Since its inception in 1985, the Hyundai Sonata has steadily grown through its seven generations from a relatively average sedan to a sophisticated and luxurious ride. The 2015 Sonata, recently revealed in Korea and the New York Auto Show, is no exception, but does it have the same class killing effect that the sixth generation Hyundai possessed?
The previous generation Sonata took the market by surprise, marking, for many, the beginning of Hyundai’s massive design turnaround. Before then Hyundai had made reasonable cars that looked good enough to buy and drove well enough to enjoy, but something clicked at the beginning of the decade when Hyundai, not satisfied with being one of the global top five, started to really throw designer after designer into the development of their new cars. Their new design language, ‘Fluidic Sculpture’, was a game changer and clearly visible in the transformation of the Getz into the i20, the fourth generation Hyundai Accent and the stunning transformation of the Sonata. Packed with features that you would expect from a German car but with a far more friendly price tag, the Sonata sales helped to establish Hyundai internationally not only as a good car maker, but as a good-looking good car maker.
So what about the new generation Sonata? The new Sonata has been designed along same Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 that has made the 2015 Hyundai Genesis a serious contender in the high end luxury car market, but with a slightly toned down approach. Hyundai claims that the new model’s ‘energetic and crisp’ lines are highlighted by smooth and subtle surfaces, but what this really means is that they have increased the aerodynamics (it boasts a drag coefficient of 0.27) of the previous generation and made it less boxy and more graceful. And I mean graceful. From the models that have been displayed at the auto shows so far the new Sonata looks graceful and sophisticated without any of the madness and impracticality of many of its competitors. From the front the grille is subtle while still being a significant improvement from the sixth generation and avoiding the imposing maw of the Genesis. The new Sonata is also larger than the sixth generation by 35mm in length and 30mm in width which shows in the cabin.
If you are looking for a splash of sport with your sophistication, the Sonata Limited offers you rocker panel extensions and dual exhausts while the Sonata Sport features a far more aggressive grille and bumper, side rocker extensions and side chrome moldings. The Sonata Sport 2.0T offers all this plus quad exhaust tips and 18″ alloys up from the 16″ on the SE.
On the inside, the cabin has also had a class upgrade and, when combined with Hyundai’s massive investment in the multimedia options of the Sonata, takes the Sonata into the heights of technological comfort while driving. The down side is that many of these options, such as the 400W Infinity premium audio system and Blue Link®, are optional upgrades. While the SiriusXM® satellite radio makes up for a lot with its 22 minutes of rewind on live radio and Travel Link® information, the Blue Link® voice recognition and navigation display, remote start via mobile app and Hyundai Assurance Car Care in-vehicle app is still a very tempting upgrade.
Thankfully Hyundai didn’t go with the 1.6 turbocharger engines as many had suspected, favouring instead a revised 2.4-liter Theta II GDI four-cylinder engine that will push 138kW and 231Nm through the SE, Limited and Sport models. For the highly desirable 2.0T, Hyundai has fitted a 2L turbocharged version of the Theta II and you’ll expect around 329kW and 353Nm. The 2.0T’s turbo kicks in more at lower RPM so you’ll get to the torque quicker.
Hyundai has also done some serious work on the suspension of the 2015 Sonata, taking it out to the hallowed Nürburgring track for testing, so we can expect better handling and control.
SAFETY AND COMFORT
Aside from all the standard features that we have come to expect from a luxury mid-size sedan such as ESC, VSB, TC and ABS, Hyundai has found space for even more airbags (This one at the driver’s knees) and introduced a host of tech to help you drive safer and avoid accidents such as Forward Collision Warning, Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Lane Departure Warning Systems. These all sound excellent, but I’m waiting for the cacophony of alerts that you’ll get trying to make your way through JoBurg traffic at rush hour.
Hyundai has put a lot of thought and design into the 2015 Sonata and are hoping to sell around 228 000 in Korea and abroad. After having a look at this vehicle there is a pretty good chance that they will easily get this target provided that they offer the 2015 Sonata at around the same price of the sixth generation Sonata. The tech packs that are offered are appealing, but whether they’ll survive or even arrive in SA is questionable. The 2015 Sonata isn’t a flashy car, it is subtle and sophisticated and might just be what this country needs.