Remove the badge and would you imagine the i40 was a Hyundai?
Students of the Korean brand's design ethos will probably still be able to pick its parentage; the nuances of the "fluidic" approach are rather obvious. But, if judged by feel alone, then the first medium wagon out of the Seoul-centred giant does not reveal its background so easily.
If anything, the i40 reinforces an impression that Hyundai is a brand of two parts. There are the cars such as this (and the i30) aimed specifically at Europe, and those that primarily service Asia, North America and the Pacific markets.
The i40 shows they are the same, yet different. Its styling is generic global Hyundai, and it shares the same platform and common technology with the i45 sedan, but in other respects this product of Hyundai's German design studio is a world apart, and pleasingly above par for the brand.
The texture and richness of the plastics, the meaty thickness of the steering-wheel rim, the shape of the seats, the size and layout of the load area are all emphatically Euro. So too is the on-road feel, with weighty steering and a well-resolved ride.
And, while the metalwork is bent according to the global expression, it's a particularly good execution. The front end is clean-cut and the extra touch of an LED mascara scrolling around the main headlight in the shape of a toppled question mark provides a memorable signature.
Not everything works out. Some buttons in the centre console - notably the "sport" function that alters the auto's gearing change pattern - are poorly located for right-hand drive. The door auto-lock programme is annoyingly oversensitive and the gear selections via the auto's steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters are consistently overridden when you try to change down in corners.
A six-speed auto and 2.0-litre direct-injection petrol engine conform to class standard, but maybe you'll need to be convinced about the merits of a turbo-diesel of a "mere" 1.7-litre capacity.
Agreed, it didn't feel overly muscular at launch, but the cars were literally fresh off the boat. I'll give it the benefit of the doubt because diesels always improve with mileage and the on-paper outputs, economy and emission figures look right enough to warrant Hyundai NZ's decision to slot the oiler into four of its six wagons, plus a sedan landing later this year to provide an alternative to the petrol-only i45 sedan.
Hyundai NZ wants to sell 500 i40s this year.
A cinch, I'd say.
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