In overall dimensions, the i40 Sedan and Tourer are a smidgen smaller than the Hyundai Sonata, but due to their overall equipment levels and refinement, HSDM positioned the i40 above the Sonata, which reflected in their premium selling prices of RM159,888.00 for the i40 Sedan and a lofty RM178,888.00 for the i40 Tourer. One reason for such premium prices has to do with our automotive policy which is all but a foregone conclusion as far as we are concerned. Anyways, throw those prices around the market and tongues will be wagging as to how domestic customers would react to paying Japanese and European import prices for a Korean marque. After all, it was not too long ago that Korean cars were synonymous with the worst of European makes in terms of design, quality and residuals. One need not gaze too far back into the past to remember the days of the old Sonatas and Accents to name a few. And lest we forget, the abomination that was known as the (very first) Santa Fe. Thankfully, Hyundai and the rest of the Korean automotive industry have undergone tremendous transformational changesover a short decade to re-emerge ahead of its main rivals the Japanese marques, at least in terms of overall desirability and pride of ownership.
Coming back to the i40, it is a new lineup of vehicle that was introduced in 2011 to the demanding and unforgiving European markets. First it was the tourer, followed by the sedan later in the same year. Designed in Russelsheim, Germany, the i40 is manufactured entirely in South Korea using the then all-new design language of Hyundai, “Fluidic Sculpture”. As such, one can see that the i40 carries elements of the very earliest incarnation of that Fluidic Sculpture theme, but with European tastes in mind. Placed side by side with the Sonata YF that also carried the same design language, the overall flow of the design is obvious, but because the i40 was designed later than the YF, it looks more like a grown up Elantra rather than the Sonata whose platform it shares with.
With a quick gleaning of the front, one could be forgiven if he/she had thought this to be the C-segment Elantra for they are quite similar in terms of frontal design, with a similar arching back of the signature headlights, that recessed front grille and smiling lower air dam. Upon closer inspection you will see that the i40 has a more angular face while the Elantra exudes a slightly softer stance with gentler curves. However, the precision is in the details, and the i40 is superior in this department with Bi-Xenon projectors and a stylish Audi-like daylight running light within its headlamp housing. The bonnet line stops short of the nose, unlike on the Elantra which features a full bonnet right up to the front grille.
Over to the side, the i40 again shares an uncanny similarity to the Elantra from the front all the way to the back, but the i40 has a more angular side profile thanks to a fender line that runs parallel to the shoulder line for a more “fluidic” interpretation of the theme. The 17-inch alloys employ a star design with 5 twin-spokes, shod with Hankook Ventus Prime2 rubbers in a comfort-specced 215/50 R17 size. The sidewalls may be at comfort height, but the tyres are Premium Performance rubber so don’t let the aspect ratio fool you, for in real life performance they proved very capable indeed.
Wrapping up the exterior report, the rear is where the i40 is most easily differentiated from its lower-priced sibling. While the Elantra’s tail lights rake forward sharply, the i40’s are best described as gumdrops that follow the silhouette of the rear number plate recess. If you took a cursory glance at the rear of the i40, you will be forgiven for mistaking the car for the 2003 Camry. Perhaps this was one of the reasons why they designed the i40 nameplate so large. In fact, I’ve never seen a larger model insignia on any passenger vehicle thus far. Another important, albeit smaller insignia is inscribed with the words “GDi” to denote the fuel sipping qualities of the engine.
Hyundai i40: European Sentiments Within
Step inside the Hyundai i40 Sedan and the first thing you will notice is the high quality fit and finish of every bit of kit within. Starting with the plush leather seats, you will immediately get the feeling of quality craftsmanship and attention to details that you’d normally find in continental autos costing much more. The front seats are very ergonomically designed with semi-bucket aspirations but stopping short of being a true semi-bucket design. Perforations along strategic areas of the seats ensure comfort for long distance driving, while the seams feature thick threads as a proof of durability.
The center console features Hyundai’s existing design across most of its high end products, with a definitive V shaped design starting from the center air vents, tapering down towards the gear console. Most of the car’s electronic features can be accessed easily from this console, with little else cluttering up the sides. An optitronic meter cluster occupies the space in front of the steering wheel, providing a plethora of dynamic drive information with accompanying controls on the wheel that allows you to toggle through the most pertinent options on the go. The leather clad steering wheel itself is a thing of beauty, with just the right size and weighting for an engaging drive.
