On the surface, the Hyundai i40 Blue Drive looks a little bit cynical.
As we all know, carmakers are nothing these days without an environmentally conscious sub-brand; Blue Drive is Hyundai’s. It signals a variant of a familiar model that’s especially fuel-efficient.
Just so you don’t miss it, the i40 wears a particularly prominent brace of badges. There are massive ‘Blue Drive’ logos on the front guards and another that simply reads ‘i40 Blue’ on the tailgate.
How does this particular i40 earn its Blue status? Quite easily: it’s the only i40 in the range with a manual transmission and it has stop-start technology. That’s pretty much it.
The 100kW 1.7-litre turbo diesel engine is the same as any other i40, save a slight retune that liberates another 10Nm of torque for the manual car: total 330Nm. The Blue Drive’s wheels and low-rolling resistance tyres are carried over from the entry-level i40 and there are no aerodynamic enhancements.
See what I mean about being a bit cynical?
However, small changes achieve big improvements. The Combined fuel consumption figure of 4.5 litres is outstanding for a medium-size wagon and 1.1 litres better than the (non-Blue) automatic i40 diesel. To put that figure into context, a Toyota Camry Hybrid consumes 5.2 litres. Even though it’s diesel, the i40 still manages to stay ahead of the hybrid on CO2 as well: 119g/km versus 121g/km.
So yes, it’s an exceptionally clean car. Also one that looks cool, is enjoyable to drive and can carry the kids’ bikes when you need it to.
The i40 range hasn’t been selling as well as Hyundai New Zealand had initially hoped. To the extent that plans to launch an i40 sedan (slightly smaller and much more stylish than the i45) are now on hold. Nobody’s quite sure why, but the fact that New Zealanders are abandoning medium-sized wagons for crossover vehicle is at least partly to blame.
That’s a shame, because the i40 is arguably the best thing that Hyundai sells in this country at the moment. The Blue Drive won’t necessarily boost sales on its own account because its appeal is pretty limited thanks to the manual gearbox, but it does provide the brand with a halo model and some eco-bragging-rights. At least Hyundai isn’t cheeky enough to charge a premium for entry to the Blue Drive club: at $47,490 this car remains the entry-level point for i40 and is $1500 cheaper than the otherwise-identical diesel-automatic model.
I thoroughly enjoyed the i40 Blue Drive, but the fact that it was very easy on the wallet was only a small part of the appeal. The 1.7-litre diesel engine is impressive for a small-capacity powerplant but can feel a little bit breathless in automatic form when you’re pressing on; the six-speed manual gearbox gives the powerplant that extra bit of verve and a much more engaging nature – all the better to enjoy the i40’s capable chassis.
It’s hard to feel short-changed in the entry-level i40, regardless. It rides better on 16-inch wheels, the cloth seats are cooler and more comfortable than the leather upholstery in the more upmarket Elite versions and you could hardly call this car sparse: it still has Bluetooth, full iPod integration and even a few impressive detail features, such as one-touch triple-flash turn indicators.
So please buy an i40 today, otherwise we’ll all be driving ix35s.