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Hyundai tweaks i45 – again

Newer medium: Korea's MY12 Sonata could preview an improved i45 for Australia.

Facelifted MY12 Sonata could preview another revised i45 for Hyundai in Australia

25 Jul 2011

THE short but busy life of Hyundai’s latest medium sedan continues apace with the release in Korea of an upgraded 2012 model year Sonata, which could provide a glimpse of what to expect for Australia’s i45.

Hyundai Motor Company Australia has advised the MY2012 Sonata, released in Korea on July 11, is a domestic market model only and does not herald any changes for its i45 in Australia for the foreseeable future.

However, it is likely that a number of the MY12 Sonata’s new technologies will eventually also be seen on Australia’s i45, which was first launched here in May 2010 before an MY11 version replaced it just five months later in October with revised suspension following negative steering and ride quality assessments by some media outlets.

In Korea, the Sonata’s cosmetic upgrade brings a mildly revised grille design, subtle new wing mirror styling, optional new 18-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels and LED tail-lights apparently inspired by the Sonata Hybrid’s.

Inside, there are higher-quality cabin materials, revised trim options, a chilled glovebox, LED reading lights and extra standard features across the range. Top-end Sonata models also receive puddle lamps, a UV windscreen, keyless entry/starting and a ‘panic’ function for the remote key.

Meantime, the Korean-market Sonata’s 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine has been replaced with a 202kW 2.0-litre direct-injection turbo-petrol engine from the Sonata Turbo GDi, which at this stage is not produced in right-hand drive form.

The MY12 Sonata upgrade also brings with it an LPG-fuelled 2.0-litre LPi variant for the Korean market, which when combined with a six-speed automatic transmission and an ISG idle-stop system returns higher fuel consumption (9.0L/100km) and a lower power output (117kW) than the entry-level 2.0-litre petrol model, but more torque at almost 200Nm.

Australia’s 148kW 2.4-litre petrol four-powered i45 range was joined by a $2600-cheaper 121kW 2.0-litre variant in May, lowering the i45 entry price to $26,990 and helping to achieve the model’s best monthly sales figure of 522 the same month.

Sales of the i45 remained strong in June at 513, making it the second month in a row Hyundai has hit its i45 target of 500 sales per month.

Last month the i45 snared a 10.9 per cent share of Australia’s sub-$60,000 mid-size passenger car market to outsell all but Toyota’s dominant homegrown Camry.

So far this year the i45 holds an 8.9 per cent share, putting it fourth behind the Camry (32.9 per cent), Ford’s Mondeo (12.6 per cent) and the Mazda6 (10.6 per cent), and ahead of Subaru’s Liberty and Honda’s Accord Euro.

Further bolstering Hyundai’s presence in the mid-size sector, the i45 will be joined on sale here by the more European-flavoured – and diesel-powered - i40 Tourer wagon in November, while a third new medium passenger car could arrive from Hyundai next year, in the shape of the i40 sedan.

Last month Hyundai Motor Company Australia recorded its best-ever monthly sales figure since the company was formed in September 2003, finishing fifth overall with 8534 sales and a market share of 8.9 per cent.

Hyundai’s local June sales were six per cent up in a market that was down 12 per cent, while the Korean brand placed third overall for passenger car sales with 6253 sales and an 11.5 per cent share.

Sonata sales were up by 64 per cent last year in the US, where Hyundai sold 196,623 examples. They have continued to climb so far in 2011, by 29 per cent, making the Sonata North America’s ninth best selling model this year. US Hyundai sales are up 26.2 per cent in the first six months of 2011.

Last week automotive data company Polk named the Sonata ‘King of the Automotive Conquests’ in the US after it attracted 18,587 North American buyers – more than any other passenger vehicle – from other models during the first quarter of this year.

Globally, Hyundai Motor Company lifted sales by 12.3 per cent to 352.255 in June, when its Korean market sales lifted by 22.9 per cent.

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