Rear seating is a mixed bag. The low-slung roof meant a bit of a compromise for rear passengers, which is fine if you were less than 6 feet tall, which is ironic, considering that this variant was released for Europe. Having said that, Fords are also usually found wanting rear space but I don’t see the Europeans shunning the Fiesta or Focus as a result of that. However, taken in the context of its segment, the i40 is clearly not the most spacious, when squared off against the likes of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. The CKD Sonata is also a little better in this department. What it lacks in rear space though, it makes up for in refinement.
Hyundai i40: European Handling and Prowess
The launch of the Hyundai i40 in the country is quite an interesting fact, considering the high levels of sulphur present in existing Euro 2M fuel. Technically, the i40’s naturally-aspirated 2-liter GDi (gasoline direct injection) engine is supposed to run on higher grade, lower sulphur fuel, so HSDM must’ve made some tweaks to the engine to allow it to safely run without any problems, otherwise HSDM would have a ticking time bomb on their hands. I was told that the fuel used in the review unit was regular RON 95, which didn’t present any problems during the time that the car was with me.
As far as performance is concerned, this 2.0-liter GDi engine has one of the best outputs in Hyundai’s inventory of naturally-aspirated powerplants, pulling 178hp @ 6,500rpm and 214Nm @ 4,700rpm out of its hat while returning a miserly 7.7l/100km (mixed cycle) consumption. As a comparison, the 2.0-liter Nu engine in the larger Sonata does 162hp/192Nm which is already above and beyond many competing engines in the market. In real life situations though, the car feels a little lethargic below 3,000 turns, only to transform into a beast from 4,000 turns and above. This might have been a problem for cars with 5 cogs or less, but thankfully the i40 comes with Hyundai’s 6-speed slushbox with paddle shifters, so the effect of a narrow power band is lessened by a fair bit because of the narrower spacing of each gear.
The car is well served by MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link setup in the rear, a common design for most C- or D-segment contenders. On the move, you can feel the continental aspirations of the car as it keeps it firmly grounded at speed with little skirmish, but can feel a little on the stiff side when going over undulations. Occupants in the front have no reason to complain, but rear passengers did report feeling a little unsettled when hitting the big ones. Thankfully, there is enough material in the seats to cushion out most of the harshness. It’s like being paddled with a baseball bat covered with foam. The 215/50 R17 Hanook Ventus Prime2 tyres held themselves together well even in the wet, offering up loads of traction with little to no tramlining being felt. Comfort levels were also quite high, thanks to the 50-series profile, which is a good compromise between comfort and handling unlike other D-segment barges with 55-series or higher.
In terms of safety, the i40 can pride itself as being even better equipped than most of its Japanese or Continental rivals in that price bracket, offering 9 airbags for active safety, along with the usual array of ABS/EBD/BA coupled with ESC. Adding to the list of active safety are the excellent bi-xenon headlights with washers and DRLs so not only can you see the road better at night, other road users will notice your presence in the day. Xenon lighting is paramount in today’s fast paced lifestyles, and it’s quite sad that after more than a decade of implementation around the world, xenon (HID) systems remain an option only for expensive cars while the poorer lot will have to make do with halogens from the 19th century, with those opting to retrofit proper HID systems being penalized along with those who do not know how to properly install a system without blinding other road users.
Hyundai i40: Final verdict
Until the new Sonata arrives, the i40 represents Hyundai’s latest offering in an ever growing industry where it’s becoming harder to please the masses. People are no longer merely attracted to a brand name with a long history, with more and more looking at alternatives that cater to new statuses and lifestyles. 2 airbags, no keyless entry and no push start? I can bet my bottom dollar that consumers will largely shun these products. Bluetooth connectivity, steering switches, HID, EPS and certain driver assistance systems are fast becoming norms rather than exceptions. So, the sooner car companies come to realize this, the better for us and for the industry.
The Hyundai i40 Sedan ticks most of the items on a car buyer’s wish list, except the slightly premium price tag, for although they have come quite far ahead of even the Japanese makes, public perception takes time to completely win over. Should the Koreans continue this upward momentum, it won’t be long before the public completely embraces this new reality and buy on merit and not on history.
Hyundai i40 images