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Hyundai’s i40 takes shape

Flow chart: Hyundai's i-flow sedan concept will morph into the i40 wagon by March.

Wagon version of Hyundai’s Euro-centric i40 gets ready to join i45 sedan in Oz

15 Nov 2010

DEVELOPMENT of Hyundai’s upcoming i40 is now in its final phase, judging by a road-ready prototype spotted by GoAuto in Korea recently.

Due to make its global debut at the Geneva motor show in March, the all-new VF-series mid-sizer will first emerge as a wagon, based on the same front-wheel-drive platform as the YF-series i45 sedan launched in Australia in May, as well as sister company Kia’s upcoming Optima.

While an i40 hatchback has been ruled out, the i40 wagon will be followed six months later by a sedan derivative inspired by Hyundai’s edgy ‘i-flow’ concept from this year’s Geneva show.

However, the booted i40 will not go on sale in Australia.

Hyundai Motor Company Australia hopes to introduce the i40 wagon alongside the i45 sedan here next year, as part of its plan to be a top three player in the mid-size vehicle class.

Although we were strictly forbidden from photographing the pre-production i40 wagon – or anything else - at Hyundai’s sprawling Namyang R&D centre outside Seoul, its front-end bore a remarkable similarity to the striking i-flow concept.

While the i40 estate wears a derivation of Hyundai’s ‘fluidic sculpture’ design theme first seen on the ix35 small SUV and then the i45 – including a hexagonal grille and sweeping lines over the front wheels - at the rear it features a traditional wagon tailgate that, despite the car’s raking roofline, opens to reveal a sizeable load area.

Likely to be powered by an all-new 1.7-litre diesel engine (Europe will also get 2.0 and 2.2-litre diesels plus 1.6 and 2.0-litre petrol engines), the i40 five-door should represent Hyundai’s first mid-size diesel wagon in Australia - not counting the compact 2.0-litre ix35 and mid-size 2.2-litre Santa Fe diesel crossovers.

Earmarked initially – at least in Korea – for use in the ix35 and Kia’s new Sportage, the 103kW/330Nm 1.7-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel is a smaller sibling to the 2.0-litre R-Series diesel engine already available in Australia’s ix35 and Sportage, and the 2.2-litre R-Series diesel in the Santa Fe.

Hyundai’s new small-capacity diesel is yet to be officially revealed, but the i-flow concept was powered by Hyundai’s first diesel-electric hybrid drivetrain, which matched a 1.7-litre engine with two-stage turbocharging, a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission and a lithium-ion polymer battery pack to emit just 85g/km of CO2.

The i-flow concept was shorter, lower and wider than the i45, which is powered exclusively by a 2.4-litre petrol four. Riding on a 2800mm wheelbase, it measured 4780mm long, 1850mm wide and 1420mm high, while the i45/Sonata is 4820mm long, 1835mm wide and 1470mm high, and sits on a 2795mm wheelbase.

1 center imageLeft: Hyundai i-flow. Below: Hyundai i45.

The addition of the diesel i40 wagon would better equip Hyundai in the face of stiff new competition in the form of an all-new generation of Toyota Australia’s top-selling Camry, a redesigned Passat sedan and wagon from Volkswagen, the 407-replacing 508 range from Peugeot, a facelifted C5 range from Citroen and a freshened Epica sedan from Holden – all by the third quarter of next year.

Ford this week began the rollout of its facelifted Mondeo hatch and wagon (but not sedan) range, while the Camry will remain a sedan-only proposition and Australia’s top-selling privately purchased mid-sizer, the Mazda6, continues to be available in sedan, hatch and wagon body styles.

While the i40 (and i45) were benchmarked against the Mazda, both models were developed entirely in Korea.

Hyundai’s mid-size model strategy would mirror Honda’s successful two-pronged medium/large segment strategy with the four-cylinder Accord Euro (out of Japan) and four-cylinder and V6-engined Accord series (made in Thailand).

More Kizashi variants from Suzuki plus General Motors’ Opel/Vauxhall Insignia range – with which the i40 is designed to compete directly in Europe – could also add significant spice to Australia’s medium vehicle category by 2012.

Currently, however, of the mainstream mid-size models, only the Mazda6, Mondeo and Subaru’s Liberty are available in wagon form.

HMCA director of marketing Oliver Mann told GoAuto that in lieu of an i45 wagon, the five-door i40 five-door would bolster sales of the i45 four-door in Australia’s medium vehicle segment.

“It will offer us a wagon to complement the i45 sedan,” he said.

HMCA CEO Edward Lee told GoAuto on the eve of last month’s Sydney motor show that the i40 wagon was a good chance for Australia.

“This car (the i40) is under study,” said Mr Lee.

“We are considering whether we can sell both the i40 and i45 in Australia. We still have to figure out how to differentiate the i45 from the i40, but it is still very early days.

“I think we may have a market opportunity with the i40 wagon.”

If sold here, the i40 wagon would be priced at a premium over the i45, which currently kicks off at $29,590 for the MY11 Active.

The success of the Sonata in Korea, where it is the nation’s top-selling model, and North America has not been matched by the i45 in Australia, where supply issues restricted its sales to 1332 vehicles between May and October, for a 2.6 per cent share of the mainstream medium segment.

“In the medium class, only one – the Camry – is selling more than 2000 units a month,” said Mr Lee. “All the others are about 500 per month, and we are catching up very quickly with the i45.

“We aim to be a top-three player in the medium class in Australia.”

If the i40 wagon is approved for Australia, it would follow a bevy of all-new Hyundai models to be released in Australia next year, starting with the new MD Elantra small sedan (to be known here as the i35) in the second quarter.

Hyundai will also launch a redesigned RB Accent sedan in the third quarter and the all-new Veloster compact coupe in the final quarter of 2011.

HMCA continues to study the potential for the i10 micro-car to be positioned below the i20, which is also produced in India, after stocks of the seven-year-old Getz hatch – production of which ends in December – are exhausted by mid-2011.

The redesigned Grandeur large sedan, which will be launched in Korea within weeks, has been ruled out for release in Australia and, as we’ve reported, neither the turbo or hybrid versions of the i45 – which continues to be known as the Sonata in Korea and North America – are likely to be produced in right-hand drive.

Replacements for the popular i30 small hatch and Santa Fe medium SUV are also expected to emerge globally within 12 months, but, as we reported last week, it remains unclear whether next year’s upgraded version of the lauded Genesis large sedan will be produced in RHD for Australia.

The Genesis coupe and Hyundai’s flagship Equus limousine, which has just been introduced in the US, will not appear in RHD guise until they are replaced post-2013.

What's coming from Hyundai:
MD i35/Elantra sedan Second quarter 2011
RB i25/Accent sedan Third quarter 2011
FS Veloster coupe Fourth quarter 2011
VF i40 wagon TBC
PA i10 hatch TBC

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