SONATA IS MUSIC TO GEARS
SURPRISE EURO STYLING A WINNER
THE moisture has evaporated from the ' fluidic sculpture' that once made the Sonata a standout on the road, but Hyundai's latest version of its mid-sized sedan has been given a shot of adrenalin that makes it a winner in other areas.
The swoopy lines of the earlier Sonata - sold as the i45 in Australia - have gone, replaced by the same-same looks of many of today's upmarket cars, but looks can fool.
Under the skin of the seventh generation is a vast interior and boot, plus technology that lifts the Sonata to a level that should have warranted a name change, possibly to Cantata.
For this is a Sonata with a voice.
There are three models with the new 'mature, sophisticated' look: A naturally-aspirated 138kW/241Nm 2.4litre, and two models with mighty 180kW/350Nm 2.0litre turbo motors, tuned suspension and other refinements that have put the once mundane saloon on to an altogether higher plane.
The twin-tail piped range starts with the high-spec 2.4litre Active at $29,990, then comes the 2.0T Elite at $36,990 and the Premium at $5000 more.
All have petrol power and get Hyundai's advanced six-speed automatic with lock-up torque converter and sequential manual shift mode.
The Active comes with six airbags, the full electronic safety kit, hill start assist, auto-on headlights, LED daytime running lights, rear-view camera, parking radar, 17-inch alloys , keyless entry, a 4.3-inch touchscreen audio system with CD player, MP3 capability and six speakers AUX/USB audio input with digi- tal iPod compatibility and Bluetooth connectivity.
The wheel of the tilt and telescopic steering column hosts cruise, audio and phone controls, there's a trip computer, LED high-mounted stoplight, 60:40 split folding rear seats and aircon with rear ducts. But no Satnav.
For that, you need to move to the Elite, which also adds electric folding mirrors and 12-way driver's seat adjustment, smart key with push button start, hands-free boot opening, leather appointed seats, LED tail-lights and dual-zone climate control.
The top-of-the-tree $41,990 Premium runs on 18-inch alloys with 235/45 lo-pro tyres and gains front parking sensors, HID Bi-Xenon headlights with auto
levelling and static 'bending' lights, an automatic windscreen defogger, auto dipping mirror, powered passenger's seat, electronic park brake, heated and ventilated front seats, a vast panoramic glass sunroof, auto-on wipers, and a 4.2-inch TFT LCD colour display.
The interior is impressive, the enormous cabin offering lots of rear seat space, even with the front ones fully extended.
It has excellent sound isolation, the dash is businesslike, visibility's good and the wide seats comfortable.
All models have a stiffer, stronger and lighter body structure and the turbo versions also have a beefed-up Sachs-shockered suspension, tuned for Australian conditions, plus a sharper steering and a five-star safety rating.
Hyundai chose the twisty roads of Tasmania, including three Targa special stages, to show the performance and agility of the new cars. The turbo twins, which
can get to 100km/h in 7.2 seconds, revelled in the demanding conditions and the transmission somehow managed to select the right cog for every occasion.
Response from the twinscroll turbo is instant and we enjoyed every moment behind the wheel. A great drive.
The Active was no slouch either, its motor newly recalibrated to provide optimum torque lower in the range and its softer suspension adding a tad more comfort.
The updates have also improved Sonata's rated towing capacity to 1300kg braked; 100kg more than its major rival.
Average fuel consumption is 8.3litres/100km for the Active, 9.2 for the 20T models.
Diesel? Not in the Sonata range, but yes, there's a diesel sedan and wagon in the i40, which still has its fluidic sculpting, and is sold alongside the new Sonatas.
A sophisticated performer. A nicely finished surprise package with Euro-style pep and class.