As New Zealand is the only country in the world still selling the i45 (which is a rebadged Sonata), let’s have a look at whether you’d get one of those or the i40.
We took an (almost) back-to-back test of the two cars. First, you would expect because the i45 has 5 more of Hyundai’s ‘i’ points over the i40, that it would be more expensive, like a Mazda6 is more expensive than a Mazda3, but it’s not. The four-model i45 range starts at
$42,990 for the 2-litre petrol and goes up to $52,990 for the 2.4-litre petrol Elite Limited,
whereas the i40 range starts at $46,990 for the 1.7-litre diesel and your only other option is the 1.7 diesel Elite for $51,990.
Obviously there’s the initial choice between petrol and diesel. The i45 isn’t available with diesel, and the i40 doesn’t entertain petrol. Together, with this similar pricing, they have both sides of that equation covered.
Despite being from the same stable and having similar pricing, they’re very different on the inside. The seats are slightly different, but very adjustable. The i40 gets 10-way electric seat adjustment for the driver and 4-way for the passenger, whereas the i45 gives both the driver and passenger the same 10-way luxury with seat memory for the driver.
Performance is mixed. The i45 rides softer; it’s less engaging, but more relaxing. The i40 feels like it would leave it for dead in the corners and has more confidence. The brakes felt equally as strong. Both cars are quite quiet inside, and you only notice that the i40 is diesel under heavy acceleration or while idling with your window open.
Both cars ride on 225/45 tyres on 18-inch rims. The i45’s are the nicer-looking. Hyundai has adorned each car with chrome brightwork, but in different places. The i45’s sits prominently on the grille, with a strong line down the shoulder, while the i40’s more subtly frames the window line. Both get a splash on the door handles and a line across the boot.
If you go for the i45 Elite Limited it has a panoramic sunroof which you will probably never get $3000 of benefit from (that’s how much it adds to the Elite’s price), which really makes the $49,990 Elite the car to consider.
If you need to get a move on, the i45 has 148kW and 250Nm of torque versus the i40’s 100kW and 320Nm of torque. The i40 feels much more sluggish off the line with a noticeable (and occasionally frustrating) delay from when you put your foot down to when it comes into the power band, while the i45 is much more responsive. Once the i40 is moving, the diesel’s torque does work nicely in its favour, giving you good pulling power out of corners. The i45 has the edge in towing, though: 1700kg vs 1500kg on a braked trailer.
The i45 also trumps the i40 in boot space, but only just, with 523 litres vs 505 litres. Looking in the two boots, you’d be forgiven for not noticing any difference as both come with a fire extinguisher and first aid kid, plus you can fit longer loads through by folding down the rear seats.
When it comes to looks the i45 looks sleeker on the outside. Both cars are very well-designed with no obvious polarising elements. On the inside, the ergonomics are great. The i40, despite being the newer car, is lumbered with a cheap-looking blue LCD while the i45 gets an in-dash screen. Both cars have reversing cameras, but the i40’s is displayed in the rear view mirror.
Both cars get push button start/stop in the Elite models, Bluetooth phone integration, a reasonable-sounding stereo, plenty of controls on the steering wheel, and dual zone climate control air conditioning.
The i40 gets more safety features. While both cars get ABS with electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, electronic stability control, and traction control, the i40 gets 9 airbags over 6 in the i45, cornering brake control, vehicle stability management and hill start assist. Both cars have automatic headlights and wipers.
So, the verdict: the i45 has the more compliant ride, more power, feels slightly more plush inside and looks slightly more executive-focused, but the i40 has superior handling, better economy and more safety features. The i45 is what you would choose as a sensible mid-level exec car.
It feels solid; it’s the right size. It says that you care about the bottom line, but you also want some comfort and style. There are a number of better appointments in the i45, too, including the aforementioned power seats with memory settings.
The i40 is not that car; it’s more of a family vehicle with its enhanced safety features. You really can’t fault the i40s driving dynamics and overall accomplished demeanour on the road. With the vastly superior fuel economy the only thing you’re left wanting is the option of a bit more power when you need it.
But, overall, I would go for the i45 Elite at $49,990 and save myself $2,000 over the similarly capable, but slightly outdone i40. Yes, I will end up spending that extra $2000 on fuel within the first 30-40,000km, but I will have forgotten that long after the initial purchase price.
Prices as tested: i40 CRDi Elite $51,990; i45 Elite $49,990.
Words and photos: Darren Cottingham