Hyundai i45 2010 Review
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The Hyundai i45, which replaces the Sonata, arrives with aggressive pricing, a feature-stacked package and out-there styling and at a time when the South Korean company is in an upward sales spiral. However, the i45 doesn’t live up to the great expectations out on the road with spongy handling, vague steering, a flaring gearbox and intrusive tyre noise.
PRICE AND TRIM LEVELS
HMCA sales director Damien Meredith expects they will sell about 500 a month or 4000 this year. Hyundai had intended to launch the vehicle on the market on Monday (May 24) with two spec levels. The Elite costs $34,990 and has a 2.4-litre, 148kW/250Nm petrol engine and six-speed automatic transmission. The up-spec Premium has the same engine and transmission and costs $37,990.
However, since placing its orders, Hyundai Motor Company Australia (HMCA) has been able to acquire extra production allowing the addition in July of a base model Active at $29,490 in six-speed manual and $30,990 for the auto. This is up $1500 on the base model Sonata it replaces, but standard equipment is impressive.
HMCA marketing director Oliver Mann says they want to 'lead the class with the highest level of spec in this segment'.
Active comes with six airbags, stability control, piano-black interior trim, hill-start assist, fog lamps, cloth/leather seats, cruise control, 16-inch alloys with a full-size spare and USB/iPod connectivity. The Elite adds full leather upholstery, 17-inch alloys, smart key start, rear parking sensors, climate control, paddle shifters and rain-sensing wipers. Premium adds an electric sunroof, 18-inch alloys, better suspension damping, electrochromatic rearview mirror, premium audio with woofer and electric front seats with two driver-position memories.
It is styled in the US and features a lot of fussy panel creases with a bonnet reminiscent of the Chrysler Crossfire. There are a lot of details around the fog lamps and lights and plenty of chrome bling on the windows sills, handles and grille. The roofline swoops like a Mercedes CLS or Passat CC for a four-door coupe look, but the rear seats have been set down and back to preserve head and leg room.
Andre Hudson, manager at Hyundai’s design studio in southern California where the exterior was conceived, says he is proud that the coupe roof and small ‘porthole’ window in the C pillar has been retained from his original drawings. However, it doesn’t help with a lack of rear-three-quarters vision that is inherent in this coupe-like design strategy.
The i45’s styling will be divisive in the marketplace, but certainly will set it apart from the crowd. Build quality is superb as is now the standard equipment list with this Korean manufacturer, however the old-fashioned boot hinges are a letdown as they encroach about 15cm into the boot space.
The interior, which was designed in South Korea, is similar to the interior of the new ix35. It’s classy, functional and has quality switches and controls.
On the safety side, Mann says it is expected to achieve a five-star rating. He says it not only has six airbags and a suite of electronic driver aids, but also rigid hot-stamped steel chassis that makes it safer and quieter.
I had great expectations for the i45 driving experience on the launch in the Brisbane Valley this week, but was let down by the overly plush ride and vague steering.
Mann claims the vehicle was heat-tested in Australia and also tested for suspension tweaks on our bumpy roads. However, the vehicles we drove felt like they had American-spec suspension. Even the Premium model with 'amplitude selective dampers' (a sliding valve adjusts the dampers according to terrain) feels light and vague in the front with hefty understeer and a floating rear end.
The two ends of the car seem out of phase with each and the steering doesn’t feel connected to the road surface. It doesn’t change direction well and gets nervous over uneven surfaces. On some of the more abrupt bumps and corrugations, there is steering rack rattle and kickback through the wheel.
The suspension also hit the bump stops a couple of times on serious divots and unloaded without much control, sending the car bouncing down the road. It needs some serious tweaking on the dampers and springs, plus some tightening of the steering.
The vehicle is also under-tyred with 215mm Kuhmo and Hankook rubber that creates quite a bit of noise in the cabin. However, wind noise and engine noise is well under control in the noise-damped interior.
The Theta II four-cylinder seems up to the task with a claimed 7.9 litres per 100km in the manual model. Hills tend to take its breath away and the automatic transmission flares a little when asked to change cogs.
In this segment, the i45 stacks up well for features, price and style against the conservative crew such as the Camry and Accord, but it fails to make a dent in the more dynamic rivals such as Mazda6, Liberty, Mondeo and Passat.
Prices: $29,490 (Active manual); $30,990 (Active auto); $34,490 (Elite auto); $37,990 (Premium auto); $450 (metallic paint)
On sale: May 24
Engine: 2.4-litre, transverse, 16-valve, DOHC 4-cylinder
Power: 148kW @ 6300rpm
Torque: 250Nm @ 4250rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual (Active only), 6-speed auto
Brakes: 300/284mm ventilated discs
Dimensions (mm): 4820 (l), 1835 (w), 1470 (h), 2795 (wheelbase), 140 (clearance)
Kerb weight: 1506kg (man), 1528kg (auto)
Suspension: McPherson struts (front), multi-link (rear)
Safety: 6 airbags, active front headrests, stability control, ABS, hill start assist
Wheels: 16-inch alloys (Active), 17 (Elite), 18 (Premium), full-size spare
Economy: 8L/100km (man), 7.9 (auto)
CO2: 191g/km (man), 188 (auto)
Fuel tank: 70 litres
Range and Specs
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