A dy­namic so­lu­tion . . .

Hyundai has put a damp­ener on i45 crit­ics, write Paul Pot­tinger and Craig Duff

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Industry News -

THE kick­ing crit­ics gave their i 4 5 sedan has forced Hyundai to make ex­ten­sive re­vi­sions of the sedan’s ride and han­dling as part of its 2011 model range roll­out.

When the strik­ingly de­signed mid-size sedan was re­leased in May, it re­ceived a pos­i­tive re­ac­tion for its value, fea­tures and size, but de­ri­sion for its sloppy dy­nam­ics.

The de­fault set-up, which has not pre­vented the i45 be­com­ing South Korea’s top-sell­ing pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cle, is too soft and gen­er­ally un­re­solved for this mar­ket.

Em­bar­rass­ingly for Hyundai, its ix35 has been the brunt of sim­i­lar crit­i­cism just as its sub­sidiary, Kia, has em­ployed en­gi­neer Graeme Gam­bold to sort its equiv­a­lent SUV, the Sportage. The lat­ter’s clearly su­pe­rior dy­nam­ics have the par­ent com­pany play­ing catch up.

Part of the crit­i­cism stems from the fact the i30 earned cars­Guide Car of the Year sta­tus in 2007 — and the new ar­rivals weren’t seen to live up to that rep­u­ta­tion for all­round re­fine­ment.

Hyundai is anx­ious to point out the i45 stresses qual­ity value for money as it moves to shed the lin­ger­ing rem­nants of its drive­away then chuck-away im­age.

‘‘From launch our po­si­tion has been the i45 is an all-round pack­age and we felt we have done that ex­tremely well,’’ prod­uct plan­ner Roland Rivero says. ‘‘There was, of course, a hand­ful of re­views that said from the dy­namic side it doesn’t tick the box.

‘‘Our fo­cus was more at­tuned to Camry-like han­dling. It was never meant to be a sport car — I’d just like to point that out.’’

Even so, Rivero says am­pli­tude-se­lec­tive dampers on Pre­mium mod­els have been re­cal­i­brated and in­tro­duced on Ac­tive and Elite model vari­ants.

Springs are firmed by up to 15 per cent to re­duce pitch and dive, and thicker sta­biliser bars now ar­rest body roll. The hy­draulic steer­ing— crit­i­cised by many, in­clud­ing cars­Guide— has not been re­set, but the sus­pen­sion changes are said to re­sult in a bet­ter-weighted steer­ing set up.

‘‘ It’s con­fi­dence in­spir­ing for those driv­ing in a more spir­ited man­ner, but we have been very care­ful not to alien­ate cus­tomers who have al­ready bought the i45,’’ Rivero says.

These re­vi­sions are part of a 2011 up­grade pack­age that in­clude more fruit for a slight price rise.

Priced from $29,590 to $38,990, the i45 gets satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion with Blue­tooth stan­dard on the Pre­mium model and as a $1000 op­tion on Ac­tive and Elite vari­ants.

Premi­ums also get heated front seats as stan­dard and all of the mod­els have in­creased sound dead­en­ing to counter crit­i­cism of NVH mea­sures.

The i20 small hatch gets the old Volk­swa­gen Golf-like ‘‘blue hue’’ in­stru­ment light­ing to go with the Blue­tooth that’s stan­dard on all trim lev­els. The base Ac­tive has side and cur­tain airbags stan­dard to match the rest of the range’s fives­tar ANCAP rat­ing. New pric­ing is $15,490-$23,490.

The i30 earns Blue­tooth on all trim lev­els, mi­nor styling touches, in­clud­ing sil­ver roof rails on wag­ons, one touch in­di­cat­ing sig­nals and head­lamp es­cort func­tion. Prices start at $19,590 ($19,990 drive­away), up to $30,090.

The 2011 ix35 range has rear park­ing sen­sors and re­vised Mo­tor Driven Power Steer­ing (MDPS) and tele­scopic ad­just­ment. AWD mod­els get am­pli­tude-se­lec­tive dampers with prices now from $26,990 to $38,490.

Hyundai spokesman Ben Her­sh­man says the changes are in­tended to en­sure Hyundai holds on to its grow­ing rep­u­ta­tion.

‘‘Our cus­tomers across the range say they want Blue­tooth, so we’ve de­liv­ered,’’ he notes.

‘‘When we launched the i45 we tested cus­tomer re­ac­tion and they felt it was a good thing. That hasn’t changed, but we’ve ad­dressed the con­cerns of a num­ber of the me­dia who felt the sus­pen­sion/steer­ing set-up wasn’t good enough.’’

‘‘This car was never in­tended to take on an en­thu­si­asts’ ve­hi­cle like the Mazda6 or Suzuki Kiza­shi. It is aimed di­rectly at the likes of the Camry and on that ba­sis we think we have a very good prod­uct.’’

‘‘The changes to the 2011 model line-up im­prove the dy­nam­ics, but it’s not some­thing a lot of the cus­tomers in this mar­ket are concerned about. This (the re­vised sus­pen­sion) is to deal with those who do.’’

Mar­ket cor­nered: the i45’s dy­nam­ics weren’t a deal-breaker, but they’ve been im­proved all the same.

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