Published on December 10th, 2015 | by Subhash Nair


Hyundai Sonata Review: The Continental Korean

It seems only yesterday the Sonata was looked at as a budget-friendly alternative to the Toyota Camry and while it’s still difficult to run away from that stigma in the automotive industry, Hyundai’s brilliant marketing and product planning have elevated the nameplate and separated it from the pack. It’s now more European, with branding that feels more ‘global’ rather than Korean. This is similar to what Samsung did for their smart phones: a decade ago, neither one of these Korean giants would have been seen as viable alternatives to their Western equivalents. So what has Hyundai done to the Sonata that’s so different? Well, the answer isn’t quite so simple, but it’s mostly to do with subtlety.

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The Sonata, now in its 7th generation doesn’t look much like its immediate predecessor. The previous model used a very distinct design language and could be instantly recognised as an Asian design with its upswept lights and brave use of chrome and curves. This new model however goes for a more continental look. Some details on the exterior carry over from the previous generation for sure, such as the chrome strip that extends from the headlights and envelopes the side windows, but for the most part this is more than just an evolution in the  looks department.

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Goodyear eagle 650x85(DSF)

It’s not as eye-catching as the 6th generation Sonata but it’s definitely a more handsome package. As mentioned before, the Sonata’s new party trick is subtlety. The front grille instantly conveys a ‘premium’ look, with broad horitzontal bars filling the hexagonal cutout. It does this without having to look too blingy. The Hyundai corporate grille works very well here as a centrepiece of the exterior design and is certainly a lot better looking than the wavy, ridgey, chrome piece used on the previous Sonata.

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The front Daytime-Running Lights are still integrated into the bumper along with the front fog lights, which is a little odd considering they had more than enough time to integrate it into the main headlight cluster. It’s a bit strange that Hyundai are content with the more after-market look on an otherwise sleek and uncontroversial design. Having said that, the headlights are quite pretty, with a nice little lighting accent strip right above the HID projector lamp which we feel would adequately suit the role of a DRL.

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The interior of the car is well-crafted and planned. Plastics match each other and even the faux metal trim looks way better than fake wood looks on some other cars around this price bracket. The dashboard is flat and near vertical, which reduces the amount of clutter on the centre console while giving the cockpit a unique, assymetrical look that is just as functional as it is easy on the eyes. The large multimedia unit for instance is placed at the same height as the instrument cluster, so the driver doesn’t have to waste miliseconds locating vital information. It’s all part of Hyundai’s Human-Machine Interface philosophy, which puts an emphasis on ergonomics. Besides being easy to use, it’s nice that the infotainment unit plays just abut everything you throw at it, including video files for some reason.

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We were pleased to find a large number of usefully sized cubby holes and storage compartments all around the interior of the Sonata. Even though at first glance it’s definitely a simple looking space, but the attention to detail is incredible. Buttons are nice to press, material choices are fantastic considering the price and even the little things, like the shape of the headrest shows the amount of effort that went into the Sonata LF. There’s even a nice full-length moonroof, which can be slid open for the front passengers.

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Hyundai also intergrates a smart trunk lid system, which automatically opens the boot just by standing behind the car with the key in your pocket. It sounds like a system that could easily go wrong, but in practice we found that they’ve pretty much ironed out most of the loopholes. This makes it quite naturally for shoppers who have their hands full to simply walk up to the car and wait for it to open itself up. The Sonata’s key fob even sends a signal to the car to extend the wing mirrors when you walk up to it. This enhanced keyless entry feature isn’t as common as you might think, so it’s nice to see on the Hyundai.

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Perhaps the most surprising feature of the Sonata isn’t at all a feature. It’s the way it drives. Even without the 2.4-litre option, Hyundai have absolutely nailed it in terms of performance. It comes with Hyundai’s 2.0 engine with multi-port injection which is paired to a six-speed automatic gearbox that sends 154PS and 194Nm of torque to the front wheels.

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It produces similar power and efficiency as Japanese makes with similar engine capacities but the way the car drives puts it in a category of its own. Hand on heart, this car is probably the least fatiguing D-segment car to take for a highway cruise. And what’s more, because it was honed on the Nürburgring, it’s really fun to take around corners. Understandably, your average Sonata owner isn’t going to push it to its limits, but it’s nice to see that Hyundai took the time to ensure it made a car that drives as well as it looks.

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The sad thing about the Sonata is that it exists in a market that rewards excess. This modern day Korean D-segmenter is more toned down and conservative than most actual continental cars. But put aside what the brand name means to you, put aside any notion that a badge carries with it a hundred different labels based on what people say about it and you’ll find the Sonata is actually a pretty rare gem. If only they had put a bit more effort on those rims though, there are clearly 2 different materials that are supposed to match perfectly.

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It doesn’t redefine luxury, and certainly doesn’t pretend to. There’s a fine line that seperates excess and sophistication, and Hyundai have made a product that balances itself perfectly between the two. And of course,a the outstanding warranty package (it was 8 years long for the drivetrain when first launched, but the website no longer indicates this, consult your dealer) and relatively simple engine and gearbox should give owners a worry-free experience. Contrary to popular belief, Korean marques do tend to hold their value quite well, so this would make a pretty solid option for those looking for a fleet of company cars for their executives too.

Hyundai Sonata 2.0L Executive Specifications

Engine In-line 4 Nu 2.0 MPI

Displacement 1,999cc

Transmission 6-speed Automatic

Max Power 154PS @ 6200RPM

Max Torque 194NM @ 4,000RPM

Selling Price RM153,510.03 (base model price: RM139,295.24)

About the Author

Written work on @subhashtag on instagram. Autophiles Malaysia on Youtube.

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