Hyundai i40

Hyundai has the budget supermini segment all wrapped up, but can it secure success in the competitive saloon market?

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

With undoubted appealing looks, competitive pricing, loads of equipment and low emissions, the i40 looks set to be another winner for Hyundai when it arrives in Britain next year. The very early Sonata YF which we drove has one or two flaws dynamically which Hyundai is aware of, but the basics are certainly there. Sort these out and the i40 will be a force to be reckoned with.

Small cars have been big news for Hyundai as the firm’s rise up the sales charts continues apace. But can it enjoy the same success further up the range?

One model which could hold the key is the new Sonata YF, which will be badged i40 when it arrives in the UK next year. The eventual annual sales target for the newcomer is 8,000 – a far cry from anything ever achieved by its predecessor.

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

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To get an early taste of what British buyers have in store, we tried the world’s first right-hand-drive versions on the scenic roads around Cape Town in South Africa.

Initial impressions are largely positive. To our eyes the Sonata YF is an attractive car, with elements of the Mercedes CLS evident from some angles. However, UK customers are promised one or two tweaks. The grille for the British market will be toned down significantly, while Audi-style LED lights will be fitted at the front and rear. 

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Inside there’s plenty of space to get comfortable behind the wheel, and adequate legroom at the rear. The cabin quality continues the improvement Hyundai has made in recent years, although some of the plastics didn’t feel as sturdy as we might have hoped. Again, the firm promises this will be sorted before the model hits our shores.

The car we drove was fitted with a 2.0-litre petrol, although this engine won’t be offered here. Instead, a 1.7-litre turbodiesel, which will be fitted to the ix35 later this year, is likely to attract the bulk of British sales.

It will be available with two different power outputs initially – around 115 and 140bhp. A 140bhp 1.6-litre petrol will also be available. Gearboxes comprise the new – and impressive – six-speed auto we tried and a six-speed manual.

In terms of handling, the Sonata YF is competent rather than characterful. It threads through corners with no major problems, but it’s not a car you would choose for an involving driving experience. It’s more at home cruising on long straights, although the ride comfort is slightly compromised, as well. Too many road imperfections found their way into the cabin for our liking. Again, though, these issues will be addressed before the model goes on sale in Europe.

So there are one or two questions for the Sonata YF to answer at this stage, but what we do know already is that the UK-badged i40 will be tremendous value. With prices starting at £16,500 for the saloon (on sale in Nov 2011) and £18,000 for the estate – which unusually will be made available first, in May – it will significantly undercut rivals.

Emissions which will match or better models from the Ford Focus class will also appeal to fleet buyers. These facts alone should ensure it helps  to continue the Hyundai success story.<!-- /* Font Definitions */@font-face {font-family:"Times New Roman"; panose-1:0 2 2 6 3 5 4 5 2 3; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:50331648 0 0 0 1 0;}@font-face {font-family:Geneva; panose-1:0 2 11 5 3 3 4 4 4 2; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:50331648 0 0 0 1 0;} /* Style Definitions */p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:""; margin:0cm; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman";}table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-parent:""; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman";}@page Section1 {size:612.0pt 792.0pt; margin:72.0pt 90.0pt 72.0pt 90.0pt; mso-header-margin:36.0pt; mso-footer-margin:36.0pt; mso-paper-source:0;}div.Section1 {page:Section1;}-->

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