Hyundai enters fray with stylish i40
IT IS a case of upwards and onwards for Hyundai as its latest arrival, the i40, moves into a whole new segment for the company to mix it with the chart-toppers of the volume-selling family/fleet market, Toyota Avensis, Ford Mondeo and VW Passat.
The Koreans have been making remarkable strides in recent years. Now the world's fourth biggest carmaker, Hyundai is on a roll here also with a 4.5 per cent market share and sales up 56 per cent so far this year.
A head-turner at the recent Geneva Motor Show, the all new i40 enters the battle with an estate version in June and will follow with a saloon in December. This strategy is to grab sales in the European market where the wagon design is popular but the stylish bodywork, high-quality finish and huge luggage capacity will tempt many buyers here because of the sheer practicality of the design. Wagon, estate, tourer, whichever tag you put on the design, it is at last gaining favour with Irish buyers so Hyundai should see a good initial order book ahead of the saloon sales in 2012.
Premium quality is also a key to success in this market segment and the i40 has such goodies as a heated steering wheel, an auto defog system and rear seat recline for passengers who like to lounge in comfort when the huge boot is not full to capacity. The extra long wheelbase (2.8m) provides generous passenger space and with 553 litres of cargo capacity. With the rear seats folded, this converts into 1,719 litres, a volume area only beaten by the VW Passat.
All the fixtures at premium brand. Inside there is a sweeping dashboard with a good layout of controls and flexible seating. The exterior lines are imposing. Upfront an hexagonal grille and the rear end could be described as a notchback -- a cross between a hatchback and a wagon. All very sporty looking.
Hyundai has had customer tasting sessions and the new design has had high approval ratings. Hyundai Ireland boss Stephen Gleeson feels that the i40 could be the top seller for the company next year with high fleet interest pushing sales above the 1,000 mark.
The good road manners experienced during a short drive in Germany will win over those who take a test drive and the 1.7 litre 136 bhp diesel engine gives a gutsy but quiet performance through the gears. Stability in cornering was top rate throughout. There is also a 1.7 litre 115 bhp output engine available which may be the big seller here and Hyundai has plans to launch a 160 bhp output engine also.
Prices have to be decided but a figure in the region of €25,000 is being mentioned and this version should have a generous amount of goodies on board.
PS: And for those who fondly remember the Hyundai Coupe, a favourite with the young at heart and the ladies, there is good news. There is a successor, the Veloster, which has an intriguing design -- two doors on one side and one on the driver's side.
It will arrive here in November with a 1.6 litre 135 bhp output petrol engine and has a four-seat configuration.