Hyundai i40 a real Tourer de force

Hyundai's i40 Tourer is a bright new addition to the range as Anday Russell discovers one night.

I don't like the dark evenings but once a week it can be enjoyable, even exciting, leaving the office when a new test car has arrived.

Walking through our car park with a colleague I am pressing the key fob to see what lights up and flashes. It was a pleasant surprise and quite a shock when this dynamic-looking silver estate appeared in a pool of bright light.

'That looks good – what is it?' the colleague asked.

I told them that it was the new Hyundai i40 Tourer. 'Hyundai? Can't be,' was the response.

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And that was the reaction I was getting all week from people drawn to this eye-catching mid-sized estate – smart, sleek and sporty – and the best-looking car to come from the Korean company which as Hyundai UK managing director Tony Whitehorn rightly says 'is a sign of how far Hyundai has come in recent years, and truly embodies where the brand is going'.

It takes Hyundai to another new level, not losing sight of value and generous equipment but taking these worthy attributes into a new market sector – the highly-competitive medium estate car market dominated by fleet sales and the likes of the Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Insignia and Volkswagen Passat.

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On looks alone the i40 certainly stands out but beauty goes more than skin deep and it backs up its appeal with class-leading fuel economy and emissions, loads of space for passengers and cargo and a stylish, well-appointed cabin.

The i40 Tourer, soon to be joined by a saloon version, is available with 135PS 1.6 and 177PS 2.0-litre petrol engines but the big-sellers, particularly in a fleet-dominated sector where three out of four sales are diesel, will be the 1.7-litre turbo diesel, available in 115 and 136PS form and Blue Drive versions with engine stop-start, low rolling resistance tyres, alternator management system and a drag-reducing active front grille air flap to cut fuel consumption and emissions – the result is all-important sub-120g/km emissions and up to 65.7mpg.

My range-topping Premium test car had the more powerful turbo diesel engine mated to the new six-speed automatic gearbox – a relaxing combination both to drive and performance-wise. The six-speed auto shifts seamlessly, even using it manually via the lever or paddle shifts on the wheel, but it dents performance and economy with 40mpg overall in everyday driving and a best of 45mpg driving gently. A couple of times it felt a bit flat when I went to overtake even in Sport mode until I floored the throttle. I suspect the manual model would have been more entertaining and economical. Once cruising at motorway speeds engine, tyre and wind noise are kept well in check.

The suspension does a good job of soaking up big bumps and lumps but the ride is sensitive on poorly-surfaced roads making the i40 a little restless but never uncomfortable. It handles well enough, steering accurately through corners with a stable stance.

Where the i40 really scores is on the amount of interior space for passengers and cargo.

The 553-litre boot, one of the biggest in its class, goes back a long way with a wide tailgate giving easy access but there is some wheelarch intrusion which eats into the useable space. Even so, it will cope with family holiday luggage and rear seat backs split 60/40 and fold but not completely flat until they get some weight on them. Shallow storage trays under the boot floor are useful for nick-nacks.

There's also loads of head and legroom in the back for large adults to travel in comfort but I found the narrowing rear windows and sloping roof made me feel a little hemmed in.

The dashboard is all very stylish with the piano black trim panels on my test car giving it a clean, modern look and the protruding curved centre section of the fascia makes it easy to get to the audio and heating and ventilation systems, controlled by large buttons, knobs and a logical touch-screen display, while big, clear dials are easy to take in at a glance.

The electrically-adjusted front seats on my test car did not go low enough while thick front pillars can hinder visibility. The sporty back end means a small rear screen so visibility is not as good as some estate cars but Style and Premium models have a rear parking camera as standard.

Generously-equipped entry-level Active includes 16in alloy wheels, Bluetooth with voice recognition, leather steering wheel with audio controls, automatic headlights, front fog lights, four electric windows, seven airbags, electric parking brake with hill-hold function, stability control and air-conditioning. Style adds touch-screen satellite navigation with rear-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control and dual-zone climate control while Premium adds leather upholstery, electric tilt/slide panoramic sunroof, heated electric front seats, keyless entry and starting and 18in alloys.

Hyundais are no longer cheap and cheerful but the i40 still looks good value, loaded with kit and covered by a five-year triple care package of warranty, annual vehicle health checks and roadside assistance, making it even more attractive to both private buyers and fleets.

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