An unexpected drive
At 4,770 mm, the sheer length combined with a new concept in rather special motoring, marks the i40 Wagon as a most intriguing vehicle. It is the modern equivalent of the old station wagon. You know the concept... wooden struts outside to give it a rural look.
However, the emphasis remains on carrying capacity with both seats and luggage room.
The unframed question lurking in the recesses of this driver’s mind are all to do with the darkened rear side windows, the ‘rear privacy glass’, the fact that very important executives or others engaged in a need for confidentiality can be wafted around our road system, at high average speeds, in a great deal of comfort, without the hoi-polloi being remotely aware of the importance of the drive, marks the i40 Wagon as very special indeed.
On opening the rear lid the sheer size of the hold reveals that this vehicle is designed for five people and a lot of luggage. However, the really interesting fact is that in two-seat mode with the entire rear forming a luggage platform, the load capacity goes from an entertaining 553 litres, to a mind-bending 1,719 litres, without the use of a roof rack.
Initially there was some concern that the car, taking up 1,815 mm of road, without taking into account the door mirrors would, combined with its length, be a bit of a liability on lesser roads. In fact, the car is so well balanced and she handles so precisely that bulk fails to really enter into the equation.
However, going backwards without the rear view camera working as well as it does would entail slow progress using the door mirrors continuously. The parking assist was used extensively, given the fact that the steering parks the car, twirling away merrily.
Speed and braking are still under the control of the pilot’s feet, and believe me, the rear view camera then comes into its own as the parking sensors bleat their merry tune, while a degree of apprehension creeps into the controllers’ mind.
The 1,685cc CRDi diesel develops a reasonable 114 bhp at 4,000 rpm, and combined with a great amount of torque, 260Nm from 1,250-2,750 revs per minute, the car is well able to maintain high average speeds even when fully laden.
She’s a pleasantly responsive car to drive with a great many electronic wizardries, including cruise control for those owners engaged on long or lazy travel. Of more immediate relevance to drivers in Malta we obviously used on test the ABS, BAS (Brake Assist System), HAC (Hill Assist Control), ESS (Emergency Stop Control) and importantly, VSM (Vehicle Stability Management) and ESC (Electric Stability Control).
This has its own on/off switch, and on a dry day driving in Malta it was impossible to tell the difference when the switch was off. This says a lot for the car’s inherent stability.
The power steering was light and surprisingly positive, and even though the vehicle had only two people on board, the brakes were superbly responsive, never tried to ‘grab’ and were progressive rather than sudden and immediate.
I have a personal preference for a ‘normal’ handbrake rather than the contemporary trend towards having to use the brake pedal to engage, and disengage the hand brake, for I feel that most drivers will forget what they were taught as learners, and simply sit with the foot brake in use, using the hand brake only as a parking brake. Please prove me wrong.
The interior has been properly set up and finished to a very high standard. The electrically operated seats provided all the movements required, including a lift function. The steering column is also adjustable, tilt and telescopic modes being available. There are seven air bags, very good seat belts and reactive head restraints.
The feeling of safety within the passenger area is really most extraordinarily reassuring.
The 17-inch wheels rode the undulations well, and with MacPherson struts and coil springs up front with a multi-link type rear suspension with stabiliser bar the whole package seems ‘glued’ to the road, and the six-speed gearbox with its delightful manual change allowed the most to be made of every opportunity.
It almost goes without saying these days that the air-conditioning package and the various media functions are fantastic with many controls being conveniently placed on the steering wheel, and of course, the i40 is no different.
All-in-all this wagon not only looks great, is beautifully finished to very high standards with all the comforts required for happy travelling, but with its enormous potential for carting things, or people, the i40 fills the bill, and she is also available in sedan version to fill a market niche.
No hesitation at all.
Satisfactory for a small diesel. Bear in mind the fastest petrol version gets to 100 km/h in only 9.7 seconds.
‘Cool’ is the wrong word to use. I would give it five stars for multi-functionality.
In class, this car is right up there with the very best.
At a glance
4.3 l/100 km travelled.
1,685cc common rail injected diesel. Euro 5 rating.
Four cylinders, double overhead camshaft, 16 valves.
Gear change – six-speed manual
114bhp at 4,000 rpm.
260Nm from 1,250 to 2,750rpm.