SONATA IS MU­SIC TO GEARS

SUR­PRISE EURO STYLING A WIN­NER

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - Driveway - Bill Buys

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.

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