TELL ME ABOUT THIS CAR
The introduction of this US market-inspired facelift to Australia drags even more value, and a dose more safety, into what was already a pretty sharply priced sedan. However, this significant makeover also reduces the Sonata range from three variants to just two – the former mid-specification Elite variant is no more, leaving just the $30,990 Active and $45,490 Premium models (AUD).
- The redesigned Hyundai Sonata looks a lot better than the one it replaces – at least around the front. The cascading grille falling off the tall bonnet and sharper front-end design endows a sportier styling that shakes off the cardigan-friendly looks of the car it replaces. Around the rear, it continues to look generic sedan despite all the changes it received, which is a bit of a shame.
- It’s very well equipped for the money. Standard gear runs to a flat-bottomed steering wheel with paddle shifters, a wireless phone charging pad, LED headlights and an updated safety pack that brings blind spot detection, lane-departure warning and radar cruise control.
- It’s also feature-packed. There’s now things like dual-zone climate control and two rear-seat USB ports, and for the driver there’s keyless entry, push-button engine start and a boot that opens at the swing of a foot under the rear bumper.
- A new 8.0-inch colour touchscreen high on the console gives a huge lift to perceived value. The new screen also brings in Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support – if you reckon Hyundai’s default system doesn’t already do the job of integrating your smartphone well enough.
- The Hyundai Sonata gains a new eight-speed automatic transmission. This is important because it helps with fuel economy, dropping it from the old model’s 9.2L/100km to 8.5L/100km. It also helps the Sonata Premium’s turbocharged 2.0-litre engine (the Active sticks to the non-turbo 2.4-litre engine and six-speed automatic) by being able to keep the 180kW/353Nm unit in either its best power or fuel economy zones for longer than the old six-speeder.
- The Sonata adds drive modes to tune the engine and gearbox to your mood. You can use a console-mounted dial to flip through ‘Comfort’, ‘Eco’, ‘Sport’, and ‘Smart’, all of which change the way the throttle pedal reacts, the weight of the steering, and how long the gears hold before changing up.
- It’s spacious inside, back and front. If we’re nit-picking the rear seats lack a little bit of under-seat toe room beneath the front pews, but the limousine-like legroom back there, and a pair of separately temperature-controlled air vents, more than makes up for it.
- Pricing hasn’t changed for the range-topping Premium despite the new looks and all the extra features. In contrast, the entry-level Active’s price rose by $500.
- There’s still no automatic emergency braking system available on Sonata. It’s a handy city driving feature that could one day save your bacon if you’re distracted in low-speed stop-start traffic and accidentally punt the car in front. Insurance companies also tend to offer lower premiums for cars that include AEB.
- The turbo petrol engine can be a bit gruff if you’re the same with the accelerator pedal. Give it too much throttle and the Sonata will tug at the steering wheel and even spin the wheels as it struggles to get its power down smoothly to the road surface.
- The ride lacks refinement. This was a black mark against the previous version of the Sonata and it carries through to the facelifted model. It’s at its worst at higher speeds, where the Sonata constantly feels unsettled and fussy.
- There’s no diesel or hybrid option. Cross-shop the Hyundai Sonata against rivals including four-cylinder versions of the Holden Commodore and Toyota Camry and there are alternative powertrains available.
ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER?
We’ve already mentioned four-cylinder versions of the Euro-chic Holden Commodore and the value-driven Toyota Camry. Add to that list the surprisingly good value Ford Mondeo, the soon-to-be-facelifted Mazda 6 (which will also add a turbocharged 2.5-litre version to take on the V6 versions of the Commodore and Camry, and the flat-six Subaru Liberty) and the Czech-built Skoda Octavia.