Mid-size sedans are heading for the Dodo. Once a mainstay in Australian aisles, they barely record a blip on the sales charts these days.
Most brands have turned their backs on them completely, but Hyundai is persevering and releasing a bold new version of the Sonata.
Powerful and aggressively styled, it’s designed in a mold similar to our once beloved Commodore and Falcons.
Its new 2.5-liter turbo four-cylinder has more power and torque than the Australian duo, developing 213 kW of power and a vigorous torque of 422 Nm.
Paired with a new eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that can be changed via paddles behind the steering wheel, it delivers enough performance to satisfy buyers who love to drive.
Hyundai says it will hit 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, or 6.2 seconds with launch control engaged. To give the car a sportier feel, a false exhaust note is pumped into the cabin and there is a rev matching function to keep the engine on the boil when exiting a corner.
Hyundai chief product officer Andrew Tuitahi said the company was realistic about the sedan’s appeal in today’s climate of SUV madness.
“We don’t have unrealistic aspirations for the car. We don’t come here hoping to break sales records or reverse current trends in the segment, but we believe it offers a legitimate alternative, ”he says.
Hyundai only offers one Sonata model – the N-Line – and at $ 50,990 and up on the roads, it doesn’t come cheap. It is, however, generously equipped, offering the luxury and technology lacking in SUVs of similar price points.
The interior has a sporty feel, with Nappa leather and suede seats that hug the body, red stitching on the leather steering wheel and center console, and a digital display in front of the driver that can be configured to suit personal taste.
The screens are complemented by a large head-up display on the windshield that gives your speed, the current speed limit, traffic signs, satnav turn directions and active safety warnings.
A large center screen mimics your smartphone and for audiophiles there’s a 12-speaker Bose sound system that’s a cut above the standard fare at this price.
A wireless charger sits below the display, and the traditional gear lever has been replaced with buttons to select drive and reverse.
The front seats are heated and ventilated, while the outer rear seats are heated and there are rear air vents and sun shades.
The occupants are well protected by a range of driving aids.
Cameras monitor your blind spot and the dashboard displays video feed of surrounding cars as you change lanes. There are also warning lights and if you ignore them all the car will brake to get you back in line. The Sonata will also get you back into the lane if you walk around and keep a safe distance from the car in front of you, braking and accelerating on its own in stop-start traffic.
Other technologies will prevent you from crossing a crossroads or exiting an alley if it is not safe.
A high-tech form of child lock prevents children from opening the rear doors if cameras detect an approaching vehicle.
On the road, the Sonata is a comfortable and capable road car. Passing power is plentiful and the suspension offers a reasonable balance of agility and comfort, although it can float a bit over bigger bumps.
The engine is punchy, delivering maximum torque at just 1,650 rpm, while the eight-speed automatic keeps power available throughout the rev range.
This power will sometimes dominate the front wheels if you get too enthusiastic with the accelerator pedal, producing tugging on the wheel in tight corners. Fuel consumption of 8.1 L / 100 km is reasonable and it will require regular unleaded.
Unlike Volkswagens in this price range, there is no adaptive suspension and those looking for the crisp and quick reflexes of a Commodore may be disappointed.
That said, the Sonata is infinitely more rewarding to drive than the current crop of midsize SUVs.
VERDICT 3.5 / 5
Powerful, well-equipped and luxuriously appointed, the Sonata is an attractive alternative to the SUV for passionate driving enthusiasts.
HYUNDAI SONATA VITALS
Price: From $ 50,990 more on the roads
Guarantee / service: 5 years / unl’td km, $ 1,750 over 5 years
Engine: 4-cylinder 2.5-liter turbocharged, 213 kW / 422 Nm
Security: 5 stars, 6 airbags, automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert
The thirst: 8.1 L / 100 km
Spare: Temporary replacement