Hyundai i40 Tourer 1.7 CRDi Premium

  • @Jamie_Merrill

Price: £24,395
Engine capacity: 1.7 turbo diesel
Top speed (mph): 124
0-62 mph (seconds): 10.6
Fuel economy (mpg): 55.4
CO2 emissions (g/km): 134

It turns out the car park at Center Parcs in Sherwood Forest is a pretty good place to spot what's going on in the British family car market. On a visit there recently I had to vie with child-seat-laden Vauxhall people-carriers and dog-friendly Ford estates for a space. Yes, I had to slide by the occasional luxury saloon or sporty SUV, but most families, it seems, still opt for affordability and practicality when it come to carting their children away for the week at Middle England's attraction of choice.

Enter my girlfriend and me in a shiny new Hyundai i40 Tourer. It's the South Korean company's attempt to take on Ford and Vauxhall in the family car market. I know what you're thinking: that South Korean cars, such as the clutch of cheap city runarounds Hyundai and Kia have produced over the past 10 years, may be good value for money but they can't compete with Mondeo Man's traditional family car of choice.

The new Tourer, though, is a departure from the past and something of a gamble for the Korean firm. Unlike its predecessor it was designed in Germany especially for Europe's roads (though built in South Korea), is packed full of technology and premium touches and yes, is actually very attractive. The i40 is curvaceous, and with its curved panels, rakish rear profile and wave-shaped LED headlights, looks more like a sporty saloon than a family-friendly wagon. It has a commanding driving position, plenty of legroom and acres of storage space. Its rear-seat folding mechanism works smoothly (not all do) and with the seats down you get 1,719 litres of space, not far short of the Mondeo's plentiful 1,728 litres.

Inside it's well constructed with a soft plastic finish and clean, crisp displays. Other high-end trim items including heated seats, a panoramic sunroof, air conditioning, keyless entry and built-in satellite navigation add to the premium feel. And over my week-long test it proved an extremely comfortable car to spend time in, with minimal road noise and only the odd niggling rattle.

Downsides? It's not as cheap as Hyundais of old and you'd be hard-pressed to call it engaging to drive. On the motorway it's smooth enough but takes some thrashing to progress on minor roads, while overtaking requires some careful forward planning.

The flip side of this is its excellent economy: I managed more than 650 miles of B-road blitzing and long motorway hauls on just one tank and more often than not came within touching distance of the official mpg. It also boasts low benefit-in-kind tax (for company car owners) and equally low CO2 emissions to boot.

The i40 Tourer is an accomplished family car and it will certainly attract buyers based on its (still relatively) low entry price and excellent five-year warranty, but it still lacks performance and character. It may have the feel of a luxury car and some smooth lines, but there's no real personality or charm. It just does everything well and on a budget. Not that there's anything wrong with that – the Center Parcs car park is full of sensible cars. I expect to see more of these.

The competition

The Ford Mondeo estate is probably the best alternative; it will lighten your wallet considerably more but give a better ride and handling in exchange. The Kia Cee'd SW is another South Korean option at a budget price, but without the refinement of the Hyundai. The VW Passat BlueMotion wins when it comes to fuel economy.