Recommended. Hyundai may have forgotten the flair, but otherwise the i40 is a ruthlessly proficient example of giving the buyer what they want.
Hyundai's recent success maybe founded on the scrappage scheme it brilliantly exploited in 2009-10, but since the government's recovery plan ended it has been the strength of its new product lineup that has sustained the healthy sales figures.
Now the manufacturer has followed the introduction of the recent ix20 and ix35 with the i40, an estate model (with a saloon to follow) intended to crack the ultra-hard nut that is the large family car market. Hyundai has set some serious competition in its sights, including some of the UK's biggest fleet sellers in the shape of the Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Insignia and Volkswagen Passat.
Overcoming that array of household names was never going to be easy, but Korea's giant car maker has addressed the problem with its usual fastidious attention to detail. Class-leading fuel economy and emissions? Check. Biggest boot (with the seats up)? Check. Lowest company car tax rating? Check. Lowest insurance group? Check.
The list goes on, and it's bolstered by a very low starting price and a high standard level of equipment. The engine range isn't as extensive as its rivals, with only 1.6 and 2.0-litre petrol engines on offer, but the familiar 1.7-litre diesel lump is more than obliging and, in its lower-powered Blue Drive Active guise, exceptionally efficient.
The car's even easy on the eye. Hyundai's 'fluidic' design language transfers to a large estate rather well, and the i40 makes a better fist of hiding its bulk than many of its competitors, including the Mondeo.
In fact, without actually driving the car, it feels like the manufacturer's European division - which is directly responsible for the i40 - has generated a model of the i10's masterly calibre from another standing start. However, Hyundai's tick-box attitude to car building does encounter a few issues when you go for a spin.
Clearly at some point in the development process the engineers were reminded that European buyers (especially those getting one thanks to their employers) favour refinement and comfort over all other attributes; consequently the i40 is hushed and generally pliant, but also ponderous and disappointingly anonymous to drive.
Primarily this is because the its's power steering has been loaded with too much artificial weight off centre and that makes the car feel cumbersome through the twists and turns of an A road, and eventually tiresome during the constant lane changes of a motorway journey.
The dynamic grumble is unfortunate, because beneath the unnatural burden the i40 seems more than capable enough of sustaining brisk progress (so long as you avoid the underpowered 1.6-litre petrol) and the cabin's capacious, airy atmosphere offers a much more easy-going environment than most mainstream estates.
It's a credit to Hyundai's recent output that the i40's minor shortcoming was a little unexpected, just as it's a testament to the rest of the car that it doesn't drastically detract from its appeal. A significant proportion of customers will still find the i40's value for money, spaciousness and economy easily good enough reasons for buying. Only those keen to extract a bit more enjoyment from their workhorse will want to explore the more invigorating options on the menu.
1. Sound-suppressing refinement
2. Copious amounts of standard kit
3. Plenty of space hidden in a handsome body
We don't like:
1. Misjudged steering
2. Smaller petrol utterly redundant
3. Some interior surfaces could do with better finish
Most sensible: 1.7 CRDi 114bhp Blue Drive Active
Most fun: 1.7 CRDi 134bhp Style
Worst: 1.6 GDi
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