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First look: Hyundai’s Sonata goes sexy

Coupe delight: Hyundai has revealed sketches of its new Sonata, which will be known as the i40 in Australia.

Sleek new Hyundai i40 set to replace Sonata in Australia - eventually

3 Sep 2009

HYUNDAI has embraced the European trend towards coupe-style sedans for its rakish next-generation Sonata which has been revealed in official sketches ahead of its public unveiling in South Korea on September 10.

However, Australia might have to wait a year or more for its version of the mid-sized car, which will be aligned with the European model and called i40 in this market, extending the switch to the new model designation system that started with the i30 small car and is set to continue with the i20 light car and ix35 compact SUV.

While Hyundai Australia will only say that arrival timing for the new car is yet to be decided, GoAuto understands that the Euro/Aussie i40 is most likely to be launched as a 2011 model in late 2010 under a staged global roll-out that starts first, as usual, in Korea and then extends to the US in the first quarter of 2010.

This means Hyundai Australia will have to soldier on with the current car which is averaging only about 100 sales a month, earning it a lowly eighth ranking in the medium car segment this year – a rare miss in a range of Hyundai hits.

1 center imageWhenever it arrives, the slinky sixth-generation YF i40 is expected to be a much more substantial sales prospect, designed to go head-to-head with well regarded Japanese competition such as the Mazda6, Honda Accord and the forthcoming Subaru Liberty.

The i40/Sonata’s new ‘Fluidic Sculpture’ corporate styling this week was evident in the design drawings of the Korean version.

The i40/Sonata is the second car after ix35 SUV to benefit from Hyundai’s new design language, which the company hopes will finally cement a brand identity around the globe.

The sketches have been supported by a plethora of leaked publicity photos and unofficial spy shots out of South Korea and the US.

Reminiscent of Mercedes-Benz’s CLS and the Volkswagen Passat CC, the drawings reveal a low greenhouse, wide shoulders and a sharp crease extending upward along the side from the front door to the boot lid.

The slender C-pillars slope almost to the rear of the car, giving a coupe-like appearance to the mid-sized sedan, while the headlights and grille are reminiscent of Hyundai’s Genesis large car sold in Korea and North America.

Hyundai says the new model gets an optional panoramic sunroof – in Korea, at least – as well as proximity sensing keyless entry and start button.

The new car – replacing the current model introduced in 2005 and facelifted in 2008 – is expected to get a smaller but more efficient 2.0-litre Theta II petrol four-cylinder engine with direct injection, in place of the current 2.4-litre unit.

A 3.5-litre V6 primarily aimed at the North American market, where the car will be built in Alabama and launched about February, is unlikely to make it to Australia after the previous V6 was dropped from the line-up in 2008 in exchange for the 2.0-litre common-rail diesel.

This time, the i40 is almost certain to gain one of Hyundai’s new direct-injection R diesels that will make their debut in Hyundai’s new SUV line-up, including the Tucson-replacing ix35 and all-new Santa Fe, both of which will appear at the Frankfurt motor show this month. Sister company Kia is also set to introduce the R diesel into its new Sorento to be launched in November.

The four-cylinder diesel R line-up includes a 2.0-litre engine producing 135kW and 329Nm and a 2.2 litre generating an impressive 147kW and 436Nm.

Direct-injection LPG will also be offered as an alternative in South Korea, but again, there is no word on its potential for Australia.

All engines are expected to be offered with a new six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters.

Since the launch of the very first generation Sonata in October 1985 in Korea, 4.45 million Sonatas have been sold worldwide.

Hyundai Australia’s sales and marketing director Kevin McCann said the company was excited about prospects for the all-new YF sedan.

"The YF promises outstanding fuel economy combined with cutting edge looks and we are confident that the car will attract customers seeking style and sophistication to the Hyundai brand,” he said.

Unsubstantiated reports say an i40 wagon is planned for Europe, arriving in March 2011. Whether Hyundai Australia would bother importing such a model is questionable, given its broad and fresh range of compact SUVs with similar powertrains arriving in this market over the next several months.

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