Hyundai has tried to make its i40 a less confusing prospect, by slimming its range and cutting is price. While selling the wagon makes perfect sense, you have to wonder why the sedan offering hasn't been cut to zero, when you can have a better-looking Sonata for less money.
WHAT IS IT?
A mid-size car that increases Hyundai’s middling-sized presence in the mid-size market that's sizably dominated by the Toyota Camry in Australia, which takes almost 45 per cent of sales. The i40 has a European design and now gets the new family grille, as well as redesigned wheels and LED lamps. It keeps the same engines, but both have been tweaked for better fuel economy, and the diesel now gets a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
The facelift and the engine tickling aside, what makes i40 Series II interesting is that it's been fettled in its underpinnings by the local suspension guys at Hyundai Australia. The result should be better ride and handling, and hopefully better steering as well.
Obviously, most people are going to ignore the existence of everything but a Toyota Camry in this segment, because that’s what they've always done, so why not buy another one? People with souls, however, will be tempted by the Subaru Liberty, which is a great drive, and the stylish Mazda 6.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
Hyundai's i40 Series II is a bit like a video-rental shop, in that you kind of wonder why it exists, with a Sonata being a kind of Netflix replacement for it. The i40 does have diesel engines, slightly less interesting styling, a wagon option – which is very roomy – and a more expensive price tag. Those small concerns aside, it's not a bad thing for the money and it now rides and handles like a locally developed car should, soaking up our conditions with ease and even aplomb.
PLUS: Ride and handling, cabin space, new LEDs and grille, torque in the diesel, dual-clutch transmission.
MINUS: Interior not great, diesel noisy, steering a bit remote and light, the existence of the Sonata.
THE WHEELS REVIEW
KOREA's march towards Germanic-style global domination continues apace, with Hyundai not only focusing on improving quality and drivability, but aping the Merc-Audi-BMW triumvirate's love of multiplying model lines – witness the existence of the i40 Series II.
There's no such thing as selling too many cars, of course, and it seems the modern way to baffle a prospect into parting with their dollars is to baffle them with choice. I was in an Audi showroom the other day and there were cars on display I didn’t even know existed, millions of them.
Hyundai's plan is to lure the eye of the mid-size buyer away from the dominant Toyota Camry and sexy Mazda 6 by offering both the new Sonata and the seemingly almost unnecessary, and slightly more expensive, i40.
The reasoning, we're told, is that it's good to have a big footprint in this segment.
They've certainly got that, with the i40 being the sedan you want, unless you want it with a petrol engine, because then it will look like a Sonata.
The revised i40 range has fewer models, but does still include a wagon, which you can have with a petrol powertrain. Keeping up?
The Active trim starts at $32,490 ($1500 cheaper than the old i40) and the Premium will set you back $41,390 (down $3600).
The well-priced Active is the one you'd go for, because stumping up over $40K for a car you'd want to get a more enthusiastic and less plastic interior than this, but Premium does add leather heated seats with power adjustment.
The 1.7-litre diesel engine has been given a tickle to make 4kW more to 140kW and 340Nm, up 20Nm. That lump of torque is yours from 1750rpm to 2500rpm, so it's an easy drive, but it's not a particularly refined diesel, particularly in terms of noise.
Diesel models also get the new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, which is a sweet-shifting affair and perfectly suited to a car like this. You'll never change gears yourself (the cheap feeling paddles will put you off for a start) but it can be handy for hill climbing, and the changes are smooth and fast.
The gearbox also brings an improvement in fuel economy, down to 5.1L/100km from 5.6
The 2.0-litre petrol engine, which you can power the impressively large wagon with, offers 121kW (down 10kW) and 203Nm at 4700rpm (down 11Nm), with the power cuts aimed at trimming fuel economy to 7.5L/100km. Its conventional six-speed auto is no match for the diesel’s offering, and it's the better choice overall.
Other than taking on the new company face and proud chin, visual changes are few and it remains, sadly, not quite as pretty as a Sonata, or a Mazda 6.
The big changes are in the driving experience, which really is better – in terms of handling, bump absorption and cornering – than it needs to be. Get a good run up at some corners and you can actually have pretty good fun, with no squealing from the tyres, minimal body roll and no shimmying over mid-corner bumps.
Credit goes to the Series II's switching to a 32-bit, Motor Driven Power Steering system, which replaces a 16-bit system. As any geek will tell you, this means it must be twice as good.
The steering actually feels a bit light and artificial, but it's the accompanying working that's been done by the local Hyundai team on ride and handling that's impressive.
The team, led by a suspension sensei known as “Wongy”, built and tested 21 different front dampers, and another 13 at the rear, and tried 30 separate suspension combinations before coming up with a winner that offered “better driver feedback”.
It's not a sporty German sedan (not yet) but it's a hell of a lot cheaper, and surely a more individualistic choice than another bloody Camry.
Model: Hyundai i40 Series II Active
Engine: 1685cc four-cylinder turbo-diesel, 16v
Max power: 104kW @ 4000rpm
Max torque: 340Nm @ 1750-2500rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch auto
Kerb weight: 1661kg
0-100km/h: 9.0sec (est.)
Fuel economy: 5.1L/100km
On sale: Now
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