Hyundai’s new i-opening i40 estate

Hyundai moves into a new market with its i40 Tourer estate that's big on space, equipment and value, says Matt Kimberley.

All car brands have strengths, and Hyundai's has always been that its cars make a lot of sense. The i40 Tourer is a significant launch, because as well as the practicality and efficiency that appeal to buyers' heads, it sports a sharper, more emotive set of lines that Hyundai hopes will capture people's hearts.

The i40, available first as an estate (Tourer) and later as a saloon, is Hyundai's first foray into Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Insignia and Volkswagen Passat territory, and it combines relatively compact exterior dimensions with exceptional interior space and a kit list to make more expensive cars blush.

The range covers four engine options, three trim levels and two gearboxes. The most popular model is likely to be the more powerful of the two diesels, a 136PS 1.7-litre unit, combined with the mid-range Style trim package. It's available with or without Blue Drive technology, which cuts CO2.

Hyundai reckons most i40s will be ordered with the eco enhancements, and an estimated 60pc of sales will be fleet. The 1.7 CRDi Style Blue Drive has running costs that should turn fleet managers' heads. Squeezing in at 119g/km, it costs just �35 per year to tax, averages 62.8mpg and still has room for five people in leg-stretching comfort.

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Hyundai's five-year Triple Care warranty is among the best in the business too, allowing unlimited mileage, annual car 'health checks' and five years RAC roadside assistance. And with a benefit-in-kind tax rate of just 13pc, the Blue Drive diesel makes a lot of sense.

You'd have to say that it's also improbably well kitted-out for a car costing �22,240 on the road. Touchscreen sat-nav is standard, along with a rear parking camera, seven speakers and a subwoofer. It comes with dual-zone climate control, cruise control, speed limiter, front and rear parking sensors, electric driver's seat, electric folding wing mirrors, privacy glass from the B-pillar backwards and automatic wipers to list some of the highlights. An equivalent Vauxhall Insignia costs about �28,500.

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On the road the i40 does what it's designed to do. The centre console is more crowded on sat-nav-equipped Style and Premium models, but the general feeling is of a practical, comfortable place to be. Especially the seats; even the back ones recline just like the fronts, while the legroom available to all potential passengers is genuinely astonishing. The i40 has no second-class seats.

The only bugbear that lets the cabin down is the hard plastic backing to the front seats – all too obvious to rear passengers but at least the rather utilitarian look is offset by the fact that they'll resist wear and tear better than fabric if the seat back pockets are used a lot.

The Blue Drive enhanced engine is smooth and punchy in manual guise, with a decent wave of usable torque. The six-speed manual gearbox is slick and precise, matching the engine well and delivering 2,250rpm in top gear at 70mph. That's quite a lot for a six-speeder – most rivals sit under 2,000rpm – and the instant fuel consumption gauge falls on its face because it goes up to only 50mpg which, for a car meant to average more than 60mpg, isn't helpful.

For a smaller-than-typical engine capacity the 1.7 never feels out of its depth, and it's very smooth down to 1,000rpm. It's a very relaxing car all round, and not even noticeable road noise from the low rolling resistance tyres can spoil it. The comfort comes partially at the price of handling, though. Unless your steering inputs are smooth the car's weight can make itself felt with a small side-to-side wobble.

At town speeds the i40 is wonderfully quiet; especially in petrol guise. Blue Drive cars have stop/start systems to save fuel, and variable-assistance power steering makes parking almost effortless. The sudden reduction in steering weight as you come to a stop takes a little getting used to, though.

The diesel i40 Style is a great car in all the right ways. It has weaknesses, but minor ones given its real purpose. The financial saving it represents over its rivals can't be ignored, especially given its quality and kit, and the back-up that Hyundai is willing to provide. As a first entry into the sector, it's one that potential Mondeo, Passat or Insignia buyers should consider.

Test-drive the i40 Tourer at Constitution Motors in Constitution Hil, Norwich, by Saturday, September 17 to be entered into a free prize draw for a chance to win a trip to the Euro 2012 football finals, including flights and accommodation.

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