2010 Hyundai i45 Launch Review

Tim O'Brien | 36 Comments


It's the mouse that roared – Hyundai. It has taken on the world and won. In the space of 25 years it has leapt from an automotive manufacturing backwater to become a global car-making colossus.

It has carved out market share everywhere. It’s now number five in the world and number four in Australia - whoever would have thought it?

There is not a top-ten car maker anywhere who is not feeling the hot breath of the Korean powerhouse on their neck.

Here, with the Getz number one, the i30 on a rapid march to the top, the iLoad at number two (and just wait till the i20 arrives), Hyundai is sweeping all before it.

Now we have Hyundai’s newest release to the Australian market, the family-sized i45. Having just returned from our first drive – and first close look – we can confidently assert that this car is going to send more than a few ripples through the local mid-size segment.

While the Sonata toiled manfully, the i45 changes the game.

2010 hyundai i45 active and premium first drive tmr photos 08

Few can match what it offers at its price point: starting at $29,490 for the manual Active (not yet released) and rising to $34,490 and $37,990 for the six-speed paddle-shift Elite and Premium models respectively, it loads one hell of a lot in behind those prices.

Neither Holden, Ford, Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mazda – no brand with a family-sized saloon in the showroom – can afford to look away. On style, and on the value of the package, this car, Hyundai’s i45, will force a response.

Well then, what makes the i45 so compelling? What are its strengths, and where is it weakest?

Pricing aside, its most obvious strength is its style. In the metal, this is one seriously handsome and well-presented car. There is an arresting artistry to its lines, and a sublime balance, that commands attention.

Hyundai describes it as “fluidic sculpture”. Its designer, Andre Hudson, who works out of Hyundai’s California design studio, said that he set out to create a car with “presence”.

He succeeded. And at just 34 years old, Hudson is typical of the youthful feel that runs through Hyundai.

With a deep rising crease running front to back, a swooping coupe-like roofline and a dramatic tucked-in tail, the i45 looks as modern as tomorrow.

There is no unnecessary artiface; front to back it works. More to the point, it carries, if anything, something of an exclusive air.

I’d perhaps prefer a little less chrome to the grille – but, in silver in particular, the i45 looks super.

Its shape also works in a practical sense. With a compact drivetrain up front (driving through the front wheels), the long roof and high beltline has created impressive leg and headroom inside.

The long rear doors, which follow the curve of the downward sloping roofline, offer good access to the rear (which also provides surprisingly good legroom).

The interior is really something special. It is not over-designed, there is a quality feel to the dash and interior surfaces, two nice edges sweep in from the sides and curve into a piano-black centre-stack with brushed aluminium and chrome highlights.

When you settle in behind the wheel, it immediately feels right.

With electric seat adjustment in the Premium model (manual in the Elite and the yet-to-arrive Active), reach and tilt steering wheel standard across the range and with well laid-out and attractive controls, it is easy to get comfortable and ‘set’ at the wheel.

Vision forward and behind is good: the strong A-pillars are placed so as not to intrude into the important lines of sight.

Trim, fit, style and finish of the interior is very impressive. The seats, while not offering a lot of lateral support, are inviting and comfortable and trimmed in high-grade leather in both Premium and Elite models.

It really feels a cut-above and it’s an interior that would be right at home in a considerably more expensive European.

Both Premium and Elite models carry a full-house of equipment. Keyless entry (proximity key), start button, six-speaker stereo, iPod and USB connectivity, aux-in, MP3, WMA and CD player, rain-sensing wipers (on Premium and Elite), cruise control, dusk-sensing headlights, fog-lights, speed-sensing auto door-locking… and so the list goes on.

While it offers a paddle-shift six-speed automatic as standard in both Elite and Premium models (the Active gets a six-speed manual option), the i45 comes back to the pack with its mechanical offering and on-road performance.

There is just one engine choice, a 2.4 litre DOHC direct injection four cylinder. It’s a good unit: its 148kW @ 6300rpm and 250Nm @ 4250rpm are a match for the Maxima 250 V6’s 134Kw and 228Nm, and also a match for the 148kW and 234Nm of Honda’s Accord Euro and Mazda6’s 125kW and 226Nm.

