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Hyundai gives Sonata its best shot

Ground-up redesign to keep Hyundai Sonata in the game, despite SUV shift

Hyundai logo27 Mar 2019

HYUNDAI has given the honour of debuting its new modular architecture to its one-time global best-seller, the Sonata, in its next generation to be rolled out around the world this year.
 
While many other car-makers are walking away from the rapidly shrinking medium car segment as buyers shift in droves to SUVs, the South Korean company has doubled down by upgrading almost every facet of Sonata, including the new architecture, a more sporty coupe-style design and high-end tech such as a digital key operated by smart phone.
 
As we have reported, Hyundai Motor Company Australia (HMCA) has committed to the new model, with shipments expected to roll on to wharves in the third quarter of this year.
 
This is in contrast to other brands such as sister company Kia which has confirmed that its Optima is bound to bite the dust in Australia late this year.
 
Like Toyota, whose Camry remains an important model in its global range despite falling sales, Hyundai can ill-afford to wave the white flag on Sonata, especially in the United States where it achieved 105,000 sales last year. 
 
Globally, the Elantra small sedan has taken over from Sonata as Hyundai’s volume seller, with the Tucson small SUV also slipping past Sonata and now rapidly closing on the lead.
 
But Hyundai apparently believes there is life left in the medium car segment, judging by the hefty swing it has given in developing its all-new Sonata. 
 
Hyundai head of research and development Albert Biermann said the Sonata held a special significance for the company as one of the longest standing and most successful models in the global market.
 
“The new generation Sonata is a fully transformed vehicle packed with advanced personalisation technology, a new platform, and an array of ADAS (advanced driver-assistance systems) technologies,” he said. “We are confident that our customers will be pleasantly surprised with this innovative new model.”
 
Releasing the car in the US, the company says the Sonata has become the first model on its new third-generation vehicle platform which enables improvements in design, safety, efficiency, power and driving performance.
 
As we have seen previously, the exterior design has advanced substantially. Sitting 30mm closer to the ground and topped by a sleek coupe-style roofline, the new body has its origins in the Le Fil Rouge four-door coupe concept shown at the 2018 Geneva motor show.
 
The production variant shown in pictures released by Hyundai overnight reveal a boot lip spoiler and wide LED strips across the front and back to accentuate the car’s width.
 
For a bit of bling, a chrome strip runs from the side windows, down the length of the bonnet and does half a lap of honour around the headlight on each side.
 
The chrome theme continues to the new-look “hidden lighting lamp” headlights that will figure on other Hyundai models as a signature feature from now on.
 
The design upgrade continues into the interior where items such as a first-in-class 12.3-inch customisable digital instrument cluster and 10.3-inch touchscreen dominate the dash.
 
A tiny transmission selector uses shift-by-wire technology, saving space on the centre console.
 
In America at least, a 12-speaker Bose premium sound system will be available.
 
Although HMCA is yet to say which of the gee-whiz features confirmed for the US will make it to Australia, one available out of the factory will be the mobile phone key that can unlock and lock the doors, turn on the ignition and start the engine. 
 
The company says the feature only works within a few centimetres of the receiver, aiding security. A conventional wireless key is supplied for situations such as valet parking.
 
The new platform under Sonata is said to employ hot stamping and high-strength steels, along with a multi-load path structure for “ground-breaking” crash performance.
 
Apparently, the front wheels are said to move sideways in an overlap collision, reducing the risk of the vehicle spinning and having a secondary crash.
 
Hyundai says this modular architecture has been designed for a wide range of models across multiple segments, with Tucson seemingly one of the next models in line to get it.
 
In the US, two petrol four-cylinder engines will be available – a turbocharged 1.6 T-GDI producing 134kW of power and 264Nm of torque, or a normally aspirated 2.5 GDI engine with 142kW and 245Nm. Both are hooked up to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
 
No performance or fuel consumption figures have been announced yet.
 
In Australia, the Sonata was the only mainstream medium sedan to increase sales in Australia last year, with volume going up 5.8 per cent in a segment that declined 30 per cent.
 
This year, Sonata sales are up 30.8 per cent after two months, but its tally of 191 units trails the three biggest performers, the Camry (2535), Mazda6 (525) and Subaru Liberty (216).
 
Australian pricing and specifications for the new Sonata will be disclosed closer to launch.

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