Hyundai i40

The South Korean car manufacturer's imposing new tourer is going head-to-head with Ford

Hyundai, the Korean car maker, wants to compete on level terms with European and Japanese opposition.

The critics agree that with every recent new model, Hyundai has done exactly that; the cars are well designed, well made, good to drive and inexpensive to buy. What has been missing, though, is a properly competitive large car, a Mondeo rival if you will. That part of the range has been represented by the Sonata, which was old-school Hyundai, not very good and doomed to a twilight role in murky minicab-dom.

Meet, then, the new i40. It has been designed and engineered at Hyundai's German outpost although manufacture is to be in Korea. And as just over half of European Mondeo-class sales are of estate cars, it is an estate car i40 which is to be launched first. A four-door saloon follows early next year.

This is slightly odd. Ford recently withdrew the four-door Mondeo from the UK market because no one bought it. Nor is there a four-door Vauxhall Insignia. However, Peugeot (508), Toyota (Avensis) and Volkswagen (Passat) have popular four-doors. Besides which, the i40 estate car is as much a roomy hatchback as a practical estate, with its rising waistline and racily sloping tail.

Anyway, this new i40 is an imposing-looking car. The headlights contain hook-shaped strips of LEDs which glow white in daylight, and the tail looks assertive and expensive with its squat stance, its strip of chrome between the lights, and its spoiler above the window. Inside, too, it comes across as a thoroughly designed, high-quality creation, if not quite to the "premium" levels of an Audi or a BMW. Among the car-makers outside the charmed circle of "premiumness", only Peugeot has truly captured that ambience with its new 508.

That said, the two i40s I tested were not quite the final production article but rather were late development cars. There may be small differences in interior finish by the time the cars reach the showrooms, but even as they are now they are very habitable. There's much pretend-aluminium detailing, and a key improvement would be to chromium-plate the door handles and make them feel metallically cold.

However, the instruments and displays are crisp-looking and sophisticated in their graphics, and there's the full gamut of the equipment expected in a modern car of this class. Interesting options include cold-air venting of the seats as well as the usual heating function, a heated steering wheel and an "auto de-fog" system. Headlights that illuminate round corners, a lane-departure warning system, reclining rear seats, automatic folding of those seats, and movable bars and dividers in the boot are also offered.

There are 1.6 and 2.0-litre petrol engines, of 135bhp and 177bhp respectively, but the bigger sellers will be the 1.7-litre turbodiesel engines of 115bhp or 136bhp. This last has power to compete with some other manufacturers' 2.0-litre units, and beats them on CO2 emissions: 124g/km, or just 119g/km with the optional stop-start system. A six-speed automatic transmission, with paddle-shifters, is optional on the two most powerful i40 engines.

Sounds promising so far. The i40 GLS diesel I drove wore 18-inch wheels (these and 17-inch items are options, 16-inch is standard) but used the more "comfortable" of two suspension settings being considered for production. The big wheels made ridges and bumps more obvious than they would otherwise be, but otherwise the i40 rode well with a pleasing flow through corners and a smooth, accurate, natural response from the hydraulically-assisted steering – a system easier to make feel "right" than an electric one. The 2.0-litre petrol i40, by contrast, had firmer suspension but 17-inch wheels, a combination less successful at insulating road commotion. The diesel's suspension settings and the 17-inch wheels would make the i40 handle as well as its better rivals, so I hope Hyundai signs off such a mix for production.

And the engines? The petrol engine felt lively and smooth enough, and it gives the best pace of the range with a 9.7-second 0-62mph time, but the 136bhp diesel is clearly the engine to have. It pulls with the vigour of most 2.0-litre rivals and stays acceptably quiet while doing so, sipping very little fuel in the process. Cruising in sixth gear is quiet, the gearchange is light and easy, the brakes pull you up firmly. And there's plenty of space.

This is a car as capable as anything from other mainstream car-makers, and at a usefully lower price – about £19,000 – complete with a five-year warranty. I can't see how it can possibly fail.

Arts and Entertainment
TVShow's twee, safe facade smashed by ice cream melting scandal
newsVideo for No campaign was meant to get women voting
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Down time: an employee of Google uses the slide to get to the canteen
scienceBosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Project Manager (infrastructure, upgrades, rollouts)

    £38000 - £45000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

    MI Analyst and SQL Developer (SQL, SSAS, SSRS)

    £28000 - £32500 Per Annum + 28 days holiday, pension, discounts and more: Clea...

    Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

    £30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

    Reception Teachers needed for September 2014

    £110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Re...

    Day In a Page

    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
    Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

    What is the appeal of Twitch?

    Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
    Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

    How bosses are making us work harder

    As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
    Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

    Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

    As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
    Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

    A tale of two writers

    Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
    Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

    Should pupils get a lie in?

    Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
    Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

    Prepare for Jewish jokes...

    ... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
    SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

    A dream come true for SJ Watson

    Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
    Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

    Paul Scholes column

    Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?