On the road though, the Honda feels the more willing of this group, with better rolling acceleration and a more lively and better-balanced engine.

(And, unfortunately, we won’t be seeing a diesel i45. Australia gets the YF North American platform, which can accommodate the hybrid and also a planned turbo-charged 2.0 litre version, rather than the VF European version, designed for the diesel.)

2010 hyundai i45 sonata overseas model 07

The 2.4 litre in the i45 sounds a little harsh over 5000rpm (to its 6500rpm redline), and it won’t start to gather its skirts until over 4000rpm.

But provided you don’t mind using the paddles, it can be hustled along pretty quickly. And, although weighing in at 1528kg, it can get away from the line smartly enough.

It is under 3000rpm that the i45 is a little lack-lustre. This means that when overtaking it needs to be ‘paddled’ back a couple of gears and the application of a heavy right foot to get out and around quickly. People used to driving a strong loping ‘six’ will be looking for a little more mid-speed power.

Interestingly, the transmission is also programmed to protect the durability of the engine and driveline components. Whether in manual mode, or auto, if you run it up to the redline, it will skip a gear on the next up-shift if you’re planted to the floor. It will also over-rule on some downshifts.

This characteristic is also, no doubt, to deliver the best fuel-use performance. Hyundai claims a city/highway average of 7.9 l/100km. We were treating things a little unkindly, but have no reason to doubt that claim.

The paddle-shift itself is pleasant to use, the ratios are nicely spaced, and the paddles well-shaped for ease of operation.

2010 hyundai i45 sonata overseas model 01

Around town, you will never notice the marginal power deficit of the four-cylinder engine (against a ‘six’) or those ‘designed-in’ quirks of the transmission. The i45 is so easy to drive, so light to steer and with a city-friendly turning circle, that most family buyers will find it a delight to punt around.

Its suspension tuning, leaning to comfort, is also designed with a leaning to town, urban and freeway use. It provides a nice ‘around town’ ride in soaking up small road imperfections.

It is only when you get the i45 onto our jarring secondary roads that some of the shortcomings in the suspension tuning, and overall steering dynamics, are exposed.

While the multi-function leather-wrapped steering wheel feels great – it’s the right size and nicely designed with a sloping hub – the steering itself is ‘woolly’ and lacking in feel at highway speeds.

Combined with a natural propensity to understeer, it can be a little difficult to find and hold a precise line if pressing ahead on a country run. Over a winding road, the Mazda6 and Honda Euro are sharper at the wheel.

Like any front driver, you can tuck the i45’s nose in by going in deep and lifting off with an accompanying quick dab on the brakes, but the exit can then be a little messy as the suspension rebounds.

Quite simply, the damping and suspension tune is not right. It’s as if the front and rear ends are at odds: not quite working together in the way they should.

Sure, not a problem in normal use, but if travelling quickly over rough or undulating tarmac, things feel unsettled and not quite ‘at home’.

At speed it can have its moments, like when we suddenly had to catch a seriously ‘light’ tail and a big sideways lift when finding a hollow in an off-cambered turn. We were going quickly, but not at the extreme.

Hyundai needs more Australian engineering input to the suspension tune (you’d reckon a set of Bilsteins and a good underbody specialist would sort it out).

There is also the matter of road roar which can become somewhat intrusive over coarse-chip roads. In the i45 it is resonance from the front end, rather than the rear, which is at fault here.

It is not bad, and a premium sound system certainly assists the i45’s travelling comfort, but this will also be something that Hyundai Australia will no doubt be looking to address.

Safety is very well catered-for with six air-bags - driver, passenger, side and curtain – anti-submarining front seat base, ABS, stability control, traction control, hill-start assist (standard across the range), day/night rear-view mirror, seat-belt warning lights and more.

Hyundai is aiming for a full 5-Star ANCAP rating when the i45 is tested later this year.

Our ‘First Drive’ Verdict

So, that’s our first drive. Will the i45 enjoy the same success for Hyundai as the i30? On the value of the package, although it is entering the toughest segment in the market, you would have to say it’s a chance.

With the kids having bolted, I am now in the target demographic for this car. Hyundai has family buyers 35-plus and empty-nesters in its sights for its new medium segment offering.

So, the question is, would I buy Hyundai’s seemly i45?

