Car reviews - Hyundai - Sonata - Executive V6 sedan
Competitive pricing, individual style
Room for improvement
Airbags optional only, road noise
13 Feb 2001
By BRUCE NEWTON
WITH its third-generation Sonata - launched in August 1998 - Hyundai produced a car that, without being class leading, is a significant leap forward.
Visually, the Sonata is a distinctive car unlikely to fade among the generally conservatively styled entrants in the medium-sized sector.
The rear-end has an American flavour with its broad, sculpted bootlid, stretched badging and wide garnish panel, while the front carries a gaping, vertically-slatted oval grille.
But while aesthetic appreciation is a subjective matter, there is no denying the bold EF Sonata is more dynamic than its predecessor.
Two engines were originally on offer - a 2.0-litre four and a 2.5-litre V6 - but the latter, the best value package in the range, is now the only engine available.
A Hyundai in-house first, the V6 is smooth, refined and responsive although it does need to be stirred along since maximum torque happens high up the rev range.
It is unfortunate that the standard five-speed manual gearbox is so awful to use - it is stiff, notchy and clunky - as Sonata can become quite involving to drive when given a workout.
So it is a good thing the fuzzy logic four-speed automatic is smooth with quick responses to changing driving styles.
The double wishbone front and multi-link independent rear suspension soak up road ruts while providing comfort. The handling is not European-firm but is still very competent, as is the roadholding.
The Sonata's cornering abilities are helped by steering that is communicative but too light and unsettled while suffering some annoying kickback on rougher tarmac.
Although the engine is quiet, Sonata needs more sound deadening as drivetrain thump and tyre noise is obtrusive.
Inside, the car's controls are thoughtfully laid out. There are reasonably good quality fittings while the cabin's space is good, particularly rear leg and headroom. The boot is wide but rather shallow and lengthens thanks to a split rear seat.
Crammed full with equipment at both the Executive and Classique specifications, the Sonata shows Hyundai has become a mature car-maker and offers a realistic contender in a fiercely competitive class while continuing to offer value for money.
- Automotive Networks 03/03/2001
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