wheels’ Imran Ma­lik is al­ways pok­ing fun at the es­tate body style, but will the hand­some new i40 by Hyundai have the last laugh?

Friday - - News -

Can the hand­some new Hyundai i40 change our test-driver’s mind about es­tates?

The other day, I saw a bat­tered, old, sec­ond­gen­er­a­tion Sonata, seem­ingly aban­doned on the side of the street. “That’s the best place for it,” I thought to my­self.

The Nineties wasn’t a par­tic­u­larly good pe­riod stylis­ti­cally, me­chan­i­cally or any kind of ‘cally’ for Hyundai – it built some ter­ri­ble cars, like that one.

That was then. Now the car­maker boasts some truly com­pe­tent mod­els like the flag­ship Cen­ten­nial, the sporty Ge­n­e­sis coupé and the Az­era saloon. All smart and so­phis­ti­cated cars blessed with flu­idic, sculp­tured good looks, but noth­ing has im­pressed me more than the new i40 – an es­tate.

Though this body style has never re­ally ap­pealed to me, it has to be said that the i40 is very at­trac­tive; I like the creases on the body, those bold head­lights fea­tur­ing LEDs and the sculpted flanks. The high­est com­pli­ment I think I can pay this car is that it has its own vis­ual, and very dis­tinct, iden­tity. This, when most new cars on the road look quite alike, is a real feather in its cap and helps it stand out from the crowd. There aren’t that many es­tates on our roads that you can say are sleek or stream­lined, that’s for sure.

Ad­mir­ing glances were aplenty dur­ing my few days spent with it,

and aside from the good looks, the i40 proved not only to be a de­cent per­former, but prac­ti­cal too. For in­stance, the boot nor­mally holds 553 litres, but drop the rear seats and it grows to a cav­ernous 1,719 litres.

Aside from be­ing huge, it also fea­tures a natty cargo net along with a ton­neau cover, which al­lows you to pack items in and stop them from slid­ing around when you get a lit­tle heavy-handed with the steer­ing and throt­tle. And there’s a real chance you might – the i40 may only have a 2.0-litre, 16-valve four-pot with vari­able valve tim­ing mated to a six-speed au­to­matic pow­er­ing the front wheels, but it pro­duces a rea­son­able 163bhp at 6,500rpm – just about enough to keep pace with fast-mov­ing traf­fic.

Even though this is a large car mea­sur­ing 4,770mm long, 1,815mm wide and 1,470mm high, it han­dles well. You can’t

re­ally tell you’re driv­ing some­thing with five doors, and that’s thanks to the pre­cise power steer­ing and de­cent throt­tle re­sponse.

It isn’t sporty, nor is it par­tic­u­larly quick, but it han­dles well, absolutely looks the part and has a tidy in­te­rior, mak­ing this quite an all-rounder.

The cabin – decked out with gloss­black fin­ishes to the dash and cen­tre con­sole, giv­ing it a more up­mar­ket look – may be sim­plis­tic in terms of de­sign, but more im­por­tantly it is easy to live with and user friendly.

The gauges and con­trols have been po­si­tioned just right, while the qual­ity of the ma­te­ri­als in here is good. There’s plenty of leg-, headand shoul­der room for front-seat oc­cu­pants, while those in the back will have lit­tle rea­son to com­plain as it’s just as roomy there.

You’ll eas­ily get five adults into the i40 with­out a prob­lem and still have more than enough space to load the back with all sorts of lug­gage, as I found my­self do­ing while on air­port duty the day be­fore the car was to be re­turned to Hyundai.

I was grate­ful that I had this tester as it gob­bled up three bags and a pram and still had room to spare. How­ever, with the added weight, the 2.0-litre un­sur­pris­ingly strug­gled to keep pace.

Once I had ditched my pas­sen­gers and their bags, the i40 breathed a sigh of re­lief, but the re­al­ity is you won’t buy this and then not use it to ferry peo­ple and their lug­gage around. Some­thing with a bit more guts should prob­a­bly have been made avail­able – shove a V6 un­der that bon­net, Hyundai!

It felt com­posed on the go and you have to re­ally try to up­set the ride; there is some body roll, but gen­er­ally the chas­sis han­dles road im­per­fec­tions with­out much fuss. Though it coped ad­mirably in the com­fort and prac­ti­cal­ity stakes, a tad more power might have been use­ful.

Hyundai is mak­ing much bet­ter cars than it used to and I doubt a cou­ple of decades from now we’ll find any of its cur­rent range aban­doned on the side of the street.

Those days are long gone, and if all es­tates are as at­trac­tive, com­fort­able and prac­ti­cal as this i40, I may be­come a fan of them yet.

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