We’ve just been driving the new Hyundai Sonata in Chennai and initial impressions are very promising. Hyundai hopes to emulate the success of its first-generation Sonata with this car and, going by the looks alone, it is on the right path.
The car really is quite stunning. Look at the nose and you can see 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 Sonata, known as the i45 abroad, looks even more attractive from the rear, those beautifully detailed tail-lights and the spot-on proportions of the boot making it look really pleasing to the eye.
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 and are wide enough to support your shoulders. And even the elbow rests are perfectly placed and well padded.
There is plenty of space at the rear as well, and the seats feel comfortable. The wheelbase is larger than on the current car and as a result the Hyundai saloon almost has the same cabin volume as a Honda Accord. And, like all cars in this segment, you get rear air-con vents and a very comfortable elbow rest.
While interior quality levels are not as good as those on the Accord, they are pretty close. Some bits like the black plastic on the centre console, vents, steering wheel and especially the stalks disappoint – their quality is not really up to what you expect.
The 2.4-litre direct injection GDI motor feels refined and develops 198bhp at 6300 rpm, but it doesn’t feel as powerful as the numbers suggest. The engine isn’t quick-revving and things only really get frantic after 4000rpm.
Hyundai will launch the Sonata with a six-speed manual transmission and also a six-speed automatic. We drove the automatic which worked well overall but felt a bit indecisive at times. You can opt to use the paddle-shifters to stay in the preferred gear and driving in this ‘manual’ mode is actually more pleasing.
Straightline stability is impressive and the ride quality is good too, although it does feel a bit stiff on sharper bumps. The new Sonata gets independent suspension for both the front and rear, important on a car of this size. The handling, like most Hyundais, is however compromised in favour of a softer setup; so while the new Sonata dives into corners very enthusiastically, it lacks the accuracy or finesse of something like a Skoda Superb in corners. However, the steering felt quite nice in the confines of the city.
The Sonata has a spacious and comfortable cabin and Hyundai has equipped the car 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 but assuming Hyundai gets the pricing right, the Sonata will give the Korean carmaker its best shot at regaining lost ground. Hyundai will be assembling the Sonata at its Chennai plant. The Sonata is priced at Rs 18.53 lakh for the manual and Rs 20.61 lakh for the automatic variant. If there’s one thing Indians know how to appreciate, it’s value for money, and Hyundai knows that too well.
Hyundai Sonata image gallery