Car reviews - Hyundai - Sonata - range
Much improved over predecessor, quality features on Active, excellent ride and handling, tonnes of space inside, great warranty and service program
Room for improvement
No AEB, huge price gap from Active to Premium
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7 Nov 2017
By NEIL DOWLING
THE unloved medium-car market is has been on the decline for many years, but Hyundai says it won’t give up on its Sonata and i40 players.
It sees the segment as providing an important balance for customers of fleet and private buyer choice and to prove the point, this week launched the upgraded, mid-life edition of its Sonata sedan.
Hyundai Motor Company Australia chief executive officer Mr JW Lee says his company must continue to turn up on the field and he wants to be in as many segments as possible, even though he is aware that medium-car segment sales are faltering.
The upgraded Sonata, distinguished by its large grille opening, narrowed headlights and restyled boot, is a better car than its predecessor but fights rivals with just as much tenacity to remain in the segment.
How Sonata will perform against the next Toyota Camry, to be imported from Japan next month, remains to be seen.
The most unexpected characteristic of the Hyundai Sonata sedan is the confidence at which it will transport occupants over a very wide variety of roads.
Launched recently on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, on the region’s typical narrow, undulating and often choppy bitumen and gravel surfaces, the base Sonata Active that is priced from $30,990 plus on-road costs shows ride maturity that often skips some rivals.
More interesting is that this entry-level version – powered by a 138kW/241Nm 2.4-litre normally aspirated petrol engine with a six-speed automatic transmission – has excellent chassis rigidity and a compliant ride which are odd partners to produce such very positive road holding and cornering control.
Even more so given the often patchwork bitumen of the Mornington Peninsula roads.
And on top of that, the car is very quiet and road shocks and noises are very well insulated.
It is one of those cars that could take a bit more power. So the 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine in the Premium that pumps out 180kW/353Nm has the ability to make the most of what has already been dished up in the platform.
It is a better engine by virtue of its high level of response – thanks to the turbocharger – but perhaps more so to the eight-speed automatic that replaces the Active’s six-cog box.
The smoothness of the Premium’s transmission and its spread of ratios is also enhanced by the four-mode drive-select system that sharpens up the throttle response and holds the gears a tad longer (when selecting Sport) or, for highways, able to be flicked to the Eco mode to squeeze a few extra kilometres from the fuel tank.
Seating is very good, with a lot of foot room for the driver and front passenger and a whole heap more for the people in the back plus their luggage.
There is a large cut-out allowing long cargo items to be pushed through to the cabin area via the fold-down rear seat backs.
Dashboard layout and ease of use rates highly, with the large-diameter dials ahead of the driver gaining accolades for their clarity. Perhaps the only downer is the foot-operated park brake in the Active, unlike the Premium’s electric brake button.
Driving the two versions back-to-back is an interesting exercise that doesn’t produce the expected result. I thought the Turbo would be streets ahead in fun factor but the normally-aspirated 2.4-litre is sufficiently responsive and has a strong low-down torque feed.
Which then becomes a value argument. Would you pay almost $15,000 extra for a turbo engine or stay with the more-than-adequate 2.4 and lose some office niceties such as the full-length glass roof, leather seats with venting and heating, and smaller items such as the wireless phone charger?
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