40’s visual changes to a minimum, it has been much bolder with the car’s underpinnings. The 1.7-litre diesel has been tuned for greater efficiency, plus there’s now the option of a twin-clutch auto box. In addition, engineers have tweaked the suspension to deliver both sharper handling and greater comfort.
Twist the key in the ignition, and the i40’s engine settles down to an unintrusive idle. And while the Hyundai isn't the most powerful car out there, its 380Nm torque figure is more muscular. As a result, the Korean machine feels punchy when you really push on.
Head down a twisting back road and it’s clear the suspension upgrades have paid off. Although the steering is light and short on feedback (a Sport setting adds weight, but feels sticky and artificial), there’s strong bite from the front tyres and the i40 feels balanced and secure despite a surprising amount of roll from the soft suspension.
Of course, the upshot of this supple set-up is a comfortable ride, and the i40 glides over bumps and potholes with great composure. However, while the car is comfortable, it generates more wind, road and engine noise on the motorway.
Hyundai has worked hard to make its models more desirable to own, so company bosses will be disappointed by the previous-generation i40’s lowly 85th place finish in our Driver Power 2015 satisfaction survey.
Of particular concern will be the car’s poor 151st place finish for reliability, while build quality was ranked 128th. Still, Hyundai claims it has ironed out any gremlins with this facelift, while our test car felt robustly constructed. And should any problems occur, then it’s reassuring to know every model is covered by the brand’s comprehensive five-year warranty and breakdown package.
Euro NCAP tested the i40 in 2011 and awarded it a full five-star rating. The assessment has been made tougher since then, but the Hyundai remains a safe choice. All versions get seven airbags, stability control and warning lights that flash during sudden braking. However, autonomous emergency braking isn’t available, while lane departure warning and road sign recognition only feature on flagship Premium models.
The Hyundai i40 saloon has a 525-litre boot, which is slightly smaller than the Ford Mondeo. Plus, with the saloon, the boot opening is a bit narrow, so loading bulky items can be a bit of a task. If you want more practicality, it might be best to opt for the estate version, the Hyundai i40 Tourer, which has a massive 1,719 litres of space with the rear seats folded.
Back to the saloon, there's plenty of space for five adults and legroom is very good in the front seats, especially. Plus there's lots of clever stowage space. Unlike many cars, the transmission tunnel in the i40 doesn't hamper the comfort of passengers in the back too much. In the front there's plenty of storage areas, two cupholders and a decent-sized glovebox
When it comes to reducing the impact on your bank balance, the Hyundai makes a decent amount of sense. The combination of low CO2 emissions and high mpg means the i40 will cost business users less in Benefit in Kind tax, with a higher-rate earner saving around £150 when compared to the equivalent Toyota Avensis over the course of a year.
On top of that, a good value £499 servicing pack takes care of maintenance for three years, while Hyundai’s triple care scheme includes warranty cover, breakdown recovery and free annual health checks for five years. There are some financial black marks, though, as our experts predict the car will lose more of its value after three years, plus we recorded a distinctly average 43.3mpg at the pumps – although thanks to a huge 70-litre tank you should be able to travel nearly 700 miles between fill-ups.