The short answer is yes. Despite its dynamic shortcomings, there is simply too much to the package to ignore: its five-year warranty, the equipment level, its premium feel, arrestingly handsome lines and what it offers for the money on the table, makes a very compelling case.

While any judgment on the artistry of a car’s lines is subjective, to these eyes the i45’s dramatic, deeply-creased swooping lines murder the main players in the segment for style. It simply looks terrific.

It also murders most for its standard level of equipment and the premium feel to its finish and interior trim.

Others in the sector provide better-balanced performance over secondary roads, but around town or on a freeway, who notices and who would care? It also has that five-year warranty and feels as strong as a vault.

So, Camry, Mazda6, Maxima and Accord be warned... here comes Hyundai’s i45.

While Suzuki’s new Kizashi is also going to shake things up, the i45 on style alone is going to win a heck of a lot of sales. And, for that elusive sense of quality, it is going to win even more.

Filed under: Featured, Hyundai, review, medium cars, petrol, sedan, fwd, hyundai i45, hyundai i45 elite, hyundai i45 active, hyundai i45 premium, hyundai road test, hyundai review, i45 review, hyundai i45 review, hyundai i45 road test, family, medium, 4cyl, 4door, tim o'brien

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  • sammy says,
    5 years ago
    for some reason i cant see the good looks you are talking about...
  • toesonthenose says,
    5 years ago
    I'm with you sammy, I think the front end looks way too fussy & overdone. And that line that goes through the doors to the tail lights looks ridiculous the front 3/4 view.
  • 5valvepercylinder
    5 valve per cylinder says,
    5 years ago
    1 like
    Very nice looking car, same goes for the cabin., aesthetics are more refined compared to cars like the Maxima and Camry but definitely in league with Accord, Mazda 6, Liberty and Kizashi.
  • Matthew Werner says,
    5 years ago
    1 like
    I'd wait for the turbo (204kW, 365Nm) smile

    I haven't seen one in the flesh yet but the pics have been growing on me since the first spy shots came out
  • baji says,
    5 years ago
    Tim, how does the i45's ride/steering/handling compare to the Camry? I still think that the Mazda 6 and Accord Euro will still have the better handling over the i45, but if the i45 is on par with or better than the camry, i simply don't see a reason anyone would still want a camry over the new hyundai.
    • Tim says,
      5 years ago
      Hi Baji, the chassis and suspension tune of the Mazda6 and Euro work a lot better than than the i45 - both are pretty sharp and responsive at the wheel; I lean to the Euro - just - but some prefer the new Mazda6 (and there is little in it).
      The Camry is different again. It doesn't have the precision of the two above but is predictable and well-sorted in my view (as is the Aurion). The Camry is engineered for family drivers and Australian conditions - city and country - and is competent, predictable and robust. It might lack a little feel and 'connection' at the wheel, but handles a lot more capably over rougher roads and with a bit of wind in the sails than the i45.
      But don't discount the i45... a run over a jarring secondary road may not be to its liking but gee it's loaded, presents very impressively and would appear beautifully built.

  • Steven Poyser says,
    5 years ago
    It looks like its growing, not a bad thing, thats just an observation. Overall a very stylish looking car in my opinion, but it seems that opinions of others are very divided
  • PeterG says,
    5 years ago
    A bit Passat and CLS but the twin blade razor look of the grille spoils it.Hopefully they fix the suspension with the turbo version otherwise could be an accident about to happen.
  • Godspeed says,
    5 years ago
    A pretty damn good effort for a Hyundai, and in its own right it'll be hard for many in this segment to overlook.

    Good on you TMR for not being apprehensive about listing its bad points either - keep it up as this only helps your credibility for all the road tests you do.
  • Callous says,
    5 years ago
    1 like
    They need to sorts their suspension out. This isn't the only site condemning the handling and one other site has been a lot less kind than you Tim. Of course these things are subjective and the majority of buyers won't understand the fuss if indeed they read the comments to begin with.

    There was much debate about the quality of plastics of the ix35 when it landed. I only just an hour go had a peak inside the ix35 at our local dealership. It was the base model and I couldn't see the cheapness that some have reported. Infact our dealership here in Cairns is also a Suzuki, Isuzu and Subaru dealer. For my tatses the ix35 had a much nicer interior appeal than the liberty/ outback and was above the Kizashi which I also looked at for the first time today. So it shows that taste is very much a personal thing.

