The medium car market is one of most hotly contested. Toyota, Honda, Mazda, Subaru, and Holden have dominated the category for years. Now Hyundai wants a piece of the action, and they’re putting forth a valiant effort with their mid-size Hyundai i45.
Launched in 2010, the Hyundai i45 is the stylish replacement for the rather vanilla Sonata. Using the new Fluidic Sculpture design language, Hyundai’s California design studio penned one of the most provocative medium sedans on the market today.
There’s a large chrome grille, flanked by massive headlights that flow into the coupe-like curved roofline. The bonnet has four ripples that flow down into the grille, and there’s a prominent convex character line that runs the length of the car, through the door pulls, and around to the massive LED tail lamps. The Hyundai i45 is more dramatic than a medium-size sedan has a right to be, and the interior’s just as unique.
Open the door and you’re greeted by a soft-touch dash that flows into an elegant centre stack, flanked by vertical air vents, and trimmed with metallic and piano black materials. The stack houses a monotone LCD display or a vibrant colour display in Premium models. Several two-tone upholstery themes add even more visual drama, and all the materials feel first-rate.
Speaking of the Hyundai i45 Premium, this range-topping luxury model comes with a standard panoramic glass sunroof, which Hyundai says will insulate the cabin from heat and cold better than a conventional steel roof. It also has a slick power sunshade that closes with the touch of a button to give you a hardtop feel on hot days. Other amenities of the Premium include sporty 18-inch wheels with a Sport suspension and driver’s side seat memory.
Under the bonnet, the base Active trim gets a 121kW 2.0L 4-cylinder petrol engine, and either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. The Hyundai i45 Active is a somewhat slow, sluggish vehicle, intended mostly for fleet customers. The mid-range Elite, and Premium models get a 148kW 2.4L direct injected 4-cylinder, which is better suited to motivating a car of this size.
The more popular Hyundai i45 Elite comes outfitted like a luxury car twice its price. There’s standard leather, 17-inch alloys (these smaller diameter wheels help improve the ride considerably), keyless entry and ignition, and paddle shifters when equipped with the 6-speed auto. For the money, this model makes a very nice commuter. And with a fuel consumption of just 7.9L/100km, the Hyundai i45 Elite is economical too.
The base Hyundai i45 Active gets a wheezy 121 kW 2.0L petrol-4, which is capable of 7.6L/100km when equipped with the 6-speed auto. The larger 2.4L GDI engine makes a more suitable 148kW, and consumes 7.9L/100km.
All versions of the Hyundai i45 get stability and traction control, ABS with brakeforce distribution and brake assist, 6 airbags including side curtain protection for both rows, a hill-hold function, an alarm, automatic headlights, fog lights, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with in-built audio controls for the 6-speaker stereo which can play CDs or connect to an iPod/USB device. Elite models get leather seats, parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers, and the bigger engine. Top-shelf Hyundai i45 Premium models get the glass roof, stiff suspension, and a big touchscreen with navigation.
The Hyundai i45 sits amid stiff competitors like the Subaru Liberty, Mazda6, Ford Mondeo, and Toyota Camry. Nearly all of those cars ride and handle better than early versions of the Hyundai i45. When the car was released in 2010, critics railed against its uncomfortable ride and lacklustre handling. Hyundai responded by retuning the suspension the following year. But to some, the car’s chassis can feel unsorted on all but the smoothest roads.
The comfort issue is, of course, relative to an individual’s taste. Many people bought the i45s, so the comfort is not that large an issue. They come pretty well kitted out too. Some features found on the base i45 aren’t even available on the other cars, making the i45 a well-equipped bargain.