When you think of the word “sonata”, images of an orchestra’s pianist performing a solo piece immediately come to mind. In this scenario, the audience members – who are cultured, well-heeled and well-dressed – are enjoying a relaxed evening, perhaps under the stars.
Hyundai would like to convince drivers that their aptly named mid-size saloon is the automotive equivalent of a soothing sonata. Unfortunately, when most consumers think of the Sonata, they conjure images of taxis in blue or yellow, many of which are driven in a coarse manner.
The impression that car enthusiasts have of the Sonata isn’t much better. Older motorists will remember the previous Sonatas from the 1990s and early 2000s, which had questionable styling and cabins.
The preceding-generation Sonata, also called the i45, was a much-improved model. Its build quality is considerably higher and its drive is pretty decent, too. But in an effort to make the saloon stylish, Hyundai designers went overboard – the i45 looks like it received a massive dose of Botox for sheet metal.
Fortunately, the newly introduced Sonata gracing these pages is bereft of these issues that plague its predecessors. Gone is the overstyled design of the preceding model. Instead of curvy lines, the new Sonata has strong angular ones on its bonnet and flanks that lend it more road presence than before. The rear end looks smart and has a hint of swankiness, too.
More importantly, the new Sonata bears no resemblance to the aforementioned older model, which is being utilised by taxi firms. This time around, official agent Komoco Motors will not import the diesel variant of the Sonata. According to the dealership, only the smaller i40 turbo-diesel saloon will be sold to cab firms. This should be music to the ears of Sonata buyers.
Sure to please potential owners, too, is the interior of the latest Sonata. The overall feel is more upmarket than the last Sonata passenger model and the build quality is noticeably higher, too. The plastics used on the door panels, for instance, are softer than expected.
The cockpit has an intuitive and pleasing layout. The boot and fuel cap release buttons, for instance, are conveniently located on the lower right of the dashboard. The buttons on the steering wheel have lovely tactility and the rocker switches feel solid as well. That’s Korean attention to detail.
The interior’s “composers”, however, seem to have miswritten a few notes. The parking brake, for instance is a reliable (but clumsy) foot-operated affair, instead of a nifty electronic one. And while the infotainment system has an attractive touchscreen display, it lacks a navigation function. However, the test car here is equipped with ventilated seats and a Blind Spot Detection system, which are most welcome.
Easily accommodating occupants up to 1.8 metres tall is the commodious rear compartment. The legroom is generous and the headroom is more than decent, despite the centimetres lost to the panoramic sunroof (standard on the high-spec version). The space is practical, too, thanks to the roomy doorbins that can each fit a computer tablet and water bottle.
Powering the Sonata is a naturally aspirated 2-litre engine that produces 157bhp and 196Nm – 6bhp less and 2Nm more than what the i45 is capable of. The Sonata’s performance is just as relaxed as the i45’s – the quoted century sprint time of 11.1 seconds is actually 0.2 of a second slower than its predecessor’s.
The Sonata, however, is more refined and feels more responsive to driver inputs compared to the i45. Stab at the throttle and the revs seem to climb faster. Utilise the smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic’s manual override, and the function also seems more responsive.
For towkays in a hurry, the Sonata is equipped with a Drive Mode function, which offers Sport, Eco and Normal settings. As its name suggests, Sport mode heightens the powertrain’s responses and tells the gearbox to hold onto each forward ratio for a little longer. On the other hand, Eco mode dampens the engine’s responses (even if you floor the accelerator) and tells the transmission to shift up sooner to help reduce fuel consumption.
Handling-wise, the Sonata corners neatly and has very little flex, thanks to its stiff body. Hyundai claims that 51 percent of the monocoque is constructed using high-strength steel, and it certainly feels solid. Because of the stiffer body, the dampers were tuned to be more pliant without making the ride too mushy.
Hyundai’s all-new Sonata may not inspire sentimental feelings from buyers just yet. But the good news is that this composition is a pleasant piece that will definitely surprise new and old listeners alike.
TYPE Inline-4, 16-valves
BORE X STROKE 81mm x 97mm
COMPRESSION RATIO 10.3:1
MAX POWER 157bhp at 6200rpm
MAX TORQUE 196Nm at 4000rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 108.3bhp per tonne
GEARBOX 6-speed automatic
with manual select
DRIVEN WHEELS Front
0-100KM/H 11.1 seconds
TOP SPEED 200km/h
CONSUMPTION 12.5km/L (combined)
CO2 EMISSION 191g/km
FRONT MacPherson struts, coil springs
REAR Multi-link, coil springs
FRONT / REAR Ventilated discs / Discs
TYPE Kumho Solus XC
SIZE 215/55 R17
TRACTION AIDS ABS with ESC
KERB WEIGHT 1450kg
TURNING CIRCLE 10.9m
PRICE INCL. COE $148,999
(no CEVS rebate/surcharge)
WARRANTY 5 years/unlimited km
+ Smart and sleek design, great cockpit layout, comfortable ride
– Unhurried performance, no navigation function, steering lacks feedback