    I had a look through the ix35, liberty, Kizashi and i30 and can say without biased that the Korean cars are excellent inside and out for fit and finish. If indeed the suspension on the i45 is as bad as claimed, they should immediately get a local specialist to look at it and offer a package as an option. The other thing I think is a mistake is the lack of the diesel offering. I love the styling but have only seen it in photos. Our dealership should have them this week so I can check it out in the flesh.

  • baji says,
    5 years ago
    Just had a look at the i45 today. Didn't get to go inside since the dealers were closed but from the outside, the i45 looks stunning. I don't even mind the grille. From a distance it looks small, but up close though it really is a lot bigger than it looks. The interior design is very nice, but i don't like some of the plastics used. They look rather dull and cheap. Its the grain of the plastics that's the problem - 6 and accord euro have nicer looking plastics. And the leather looks more like vinyl. But apart from that, i think the i45 will be a winner.

    About the suspension, i really wonder how hyundai still have not managed to get a decent suspension tune. They have massive budgets compared to smaller companies such as Suzuki and Mazda yet they still fail to produce suspension systems to rival others. I wonder if they give ride/handling a lower priority than everything else.

    I guess its a good thing that hyundai haven't yet perfected suspensions, as when they do, other car makers had better watch out.
  • Grumps
    Grumps says,
    5 years ago
    It's obvious the suspension set-up is U.S spec. Give Hyundai a couple of months and if they are smart about it they will fix it up.
  • jon says,
    5 years ago
  • says,
    5 years ago
    I think it's a very smart-looking car. It's unfortunate that one can't get a manual transmission in the higher-spec versions; I can't help thinking that it'd be extremely irritating when you want to give it the beans, and the computer decides, "you know what? I know better, and I don't want to go all out... so get over it", especially as it sounds like it needs a fair bit of coaxing to get it going.

    Sure, on paper it's a great package, with excellent safety features, a great warranty package, and a very friendly price tag, and it looks great both inside and out too, but if feels underpowered in the "everyday driving" rev-range, and actively refuses to be pushed hard, would it not be a very frustrating car to drive?
  • says,
    5 years ago
    This is an extremely good looking car and very similar in looks to the Passat CC which costs a squillion dollars more. Hyundai have come so far in design and quality since the days of the Excel! There are many Australians who think the idiot young female who screams past them in an Excel is still the target market for this marque. Not so --- and nor is the ignoramus who thinks he is Peter Brock and is SO concerned about the understeer/oversteer at 180km/h through some fictitious corner in the Blue Mountains. This is not a race car. It is a comfortable, great looking tourer with a good price for what is included in the package. This will really put the cat among the pigeons with Camry, Accord etc.
  • sammo8191
    sammo8191 says,
    5 years ago
    saw one on the road today, it certainly stood out!
    certainly a sleek looking machine, although the front is a bit too over-the-top i reckon
  • says,
    5 years ago
    just took delivery of mine today and couldn't be happpppppier luv it x
  • says,
    5 years ago
    I picked up my White Premium i45 last Friday, so far have done about 300kms in it.
    What a great car. I upgraded from a 04 Sonata (which was a great car for me, But boy does it look dated now smile )
    More than enough power in my book, Definately pins me in my seat..
    Fantastic looks, especially with the 18" wheels and Panarama roof.
    Interior is great as well, feels so classy, all the buttons and dials feel solid and well made.
    Sound system sounds great.
    Very happy so far, and if it is as reliable as my last Sonata, i can't see that ever changing..
    • 715576758
      TMG says,
      5 years ago
      Jason - I briefly test drove one on the weekend which we are considering for our family car (currently have a mazda cx7 but the petrol and insurance costs are nuts). Dealer is saying $42k drive away for the premium model here in Sydney - does that sound right or his he going to negotiate?!?! Any thoughts?
  • Callous says,
    5 years ago
    I sat in the premiun and the mid spec model at our dealership last week. This is a stunning looking car and much better in the flesh. The premium at the dealer is white and with the black gkass roof it looks a treat.

