A dynamic solution . . .
Hyundai has put a dampener on i45 critics, write Paul Pottinger and Craig Duff
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.