Hyundai has established itself as the true giant-killers of the automotive world, with good-looking, quality product served up at a palatable price. Currently there isn’t a carmaker around that doesn’t pay attention when the Korean firm releases a fresh offering. But for Hyundai it’s no longer about the journey from mediocrity to earning a seat at the head table, it’s about reinforcing position and feasting on the fruits of its efforts. Hyundai’s new i45 represents the latest stone to be loaded into the sling and as it’s launched into the competitive mid-size sedan market keen observers are wondering if it will strike its target or fall in the dust. Car and SUV spent a week with the i45 to chart its flight-path towards success.
The first step towards winning over buyers and opposing badge snobbery is with sharp styling and the i45 delivers in full with a busy blend of razored lines and raked-back surfaces. Clearly drawing from European inspiration the i45 makes a statement at the front with a blinging chrome grille, teardrop headlights and a gaping front air dam with deep-set fog lamps. Along the sides a deep rising crease runs front to rear finishing in wrap around rear light clusters. At the back twin chrome exhaust tips sit below a short boot deck and a long, swooping rear windscreen. Overall the i45 is a genuine looker, with an ultra-modern and exclusive look. The high beltline and coupe-like roof also work in a practical sense with ample headroom inside, and the long rear doors provide for easy entry. The executive look is finished off with smart 18-inch alloys in Elite trim – as tested.
The premium treatment with fluidic lines and solid build quality continues inside. Cool blue illumination and a silver-ringed instrument cluster look great, as do the brushed aluminium and chrome highlights. The dark plastics feel quality and are pleasant to the touch. The curved dashboard feeds into a gloss black centre control stack and while the switchgear is unorthodox in appearance it’s logically laid out and is easily operated. Audio and cruise controls are repeated on the leather-wrapped steering wheel and there’s a range of small storage options. On the i45 Elite the seats are trimmed in supple high-grade leather and would prove comfortable on long journeys.
In terms of interior space there’s plenty, with a wide divide between driver and passenger with rear occupants enjoying impressive leg and headroom. Luggage is also well catered for with the i45 boasting a deep boot with a Commodore besting capacity of 523-litres. The rear seat back also folds forward for transporting longer items.
Visibility in the i45 is fair, while it’s very good out the front with a well placed A-pillar, looking rearward is harder with the high rear deck and chunky C-pillars which now seems inherent in coupe-styled design.
In keeping with Hyundai’s ‘more-for-less’ ethos the i45 Elite is well endowed with standard equipment. The list includes rain sensing wipers, rear parking sensors, auto headlights, front and back heated seats, trip computer, electric sliding and reclining driver’s seat and a 6-disc 7-speaker stereo system including an 8″ sub-woofer.
So the i45 has the looks and all the gear but it’s what’s packed under the bonnet that really counts. That’s where the i45 Elite brings some heat with a 2.4-litre four-cylinder motor using direct fuel injection. It produces a healthy 148kW of power and 250Nm of torque which places it above most competitors in the segment. It’s a fairly willing engine and with peak power arriving at 6300rpm and torque at 4,600rpm it performs best higher in the rev range. Even with a 1,528 kerb weight the i45 can get up and go off the line with gusto when pushed, but its mid-range punch doesn’t hit quite as hard as the Honda Accord Euro or Mazda6.
The engine is married to a 6-speed traditional auto transmission that offers up slick and quick shifts. The ratios are well spaced and if manual changes are desired there are steering wheel mounted paddles to play with. The paddles function well and with the engines peaky nature can be easily used to drop down two gears for overtaking moves. Leave the auto box to its own devices and it’ll return a thrifty 7.9l/100km on the combined cycle.
Dynamically the i45 is set up more for luxury comfort than outright B-road performance. The ride around town and on the motorway is very agreeable with bumps and dips in the road easily absorbed. On more jarring NZ secondary roads the i45 exhibits some body roll and a natural tendency to understeer. This can make it difficult to hold a tight line when pushing hard on a country road. That said, the i45 has ample grip and traction and stability control systems that work well to keep it pointing straight.
The hydraulic assisted steering is ideal around town with a light feel, but on motorways and the open road it can be uncommunicative at times only offering minimal feedback, but this won’t bother most drivers. Refinement is overall fairly good, engine noise is well contained and tyre roar is only audible on coarse road surfaces.
If it all goes pear-shaped the i45 is well covered with ABS brakes with brake assist, a full electronic stability programme and front, side and curtain airbags ready to pop. There are also pretensioners on the front seatbelts, ISOFIX child seat anchor points and 3-point belts for all occupants.
The bottom line is that the new i45 plays to Hyundai’s traditional strengths well. It’s packed with equipment, has a spacious interior and is keenly priced. But the i45 also shows all Hyundai’s newer tricks as well, it has an impressive build quality using high-grade materials, rides like a luxury cruiser and has styling that won’t suit all tastes but is modern and very distinctive. In terms of driving dynamics the i45’s engine is strong but point-to-point it can’t quite match the Honda Accord Euro or Mazda 6. However, with all aspects considered it deserves strong consideration in this market segment. If the Toyota Camry is the Goliath of mid-size sedans in NZ then the i45 is squaring up as its David. Watch out for it on a street near you.
Price: $48,990 as tested. From $41,990
What we like:
- Brave and bold exterior styling
- Interior space and quality
- Useful powertrain
- Plenty of equipment
What we don’t like:
- Styling will polarize opinion
- Could be more dynamically focused
Words and photos: Adam Mamo
Other reviews of interest (click link):
Hyundai i45 Elite (2010) – Specifications
Transmission 6-speed Automatic
Power 148 kW / 6,300 rpm
Torque 250 Nm / 4,250 rpm
Weights and Dimensions
Length 4,820 mm
Width 1,835 mm
Height 1,475 mm
Towing Capacity Braked 1,700 kg
Towing Capacity Unbraked 750 kg
Min. Turning Radius 5.46 m
Kerb Weight (lightest / heaviest) 1,456 / 1,528 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity 70 litres
Boot Capacity (SAE) 523 litres
Fuel Consumption Combined 7.9 l / 100 km
Fuel Emissions 188 g/km