I SOMETIMES think of that saying, “champagne tastes on a beer budget”.
Is it just reserved for people chasing those luxurious round-the-world holidays, dream houses and hand-crafted yachts with little more than $50 to their names?
Or is it also applicable to those occasions when you put that designer dress at Myer on the credit card when in reality even the sale rack at Target will blow the budget, when you hail a taxi to get across town instead of queuing for the bus and then watch the ticking meter with a sense of doom as traffic comes to a standstill, or even ordering that bottle of champagne at the bar in a desire to impress when what you should really be asking for is a glass of tap water with a slice of lemon?
It is a rare occasion these days to get more for your money, to find that the material things you hanker after are actually affordable.
The i45, then, will come as a welcome surprise for those looking for a sleek, modern car boasting quality fittings that won't break the bank.
It is the latest offering from Hyundai, one the Korean company is hoping will make huge inroads into the mid-range market and leave the competition running scared.
The i45 replaces the Sonata in Australia and is available in three models: the Active, Elite and Premium.
It is difficult to believe that a little less than a decade ago Hyundai was regarded as a poor cousin.
Look at him now.
The fourth largest car manufacturer in the world with award-winning products and innovation to match.
The i45 may be classed as a mid-range sedan but it feels much roomier than that, especially in the back where it is possible to carry three adults without having to squash them in.
Leg and head room are also on the generous side and the leather seats feel rich and pliant.
It is easy to see that Hyundai has paid as much attention to the inside of the i45 as its eye-catching exterior.
The cabin is practically set out with the dials and buttons easy to locate and operate.
There are plenty of storage pockets and the cavernous boot can be made even larger by lowering the back seats.
On the road
All three models share a 2.4-litre four cylinder petrol engine, which generates enough power and torque to hold the i45 in good stead.
It is a dream around town, happily soaking up little imperfections and it is responsive to the touch with a great turning circle.
The i45 is a little lazy under 3000rpm so it can do with a little prod when entering a highway or negotiating a steep incline.
It is quick to react, though, and can be hustled along quite nicely if you don't mind using the paddles.
It makes light work of cruising with road noise at a minimum. Incredibly the i45 weighs just 1528kg, that's some 80kg less than its closest competitors. This helps keep fuel figures down and facilitates acceleration.
But it can also sometimes make for a light, unbalanced tail when changing lanes at speed or pushing it out of corners, especially in the wet.
What do you get?
Standard inclusions across the range are impressive with 17-inch alloys, rear parking sensors, rain sensing wipers and climate control the order of the day.
There is also a six-speaker sound system with an iPod compatible USB port and steering controls as well as keyless entry with a push button start.
Safety hasn't been ignored either with six airbags, Brake Assist, Hillstart Assist Control and Traction Control.
The Premium gains a panorama sunroof, improved audio system and dealer-fitted Bluetooth.
Hyundai has its sights firmly set on the market-topping Toyota Camry ($33,990) but will also need to sidestep the Mazda6 ($34,750), the Honda Accord Euro ($41,290), the Subaru Liberty ($41,990) and the newly released Suzuki Kizashi ($36,990).
The i45 is targeted at the over-35s with growing families and the empty nesters looking for style, finesse and space.
It is well-suited to that demographic easily ticking the boxes of room and comfort with a touch of luxury for good measure.
It excels around the city and is a smooth, safe drive on longer journeys too.
Satellite navigation is not available at present, which is a slight irritation.
The low kerb weight and minimal drag coefficient helps keep fuel economy at an impressive 7.9 litres/100km.
Of course there is also Hyundai's five-year unlimited kilometre warranty should the deal need any further sweetening.
The exterior of the i45 was the brainchild of Andre Hudson, a former General Motors hotshot whose mastery is seen in lusted-over designs.
His brief was to create a car with presence.
Its “fluidic” design, dramatic roofline and sleek behind makes for an excellent first impression.
The large chrome grille has polarised opinion but we liked how it smacks of elitism.
There is little doubt the i45 will make manufacturers of other mid-range sedans sit up and take notice.
Here is a luxurious offering at a reasonable price that delivers a good drive and quality fittings.
It is certainly a surprise package and is well worth a test drive.
The message is clear – Hyundai is here to stay.
Model: Hyundai i45 Elite.
Details: Five-door front-wheel drive sedan.
Engine: 2.4-litre DOHC direct injection four-cylinder generating maximum power of 148kW @ 6300rpm and peak torque of 250Nm @ 4250rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Consumption: 7.9 litres/100km combined average.
Bottom line: From $29,490.
For more motoring check out Drive.com.au.
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