Car reviews - Hyundai - Sonata - GLE sedan
Space, affordability, practicality
Room for improvement
Below-par handling, steering, ride, performance and refinement, quality niggles, auto transmission longevity, vague manual gearshift
18 Jun 2003
HYUNDAI has made its name from producing sound, good value for money cars.
They may not have had the latest in suspension technology or electronic gadgetry but buyers on a budget have made Hyundai's small car, the Excel, a runaway success.
Hyundai's three-year/100,000km warranty and major services stretched out to every year or 15,000km demonstrated faith in the product and kept running costs as low as possible.
The introduction of the Sonata to Australia in 1989 moved Hyundai upmarket from the small car sector to the medium-sized bracket.
The formula of lavish equipment for your money in a package which was one generation old was successful and the Sonata sold fairly well.
Hyundai released the next model Sonata to Australia in October, 1993.
The all new sheetmetal was longer and wider with much more modern, better looking styling over revised mechanical components with a new rear suspension system.
The new Sonata was a big leap forward in the quality of panel fit, assembly and paint finish over the previous model and rivalled the Japanese manufacturers.
There is enough interior space to seat four with sufficient extra room in the rear to carry another adult-sized passenger.
Hyundai marketed the Sonata with three levels of equipment - the entry level GLE, GLS and the top of the range Levant.
Compared to its competitors, the GLE is very well equipped and this was the biggest single attraction for most new buyers.
A driver's airbag, electric windows, power steering and central locking are all there plus a four-speaker AM/FM radio/cassette.
The 2.0-litre engine was new for the Sonata and has twin overhead camshafts, 16 valves, multi-point fuel injection and balance shafts to reduce vibration. The result is a very competitive power output of 102kW at 5800rpm.
The high power output is at the expense of bottom-end torque which makes the Sonata feel sluggish at low engine speeds and, consequently, it need to be worked hard to deliver its best.
Transmissions are either the standard five-speed manual or an optional four-speed automatic.
The manual's vague cable-operated gearshift combined with lots of gear changing to keep the engine on the boil make the automatic the better choice.
On the road, the Sonata's handling is safe and neutral with gradual build up of understeer as speed rises. The ride is on the firm side and does not match the best in the class. Road noise transmission to the cabin was also an area where Hyundai had some catching up to do.
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