211 miles of range, nippy acceleration and neat looks
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£25,140 when new
Let’s ignore for the moment that the traditional family car format is in decline and instead admire what Hyundai has achieved. It’s reached a position where it has managed to convince us that we need to take its new family car seriously. Now, the idea of a Korean city runabout is one we’re all familiar with, but the stretch further upmarket is fraught with risks and dangers. Badge and style start to matter, there’s the kit count to worry about, and it’s got to be built right. On the face of it, the i40 is a trickier sell to a general public weaned on Mondeos and Insignias than the curiously quirky Veloster (see page 76), yet there’s little doubt that it will sell. Take the way it looks. Handsome, isn’t it? The kind of family car you wouldn’t mind being seen in. And yes, for the time being, it will only be available as an estate – a saloon will follow towards the end of this year. There’s a choice of 133bhp or 175bhp petrol engines or a 1.7-litre diesel with either 113 or 134bhp, the pokier of the two available with an auto ’box in place of the six-speed manual that we tried. It’s fresh, fizzy and keen for a diesel, has good throttle response and isn’t too chuggy. It feels well engineered – in fact the whole car does. Now it’s not a revelation in the handling department – it doesn’t out-drive a Mondeo – but what makes it likeable is that it doesn’t try to be something it’s not. It doesn’t try to be sporty. It’s soft, it rolls, and although it pours itself around smooth corners very ably, potholes punch the wheels back up hard enough to jar the suspension. There’s also an odd friction in the steering that you have to twist your way past. Otherwiseit’s calm, refined and entirely undemanding. It lollops along motorways, is tractable and well behaved in tight spots and has few vices. A bit white-goods maybe, but then it is aimed at the mass market. Inside there’s a well-organised dash that’s maybe a touch overwrought, but Hyundai understands that the driver needs to be comfortable: the seats are broad and soft, and there’s oodles of steering adjustment.
But there’s a but. Prices start at £18,395, and this one is nearing £25k, so it doesn’t undercut the Peugeot 508, Ford Mondeo or Vauxhall Insignia at all. Almost the opposite. Hyundai is obviously confident that the i40 has what it takes. It is well equipped (especially in Premium trim), and those compact looks cloak a 553-litre boot and generous passenger space. It’s a convincing car, the i40. Convincing enough to persuade buyers the family-car market is staging a comeback.