Hyundai Sonata

New i45 replacement brings size and class

DAMION SMY

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

YOU’VE heard the name Sonata before, but this is a new car on a brand new platform, so it’s big news for Hyundai.

Taking its styling cues from the flagship Genesis, the new Sonata is quite handsome and has presence, even in base form, so why revive the old name?

Only Hyundais destined for Europe wear codes, apparently.

All global models carry names.

As part of a two-pronged attack on a shrinking segment (the slightly smaller, Euro-sized i40 will continue, also starting at $29,990), the Sonata is offered only as a sedan with a choice of two petrol engines spanning three trim levels, all with sixspeed autos. The i40 takes care of diesels, wagons and manuals.

While the entry-level Sonata Active has a 138kW/241Nm 2.4-litre four, the $37K Elite and top-spec $42K Premium that we’re testing here feature a new 180kW/350Nm 2.0-litre GDI turbo.

That’s a good helping of kilowatts and torque. In fact, with 350Nm on tap from a low 1400rpm through to 4000rpm, the far-fromsmall Sonata shifts along nicely.

Measuring 10mm less than a Mazda 6 and riding on a 25mm shorter wheelbase, the Sonata has loads of passenger room and a 510-litre boot that’s bigger than a Commodore’s. That’s the good news. The bad news concerns the dated interior design, which is fifty shades of stuffy grey. Pity, because it appears well made and the switchgear feels solidly tactile.

All models have a rear camera, though there’s no collision mitigation, lane-assist or blindspot tech, even on the Premium.

That’s a big disadvantage in comparison to new Liberty and 6.

So, too, is its fuel consumption.

The official combined figure for the boosted Theta II is a poor 9.2L/100km. That doesn’t bode well for fleet buyers, who are expected to account for fifty percent of the sales mix.

The engine – which pulls strongly down low, but lacks serious urge beyond 4000rpm – is reasonably quiet, though odd gearing hampers Sonata’s ability to attack winding roads with verve. Same goes for its well-weighted electric steering, which is too low-geared for quick, decisive manoeuvres.

Sonata does have excellent road manners, though, thanks to the effort Hyundai Australia has put into its unique local suspension tune. What’s commendable is the composure it maintains unless you push it to the ragged edge, far from its design brief.

While the Sonata is spacious, solid and well-mannered, its love of a drink means it doesn’t pose a serious threat to the Mazda 6. e

Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Kerb weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Hyundai Sonata Premium 1998cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo 180kW @ 6000rpm 350Nm @ 1400-4000rpm 6-speed automatic 1560kg 7.8sec (estimated) 9.2L/100km $41,990 Now

PLUS & MINUS

Cabin lacks sophistication; lacks safety kit of rivals; fuel consumption Smart styling; excellent road manners; generous rear seat and boot

Double dip

WHY is Hyundai entering a segment that shrunk 15 percent in 2014? The official line is that it needs to offer products in as many segments as it can. The i45 was taken off the market not because of a lack of sales, but a lack of supply. With Sonata and i40, Hyundai hopes to at least equal its best segment share of 8.1 percent (in 2011).

Based on January’s sales, that equates to 240 cars a month, enough for third behind Mazda 6 (16.9 percent) and Toyota Camry (33.9 percent).