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Hyundai i40 BlueDrive

Cleanest version of new family car arrives in Britain. Is the stylish estate a winner?

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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The i40 is a brilliant first foray into this segment for Hyundai, and a real class contender. It’s comfortable, practical and well priced family transport – and in BlueDrive trim, it’s the most efficient car in the sector. At £19,395, it undercuts some rivals by well over £2,000, yet unlike Hyundais of old, it feels like a genuinely quality product. Add in a five-year unlimited-mileage warranty, and it’s a compelling package.

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It’s safe to say that Hyundai’s new i40 arrives in Britain with considerable expectation on its shoulders. The i10, i20 and i30 small cars currently account for three-quarters of the Koreans’ UK sales. With the i40, however, the firm is entering an entirely new sector of the market.

The load-carrying Tourer variant will be closely followed by an i40 saloon – due out in November – and both will be taking on big-hitters such as the Ford Mondeo and VW Passat. But can Hyundai make the step up successfully?

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Hyundai i40 Tourer

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While we were impressed by the flagship diesel we drove, this was our first chance to try the BlueDrive – the cleanest model in the range. Even at first glance, things look promising. Hyundai’s ‘fluidic sculpture’ design language has been in use for a while, having debuted on the ix35 crossover, and it works well on this estate.

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The shapely body and curved roof do a superb job of concealing the considerable dimensions, and make this a vehicle buyers will be proud to own. The styling is smart rather than striking, but it has more personality than the squared-off Passat – even if the 16-inch alloys get a little lost inside those big arches. Details such as the curved LED running lights and chrome glass surrounds add a premium feel to this base-spec model.

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Underneath, the car uses the same 1.7-litre diesel as the top-level variants, detuned to give a modest 114bhp and 260Nm of torque. That translates to a rather leisurely 12.9-second 0-62mph time, but in real-world conditions it never feels that slow.

In-gear acceleration is decent, and although encouragement is needed to keep the engine within its narrow powerband, it’s more than adequate for most situations.

The suspension has a softer set-up for the UK, which makes the i40 an accomplished cruiser, and the ride quality is up there with the class best. Skinny eco tyres combined with those more forgiving springs mean it’s not quite as engaging to drive as the Mondeo, and there’s not a huge amount of front-end grip, but most buyers will value the added ride comfort this arrangement gives.

The BlueDrive badge means fuel-saving tech is added such as stop-start, low-rolling-resistance tyres and an active grille shutter to return 65.7mpg combined and put out only 113g/km of CO2. These figures should make it enormously appealing to cost-conscious fleet buyers.

Inside, it’s amazing to think the i40 is even distantly related to Hyundai’s uninspiring Sonata. The fit and finish of the soft-touch plastics are superb, and the wraparound dash layout is logical and attractive. Plenty of thought has gone into making the i40 as practical as possible, too. It has the lowest load lip in the class, which means placing awkward items into the boot is easy. And with 553 litres of space available with the reclining rear seats in place, the luggage area is a shade bigger than the Mondeo’s.

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