Hyundai will be hoping that the New Sonata can repeat the first generation Sonata’s success. It will mean a return to the mainstream for Hyundai in the luxury segment and will effectively reverse the fortunes of the current Sonata in India, which at present is languishing at the bottom of the charts.
Channels flow outwards from the base of the grille in waves, the heavily raked windscreens allow the cabin to rise and fall gently, and even the heavy crease on the doors seems to be caused by the arc of fluid emanating from the front wheel. The i45 looks even more attractive from the rear, those beautifully detailed tail-lights, the spot-on proportions of the boot and the manner in which the lines on the car all converge at the rear making it look nothing short of stunning. Only the grille seems a bit overdone.
Suspension, both front and rear, is independent, important on a car of this size. The compact drivetrain in the nose frees up more space at the front, the high beltline of the car allows for impressive legroom in the rear and the 523-litre boot is huge too.
The dashboard is clearly divided between the driver and passenger, and Hyundai has used sweeping arches to clearly define each binnacle. Hyundai’s new front seats offer fantastic thigh support, they are wide enough to support your shoulders and both elbow rests are perfectly placed and well padded. Visibility from the driver’s seat is also excellent and headroom is good too.
There is plenty of space at the rear too and seat comfort is pretty good too. The wheelbase is larger than on the current car and as a result the Hyundai almost has the same cabin volume as an Accord. And like all cars in this segment, you get rear air-con vents and a very comfortable elbow rest.
Interior quality levels are not as good as those on the Accord but they are pretty close. Some bits like the black plastic on the centre console, the vents, steering wheel and especially the stalks disappoint and their quality is not really upto what you expect.
There is a nice weight to the steering, the car doesn’t really feel as large as it should, and agility is pretty impressive too. The suspension has been tuned for comfort, and this is apparent. It soaks up small road imperfections quite easily, never crash over bumps, and the ride is pretty flat too. The car that comes to India is likely to have a 2.4-litre direct injection GDI motor. Maximum power should be around 198bhp, which should be plenty.
Straightline stability isn’t too bad, even at speed, and corners taken at normal speeds are not an issue either. Problems, however, start as soon as you want to change direction at a slightly higher speed. You soon realise that the steering weight counts for very little, that the front wheels squirm when you tip the car into a corner, and that the i45 rolls a lot at the rear and then loses grip. Not something that inspires the most confidence.
We expect the 2.4 GDI motor with 198bhp will perform better than the 2.0-litre motor we got to drive. However, even more performance and a better sorted and stiffer suspension is unlikely to make the i45 a pleasing car to drive.
Hyundai’s i45 has a spacious and comfortable cabin and Hyundai should equip the car sold here pretty generously too. Ride quality is comfortable and there will be sufficient performance on hand with the 198bhp GDI motor. It may not be blessed in the dynamics department and may lack the finesse of some of its competitors too. But assuming Hyundai gets the pricing right, the i45 will give Hyundai its best shot at regaining lost ground, and the carmaker is unlikely to pass that up.