- Published: Sunday, 11 January 2015 20:35
Singapore - Hyundai went big with the very impressive Genesis in 2014.. It was never going to be a volume seller, but it proved the important point that Hyundai could do it, just because.
Its next big product certainly isn’t a long shot, though: The new Sonata.
This is the seventh-generation version of the car and it features an entirely new interior and exterior. The overall impression is that Hyundai’s taken the luxury lessons learnt on the Genesis and is now deploying them where they’re most cost effective.
Like on the Genesis, it opted for clean, strong lines and interesting details such as the large and wide diamond shaped grille, the strong headlight shape and very prominent LED daytime running light bars below.
Another eye magnet: The statuesque 18-inch wheels, which wouldn’t look out of place on a much sportier car.
The Sonata makes do with familiar, unobjectionable components in its drivetrain. The 2.0-litre multi-point injection engine (codenamed ‘Nu’) makes a little more power and torque than before, but that’s not really noticeable, and like before, it’s mated to a Hyundai-Kia six-speed automatic gearbox.
Hyundai has thrown a little something else into the mix with selectable drive modes - Eco, Normal and Sport. In daily driving you can mostly ignore this, just leave it in Eco and do what the Sonata does best: cruise around quietly.
The car’s refinement is excellent. There’s a little tyre noise at high speed but very little turbulence.
Judicious, smooth driving will reward you with a decent fuel efficiency score - we nabbed 8.6L/100km over more than 150km of driving, not far from the official 8.0L/100km.
Hyundai, like Kia, hasn’t made big bones about its platform technology, but the new car does run on brand-new underpinnings. It’s worth pointing out that the percentage of high strength steel has been increased considerably to 51 percent, which is very impressive given the current fleet average of 21 percent.
On the road, it certainly feels it. There’s very little slop in the chassis as a whole and while it seems the suspension rates aren’t particularly high, the Sonata rides tautly. That doesn’t mean it’s uncomfortable. You can still feel most bumps but they’re relegated to information rather than sensation.
A more ‘traditional’ big sedan, such as the Teana or Camry, you’d probably never feel the bump, but the downside is a less incisive driving experience.
Hyundai has wisely done away with the selectable electric steering modes (as seen on the Veloster, for example) and gone with one good, reliable setting on the electric steering system.
The only major complaint we can think of is that the ride quality may not suit those used to the typical uber plush/soft setup as commonly seen on Japanese big sedans, although the Sonata still preserves a good amount of comfort overall and its suspension setup is far from primitive.
Hyundai has made a further step forward with its cabins. In cars like the Accent small sedan, which we tested in 2014, it’s there but less obvious. But in a more costly offering like the Sonata, the improvements are quite major.
Taking in the view from the driver’s seat and everything looks like it fits. Visually there’s nothing jarring and in some places there are even flourishes.
The primary driver interfaces, the seat and steering wheel, have that polished, ergonomic feel that’s endemic to more expensive vehicles.
It’s not a surprise when you find out Hyundai spent huge amounts of time perfecting both - the wheel itself is boasted to have taken more than 16 months of development, while the plush, ventilated leather seats feel very high quality.
Clocking in at 2,805mm between the wheels, the Sonata has gained only 20mm in wheelbase, but that’s good enough to give it the biggest wheelbase in its class. It’s ridiculously spacious - if your driver isn’t king-sized then the rear passengers might even be able to cross their legs in the back.
We also tested the higher-spec sunroof-equipped version of the car and while that adds quite a bit to the interior ambience, it does impinge on the headroom noticeably.
Locally the Sonata’s offered with two trim levels. Both have the same 2.0-litre engine (dubbed ‘2.0 GLS’ spec) although there is a basic trim and higher Sunroof (‘S/R’) offering. The latter, which is the one tested here, adds a considerable amount of equipment for the $10k premium.
Topping our favourites list are the ventilated seats, and shod with very premium feeling leather too - and the start button. Not mentioned on the equipment list is also another great feature which automatically opens the boot if you stand behind the locked vehicle for more than three seconds.
Another compelling aspect of the Sonata is the fact that Hyundai has upped the safety aspect too, something that sometimes gets forgotten amidst the race for space and luxury. The car has ESP, ABS and traction control, as expected from any machine in this segment, but it also adds static bending lights, rear cross traffic alert and a blind spot monitoring system, both of which are rarities in cars of this type.
READ MORE: Hyundai's New Cars For 2015
The Sonata is a powerhouse combination. It has a decent performing drivetrain that’s not very powerful, but is efficient enough and most importantly, quiet.
Right now, it’s a stand out car in the big sedan segment, but that may not last: 2015 will see the launch of two key competitors, the new Toyota Camry and the Volkswagen Passat, both of which look like they’ll have their own set of convincing values to bring the fight hard.
But until then though, the Sonata is more or less free to sing its renewed song loud and proud.
NEED TO KNOW:
Engine 1,999cc, 16V, inline 4
Power 157bhp at 6200rpm
Torque 196Nm at 4000rpm
Gearbox 6-speed automatic
Top Speed 180km/h
0-100kmh 11.1 seconds
Fuel Efficiency 8.0L/100km
Price $149,800 with COE
Also Consider: Toyota Camry, Volkswagen Passat