Touring limits of brilliance
The quality and value for money of the Hyundai i40 Tourer is really something special and sends the marque up to premium level, writes Campbell Spray
STAYING at home for an action-packed week's holiday might seem a bit of a paradox but I have just managed it.
Hills were climbed, battle sites were traversed, castles visited, lakes walked round, beaches trotted along and canal banks meandered down.
In between, much of the contents of a garage were dumped and Ikea visited.
We put up a lot of miles and needed a fair bit of space. Roads varied from motorways to small tracks. All in all, it was probably the best week's test of a car possible. And if it had been the car I was testing the week before, it would have ended at the first hurdle.
That had been the Citroen C5, a supremely comfortable and classy car that was a recent Irish car of the year winner. However, the updated version on test had the most awful automatic gearbox that verged on the outright dangerous with its power surges, jerkiness and general unpleasantness. It took all the pleasure out of being in an otherwise sophisticated car. How some manufacturers still seem to mess things up so badly is quite beyond me.
Luckily my week's holiday coincided with testing the Hyundai i40, which has first been launched in estate car or tourer version. It is a vehicle that takes on the likes of the Toyota Avensis, Ford Mondeo and Opel Insignia and as a well priced package beats them all. It also gives the Korean manufacturer real credentials in the family/executive market that lives up to its boast of making premium-level motoring affordable to all. There isn't much that is technically new about the i40; it is more that it is all put together with flair and quality at an extraordinarily good price.
The 1.7 diesel engine is extremely frugal and even after doing some 800km there was a quarter of a tank left. With a manual transmission and the stop-and-go technology, the car comes into the lowest tax band. You do need to use the gearbox a fair bit in hilly conditions but the i40 is a very enjoyable drive and very much on par with the Mondeo, which is saying a lot. On the motorway, it is the best I have driven this year.
There were some minor gripes. The electric parking brake was annoying in its tardiness and I found the rear-view camera which appears like magic in half of the rear mirror just too small. I would also like an audible parking system all round as well.
There are two versions of the i40 Tourer available -- the Comfort at €24,995 and the Executive at €26,495. This structure will be increased by €1,500 at the end of the year when Hyundai will launch the i40 saloon version at the original prices. The Executive version is very much the one to go for as it includes the rear-view camera, very useful luggage floor rail system, electric driver's seat, rain sensor wipers and alloy wheels. In Britain, the spec is even higher.
The i40, like all Hyundais, comes with the company's market-leading five-year triple car care plan, which gives unlimited mileage warranty, health checks and free roadside assistance. That plan should be a big plus with both business and private customers. The i40 has just received the maximum five stars in the Euro NCAP crash testing and is coming down with electronic programmes to keep you safe.
The car feels robust and is a full five-seater with masses of space across the back seat. The load area is massive. There are occasionally just a few touches that are not premium looking but overall this is a very appealing car. The saloon is said to be even better looking.
In a week when a potter showed us the energy and therapy of his craft and we discovered the magic of Huntington Castle in Co Carlow we were left feeling that the i40 is really something special. It isn't the fastest car but for style, real value for money and all-round ability this Hyundai does move the marque up to premium level. It was an unforgettable week; the i40 was so much part of it.
I'm very hesitant about recommending a brand new model but the i40 is different. Most of it is tried and tested but now packaged into a lovely shape and at an exceptional price. It could help make the whole tourer/estate concept as fashionable here as on the continent. The i40 deserves to succeed. Hyundai is doing well and is on the path to even better things.