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Hyundai gives Sonata a workover

Facing facts: The Hyundai Sonata’s fresh look was unveiled in South Korea.

Struggling Hyundai Sonata set to get a boost from a facelift due in mid-2017

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Hyundai logo8 Mar 2017

By RON HAMMERTON

AN EIGHT-speed automatic transmission, extensively upgraded interior and fresh nose and tail treatments are the highlights of a mid-life facelift for Hyundai’s mid-sized Sonata.

Due in Australia about mid-year, the refreshed Sonata was sprung in South Korea today, revealing changes designed to both bring the sedan into line with Hyundai’s new design language and to inject a more premium look.

Hyundai Motor Australia will be hoping the changes light a fire under its Camry rival which is struggling this year, dragged down by a sales fall of almost 70 per cent compared with the first two months of last year.

As divulged in teaser shots released last month, the revised Sonata gets the cascading grille design that is being rolled out on all new Hyundai models, including the 2017 i30 hatchback that will arrive in April to kick off a busy launch schedule that, apart from Sonata, also could include the electrified Ioniq before the end of the year.

Said to resemble molten steel, the grille also – apparently – “emulates the elegant shape of a Korean celadon vase”.

Back on planet Earth, the new fascia includes vertically stacked daytime driving lights in faux side vents below new slimline headlight clusters.

The bonnet has been re-sculpted to project stronger lines. At the back, the boot also has been bulked up for a more substantial appearance, while gaining a wide, spaced out Sonata badge stretching across the back.

The flagship 2.0L Turbo variant available in some markets, including Australia, gets a mesh radiator grille and black exterior trim, including headlight bezels, mirror scalps and rear lower bumper.

Dark chrome is applied to the door handles, lower side body and rear lamp mouldings, while rear diffuser and exhaust pipe tips are also chrome for what Hyundai describes as a premium appearance.

Engines are expected to carry over from the current model that was launched in Australia in early 2015. These include the normally aspirated 138kW/241Nm 2.4-litre four-cylinder for the base Active, and 180kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo for the Elite and Premium.

But in place of the six-speed automatic transmission, an eight speeder with paddle shifters and four modes – comfort, eco, sport and smart – is set to make its Sonata debut.

The centre console has been given a lift with larger features and controls, including what Hyundai describes as “piano key” buttons for items such as the radio, heating and air-conditioning.

A seven-inch touchscreen will be standard fare in South Korea, although an 8.0-inch version will be available.

The turbo-charged variants get a new three-spoke steering wheel and more heavily bolstered sports seats.

Hyundai is yet to announce specifications for Australia, but it is hoping for new items such as the wireless phone charging pad on the centre console unveiled for the South Korean variant.

However, it is a sure bet that improved connectivity, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, will make the grade, along with an extra USB port.

New safety features are also set to go into production for Sonata, but Hyundai is yet to say which models will get them. These include lane departure warning, lane keep assist, high-beam assist, bending headlights, blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert.

So far in 2017, the Sonata has earned just 106 sales for a market share of 2.1 per cent, compared with Toyota Camry’s 2053 units and 40.8 per cent share.

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