Saturday 24 February 2018

A gem that has me up to 90


One of the cousins is always accusing me of only dropping in for a few minutes and rushing off to meet someone or do something.

Anything but sit still, he says. Always in a rush.

I don't think it's that bad but I do tend to 'flit' as many family members would attest. Anyway in a recent moment of resolve we promised we'd take a few hours for a chat and a bit of a drive.

And that coincided with me having the new Hyundai i40 on test.

So after a good early feed of steak and chips in downtown hometown, we set off for . . . wherever the road took us.

An hour or so later we were looking at the Atlantic at Oranmore, Galway; our spirits lifted and we were soothed by the brooding beauty of it all. A world away from the rush and push of our everyday.

We spent a nice little while before sweeping back to the real world.

In a way the large-family/company fleet class is a motoring parallel of how quickly we, as people, divert our attention.

According to those who know these things, brand new cars in this segment tend to hold the limelight for a brief bright burst before losing the lustre . . . to another newcomer. That doesn't mean they are consigned to the scrap heap. If they have the pedigree they carry on in a sort of twilight. But if they haven't made a real impression while in the spotlight, they could face a torrid time. That has happened to some and is probably happening to one or two I could name right now.

Which gives the Hyundai i40 saloon a relatively short time to impact.

There are signs for and against its success.

In many ways it is fair to describe it as their first real car for this market. And that lack of history, if you like, could be a drawback because a track record is a huge asset where families and companies are parting with €26,000 or so a shot.

By the way I don't agree with all these numbers creeping into car designations; I think they confuse people. I really do. Of course it does not affect the quality of the car.

I had the estate version of the i40 towards the end of last year and found it a refreshing, impressive sort of package.

The saloon is a markedly different kettle of fish altogether. It can easily stand alongside any of the current incumbents on looks. With its modern-mix of sweeping style and solidity, there is no doubt about that. But really it is the inside that counts -- and scores big time.

Here's a combination of dash, instrumentation, dials, space and equipment to do serious battle with the best of them. I have to be careful here because Hyundai have a habit of taking positive things I write about their cars and using them in their ads.

Oh! well. Nonetheless, I have to say this is by far the most impressive debut I've come across in this segment for a long, long time. Everyone who sat in, and there were several, was impressed. Front seat and back seat passengers all commented on it.

That doesn't happen too often. I checked several times: there was plenty of room for me to sit behind the driver's seat when it was set to accommodate me. The big central cluster of dials sets the tone for the cabin. Factor in the quality of the materials (I spent a while going around the cabin thumping plastics and looking under seats) and the level of comfort and you have a compelling case.

It was a so easy to drive. Good strong seats, plenty of room and adjustment on them, a light but not woolly steering, best over-the-shoulder visibility of them all, and a real sense of presence on the road.

I'd say there was a touch of road/tyre noise that had me increasing the radio volume now and again on rough surfaces.

And I'd say it trails the Ford Mondeo on crisp, tight handling, the Volkswagen Passat on sheer solidity, possibly the Peugeot 508 for élan and the Toyota Avensis for its heritage, but these are marginal enough calls, believe me.

Add in its five-year care warranty (a huge consideration these days), the big, big boot, excellent rear-seat space and a 1.7-litre diesel engine that in my case had the capacity to cover 1,000km on a tank of fuel and you have one major new contender.

The Hyundai i40 is possibly the biggest threat to the status quo in the family/fleet segment in years.

The likes of Ford, VW, Toyota and Peugeot and the others will ignore it at their peril because owners will be looking at this.

I think it is seriously worth a test drive. I have a feeling it will not suffer from the limelight syndrome that is said to afflict so many cars -- and me, according to the cousin.

We have seen the start of something important, I think. Hence the high marks.

And I promise to stop flitting. Well, I'll try. Got to go.


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