    I agree on the plastics but the actually dash layout and design is superb. Heaps of room in the back too. Unfortunately I was told I could test drive it and when I got to the dealer they refused me a test. So they have lost a customer.
  • says,
    5 years ago

    Your attached image is pending approval.

    I saw one tonight, at first I thought it was a Lexus or maybe a Merc, but with most new cars they all take something from everything else so you can't tell what it is until you look at the badge. Anyway it looks great, who would have thought that after 33 years creases up the side of cars would be mandatory. The first such car with creases was much maligned for it's design at the time - it was the Triumph TR7 smile
  • 715576758
    TMG says,
    5 years ago
    Has anyone else purchased one? I briefly test drove one on the weekend which we are considering for our family car (currently have a mazda cx7 but the petrol and insurance costs are nuts). Dealer is saying $42k drive away for the premium model here in Sydney - does that sound right or his he going to negotiate?!?! Any thoughts?
  • says,
    5 years ago

    Your attached image is pending approval.

    I picked mine up 5 days ago and couldn't be more pleased. I've never considered buying a Hyundai due to its “made in Korea” heritage but this car really caught my eye. After speaking with friends who have and still do own Hyundai Excels, Getz and Accents, I decided to go ahead and purchase it. They have all had their cars for years and have never had an issue with them. Not even once in the time they've owned them!! That really sold me on the quality of the brand. Did even more research on the net for remarks about other Hyundai models and they have all been very good. Seems they have really picked up their act and are making quality cars these days to match anything thrown at them by the likes of Toyota and a few Euro brands.
    I've always been a Holden guy but figured it was time I treated myself to somewhat luxury car without the hefty price tag. Considered buying a Cruze but having looked at the design closely, it’s one car that will show its age pretty quick. The i45 on the other hand has somewhat of a very stylish, elegant and classic look to it. Not only do I love the design, I also love driving this car. It handles beautifully and is the smoothest car I've owned so far. The design is what really sold me in the first place but this car is more than just looks. It has the substance to back it up as well. I'll make any excuse to hop in the car and take for a drive. And just wait till you hear the stereo system on this thing. It does come with a 6 CD stacker but I doubt very much as I can just plug in my USB or iPhone and crank it up. A lot more tracks without taking up the storage space in the glove compartment. They really have thought of everything with this car.
    I have to add that I've consciously been keeping my eye out for another i45 on the road, even before I bought mine, and I've only seen one. Makes the car that little bit more special as there aren’t many on the road as yet. It makes for interesting looks at traffic lights that’s for sure. Particularly from the middle aged mums and dads out there giving it a long, loving look. Picked up my brother and his family from the airport a couple of days ago and you should've seen the looks I got. Had a couple of guys comment on how great the car looked. Have been told it looks like a close relative of the Mercedes CLS. Just about has the luxury to match and no doubt will have the Kudos to match in the years to come. Certainly has that European look to it without the exclusive price tag.
    I bought mine in the dark grey and feel it's the best colour of the lot. Black is an absolute stunner and makes a definite statement but the upkeep would be the downside of it. Had my mind set on the silver but after comparing the two, I noticed that the dark glass top stands out too much and the chrome trimmings just blend right in with the rest of the car. Don’t get me wrong, the silver still looks great but everything blends in so beautifully with the dark grey. It really comes into its own when the sunlight hits it.
    So if anyone out there is considering this car, take my advice and take it for a test drive. I can guarantee you'll be sold on it. And if you do seriously consider purchasing the car after the test drive, you might as well go the extra couple of G's like I did and upgrade to the Premium model. Only downside to the car is that it doesn’t come in a Turbo version. But I guess I can live with that until they do give us that option. Rumours have it that’s not too far off.
    All I can say is if Hyundai keeps making cars like these then I'm going to be one loyal customer. Can't wait to see what they bring out 5-6 years from now. What more can I say except……………………SOLD!!!!!
  • says,
    5 years ago
    A footnote on the long winded rave about my new car. I got mine for just under 43K on road with comprehensive 12 months insurance with Allianz, dark tinted windows, X Pack for the leather seats, protective coating on the paint work, floor mats and Bluetooth hands free kit.

