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New Hyundai Sonata review - Singing a new tune


What does it look like?

Well, it has presence, that's for sure. I'm not sure if this car can be labelled 'beautiful', but it certainly turned a lot of heads on our drive to Pondicherry from Chennai. The 'Fluidic' design philosophy is very much in evidence here, and it works in a sort of over-the-top way. The rear end is almost a dead ringer for an Audi A6 (no bad thing), in profile there's more than a hint of four-door coupe and viewed head on, the car's grille fairly leaps out at you. It's the weakest link in the car's overall design, as far as I'm concerned - there's lashings of chrome on the grille (and plenty more all over the car's exterior), and perhaps the effort to introduce some 'bling' into the car could have been a little toned down. The 17-inch alloys fill out the arches nicely, though, and all told, this car should find favour with people who want to stand out form the crowd.

What's the inside story?

Very good, truth be told. The Sonata's cabin has received a comprehensive upgrade and, in keeping with Hyundai's philosophy, it's stuffed with features:
- front and rear seat heating and cooling (a segment first, although the MT version only has heated and cooled rear seats)
- rear camera and parking sensor
- 6 airbags
- rear seat armrest with audio controls
- Bluetooth, USB/AUX, 6-CD changer, 6-speaker audio system
- leather seats
- steering mounted audio and Bluetooth controls
- dual zone automatic climate control
- keyless entry
- push start (AT)
- chrome and wood finish
- electric, heated ORVMS
- headlamp washers
- cruise control and paddle shifters (AT)

There are many more, by the way - suffice it to say that there's plenty of stuff to play with, and it's difficult to find fault with the cabin's build quality. The seats are comfy, there's plenty of head and leg room and the boot is huge as well, lending the car plenty of practicality.


How does it go?

That depends on what version you opt for, AT or MT. Quite frankly, the Sonata's 2.4-litre, 4-cylinder GDI petrol engine, producing 198 bhp@6300 rpm and 25.5 kgm@4250 rpm, is best experienced with the 6-speed manual transmission. The gearshift action is smooth, and it's much easier to match your shifts to the revs, for a more pleasurable drive. The AT, also 6-speed, bogs the car down and is sluggish, although it's very smooth - kick-downs don't produce an instantaneous response; however, for urban use (and let's face it, this car will spend most of its time in the city), the AT will be very handy. The engine itself is very refined and has a nice growl when you rev it hard, although at idle it's a little too silent, almost! Hyundai, how about giving us the turbocharged 2-litre, 274 bhp petrol engine that's available in the USA, cost be damned?!


Does it handle?

The answer is that it's a far better handler than the earlier Sonata, which is a good thing. Still, if you're looking for a bit of sportiness, look elsewhere - this car's been tuned for comfort! That's something it does very well, by the way - the ride is plush and the suspension (McPherson struts up front and multi-link at the rear, both with amplitude selective dampers) soaks up bumps without transmitting much more than a rumble to your behind. Steering feel is acceptable - some more feedback and responsiveness would be welcome, as would be more feel from the brakes, although they do the job of hauling in the car. With 155 mm of ground clearance, speed breakers pose no problems either.

Should you buy one?

I'd say wait until we do a full road test, where we pit it against its rivals, but as a snap answer, it's a 'yes'. The new Sonata is a true Hyundai - it offers plenty of features, does most things well, (now) has presence, is backed up by the Hyundai service network and should offer good value (pricing will be announced soon).