Wagons may be big again
When they’re as good as the Hyundai i40, station wagons could make a comeback, writes Dave Moore
The station wagon as we know it has rather taken a back seat to the crossover and SUV in recent years, as people try to ‘‘ruggedize’’ their lifestyles however artificially, even if most of their off-roading means turning into a driveway or negotiating a supermarket carpark.
There are signs that wagons are having a bit of a resurgence in recent times and such a trend is unlikely to be hindered when wagons as stunning to look at as the Hyundai i40 start to enter New Zealand showrooms.
With a familiar drop-through Hyundai grille and a signature sweeping side crease to connect it to other recent offerings from the Korean concern, the i40 adds a long, gently tapered five-door load carrier profile to the mix and ends up better looking than any of them. Another nice touch is the rear pillar’s subtle reverse curve. It could be something of a trend-setter.
The body’s taper does not compromise load access, as it does with the similarly-shaped Avensis II from Toyota. I found it would gobble up an armchair without effort, something the Japanese wagon couldn’t do with the same item of furniture. There’s under floor storage too and good strong-looking ‘‘eyes’’ for a load net – what a pity that Hyundai doesn’t offer the net as part of the package.
While the load capacity is impressive, at 553 litres seats up and 1719 litres seats folded, back seat space is good too, with enough legroom to cope with large adults sitting behind sizeable front seat occupants without any trouble.
But the place to be is definitely up front, where the driver and passenger seem to have at least as much room as the slightly larger i45 sedan. Good dash materials, quality cloth and well-shaped seats conspire with nice detailing – for the most part – to give the owner/user a high ‘‘feel good’’ rating. In contrast, the sound system’s information screen is very poor, with crude graphics, a curious blue-grey background and it proves almost impossible to read in bright sunlight.
This is surprising when compared with the thought that’s gone into the rest of the car, with all of its controls including those on the steering wheel being simple and clear and its easy to use bluetooth, MP3 and ipod connections all stowed away neatly behind a console lid, next to a phone charging plug.
While the materials are dark in the entry-point i40s, it isn’t dingy at all and surprisingly classy, all told.
Things get better in the more expensive Elite models which throw in leather, climate control and a much nicer sound system and screen, more sporting alloy wheels and a parking camera.
The range starts at $44,990 for a 2.0-litre 130kw six-speed automatic i40, while the Elite version asks $49,990, with the 1.7-litre turbodiesel version, also with a six-speed automatic, adding a premium of $4000 in each case.
The ultimate i40 is the diesel Elite Limited which adds even more fruit, including a panoramic sunroof.
If there’s a complaint about standard equipment, I’d like to see rear parking sensors in the base models, as that smart, tapered silhouette has one drawback; a restricted view to the rear.
HYUNDAI i40: will take the form of a sportswagon offering for the worldwide market including new Zealand and Australia.