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SALES FIGURES FOR medium-sized sedans tell an ugly story.
Not one brand recorded an increase in year-on-year sales for
2016-2017, according to the December 2017 VFACTS report.
Even the market-leading Toyota Camry saw a 10.8 per cent
drop nationally. However, thanks largely to its fleet sales, the
Camry sold more than six times the number of its nearest
competitor, the Mazda6, and more than 20 times its rival in
this comparison, the Hyundai Sonata.
The silver lining to this doom and gloom is that medium-sized
sedans are better than ever, and clever consumers can snare
a real bargain. Not so long ago, a comparison between
a Camry and a Sonata would have been a ‘battle of the beige’,
but now nothing could be further from the truth.
In 2014, the Sonata returned to the local Hyundai line-up,
replacing the much-derided i45. It offered two very good engines
and a standard features list that could make the most tight-fisted
customer smile. It has been given a substantial facelift for 2018
to bring it in line with Hyundai’s latest design philosophies. And,
as noted last issue, the all-new Camry is no longer the humdrum
transport that was a Toyota staple for nearly 25 years. So what
exactly do these revamped sedans now offer?
Sometimes a simple selection is best, especially in a low-volume
segment like medium sedans, and that’s how Hyundai has
packaged its Sonata. There are two spec levels – Active and
Premium – and the key difference is the drivetrain.
The cheaper Active ($30,990) gets a naturally aspirated
2.4 -litre four-cylinder engine and six-speed transmission, while
the Premium ($45,490) has a 2.0 -litre turbocharged unit and
eight-speed auto. The MY18 Active comes standard with an eight-
inch touchscreen infotainment system, proximity key and push-
button start, as well as sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Hyundai has never been renowned for its styling, but over the
past few years it has gone through a Euro-inspired revolution.
The Sonata’s graceful lines are perhaps the best expression
yet of the Korean carmaker’s new aesthetic sensibilities.
The interior doesn’t let it down, either, with a smooth leather
steering wheel, pleasant touch-points all around, and a row
of ‘tape deck’ switches that give it a practical yet stylish
appearance. Slightly coarse seat fabric is about the only thing
that betrays the Sonata Active as a base model.
Sitting inside either the Sonata or Camry shows bracket
creep is alive and well. These ‘mid-sized’ sedans are enormous,
with as much room as a Falcon or Commodore. The Sonata’s
seats are somewhat flat and shapeless, especially the bases,
but beyond that its ergonomics are excellent. The centre
armrest is wide and well positioned, and the console has a
number of recesses for storing odds and ends, plus cup holders
that can accommodate all but the widest drink bottles.
Hyundai has a growing reputation for user-friendly
infotainment systems and, although it took us some time to
puzzle out the trip meter, the new touchscreen holds true to
this, with almost no learning curve. Unlike the Camry, the sat
nav displays the current speed limit, but the image from the
reversing camera lacks definition. The foot-operated parking
brake (a concession to the Sonata’s popularity in America)
also makes it feel a bit old-school in an age of increasingly
ubiquitous electric parking brakes.
While the 2.0 -litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the
up-spec Sonata Premium deserves its plaudits, the naturally
aspirated 2.4-litre four is no slacker, either. It’s sharp off the
line, has plenty of grunt at highway speeds, and works well with
Hyundai’s silky six-speed transmission, so the driver is never
left hanging if sudden acceleration is required. There’s a
sport mode, but the changes to engine mapping are virtually
indiscernible. The paddle shifters are likewise redundant,
and positioned such that I found them interfering with my
fingers while I was trying to perform three-point turns.
The steering has some slackness when off centre, which
doesn’t make the Sonata the best handling car, but it’s nice
The Sonata’s graceful lines are the
best expression yet of the Korean
carmaker’s new aesthetic sensibilities
OR0318_MOT_Comparo Camry_Sonata.indd 42
9/2/18 5:05 pm
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