Hyundai i40 Estate driven
* Mondeo Estate rival tested * On sale here next spring * Big cabin and well equipped...
So, it's goodbye Sonata and hello i40. Hyundai's unloved family saloon will be replaced next year with an estate and a saloon created for, and to be sold exclusively in, Europe. The good news is that it stands a much better chance of cutting it with some fearsome home competition.
First of all, it looks good, and the quality is right up there with anything Ford or Vauxhall can offer. There'll be some serious technology on offer, too: active headlight beam adjustment which takes its readings from the car's speed and steering angle; parking assistance that measures kerbside gaps and steers the car into them for you; and a lane-keeping assist system while the five engines will reflect the downsizing trend in pursuit of lower fuel consumption and emissions.
They'll include a new direct-injection (GDI) 2.0-litre petrol unit developing 175bhp, a 140bhp 1.6 GDI and three 1.7-litre turbodiesels. The two at launch offer 125 or 140bhp, and by late 2012 there'll be a new twin-turbo unit with 160bhp.
Emissions of the entry-level diesel will be a class-best 113g/km thanks to the help of a stop-start system, but even the 2.0-litre petrol is more than respectable at 156g/km with manual transmission.
Hyundai has high hopes for the estate, and with good reason. It's cavernous without being boxy a minimum of 553 litres of cargo space and more than 1700 litres with the rear seats folded down while the unusually long wheelbase of nearly 2.8 metres within an overall length of less than 4.8 metres means passengers aren't losing out for all this practicality.
It's a highly democratic car in other ways quality in the back is every bit as good as in the front.
On the evidence of a short drive at a Korean test facility, Hyundai appears to have taken the wise course of equipping the car to ride smoothly in preference to going for overt sportiness.
The car still corners tidily, though, with good body control and impressive steering. It's no Mondeo, but there are plenty worse.
The let-down is the 140bhp diesel, which struggles to build up any momentum despite short gearing, and isn't the sweetest-sounding thing. Still, if all you do is trawl motorways, it cruises nicely. The new 2.0-litre engine seems decent enough, but the car we drove came saddled with an auto gearbox that nobody looking to keep down their fuel and tax bills is going to buy.
This is a more-than-decent effort from a company on the up and up, and if three stars seems tepid after all that, it's because we have no idea yet what Hyundai is going to charge for it.
What Car? Says
Could be a dark horse if the price is right