    Just in case anyone was wondering how much I paid.
  • 715576758
    TMG says,
    5 years ago
    Agree Oscar - picked up mine last Friday (silver) and lovin' it!
  • says,
    5 years ago
    It looks so UGLY..... as usual HYUNDAI style. Wake up guys... 43k for a HYUNDAI.... Just get yourself a Euro Luxury or a second hand BMW 3 series. Problems all come up after few years of driving and repair cost is so much more expensive comparing to japanese cars.
    • says,
      5 years ago
      I'm more comfortable paying this sort of money for a brand new Hyndai than a second hand BMW. My last car was "European Made" and caused me nothing but headaches and alot of money in repair work. I'll never part with my cash for another "brand" name car like a BMW, Alfa or otherwise. A company like Hyundai isn't making inroads in virtually every single market around the world because they make "ugly" or inferior cars. They are leaders in their markets because they make quality cars without the "boutique" price tags. You can go and buy yourself a Euro luxury car, be it a BMW or otherwise, and I'll stick to a brand I know I will be able to rely on. After all, most of my friends converted years ago and I can now see why they did. If the car was so "ugly" as you put it then it baffles me as to why I get told what a beauty she is by virtually everyone I know. And I wouldn't say it was the usual Hyundai style. They've been getting alot of coverage because they are starting to take more chances with their forward looking designs. If anything, it's BMW that needs a make over. Their front grill is old hat and has not had a makeover worth noting of late.
      • Kennedy says,
        11 months ago
        Strangely I did buy myself a stunning white active i45 after I contributed to these articles 2.5 years ago. Have absolutely 100% satisfied rating for its drivability and economy and servicing and looks department. Looking forward to more years driving it my way.
        • Kennedy says,
          11 months ago
          Like i45 drivers I actually have begun to relish the idea that there only a few around and so it is good see one at an intersection. Anyone been to the Melbourne airport Mcdonalds on Mickleham road, drop in for some good coffee made by a barista who drives a grey i45 for some good exchange of experiences with the i45.
  • russ says,
    5 years ago
    You should have bought a Euro!! It is a far better car than the i45.
  • krzystoff says,
    5 years ago
    this has all the options you could want for the price, and Benz CLS looks (on the sides) a huge styling bonus.
    the front grille looks cheap and nasty, but perhaps the photos don't do it justice -- a careful choice of colour and some selective grille modding could fix that.

    however, (as with the Camry/Accord/Maz6/Kizashi) the engine is quite underpowered -- try loading a family of four/five in that and see if you can overtake / rightturn on a busy road -- a 2.4L engine will never have enough power -- If you're driving alone or one passenger only, it not an issue.
  • Kennedy says,
    4 years ago
    Just completed a 1900 km round trip Melbourne Sydney Melbourne and got fantastic economy. 1900km for 128litres of Unleaded Petrol. 6.73 litres/100km. I drove directly to sydney with 6-7 litres left in the tank both ways. Thats 865km for 63-64 litres driving at 110km average speed. I drive a Camry now and am now convinced this may well be its replacement and very soon hopefully. My Camry 2003 does 10 l/100km at best and you can understand why I am convinced.
  • Kennedy says,
    4 years ago
    If anyones is doubting my comments, My Camry is 2.4l vs this 2.4GDI Eco model. I carried 5 grown adults and fully exploited the 535 litres in the boot to drive comfortably to and back and from Sydney for a total of 1900km on the dot for 128 litres.. I have not tested it in city driving to get that city cycle performance assessment.
  • brijesh says,
    3 years ago
    dont buy i45 coz after six month, unexpeted sound generate from car.
    • Kman says,
      3 years ago
      "dont buy i45 coz after six month, unexpeted sound generate from car" What do you mean.

      With those guys who've had it for a while now.....Knowing what you know now, would you still make the same purchase?
      • Roger says,
        2 years ago
        1 like
        After 6 months of driving an i45 premium our experience is that its not worth the head ache dont buy Hyundai this also suggests that Hyundai's quality is sub standard

        Be prepared to be going back and forth to the dealer for a multitude of problems including interior problems with electric seats, sun roof trimmings that keep falling. Gear box problems that Hyundai head office and the dealer cant or wont resolve I have been back and forth over 8 times
        DO NOT BUY

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