A medium-large car, Sonata is one of the many contenders starting to line up to replace the Ford Falcon, Holden Commodore and Toyota Camry when they disappear from the local car-making scene. Camry is the closest in external size to the Sonata. Inside however, the Hyundai’s use of front-wheel-drive means it’s not that much smaller than the big Holdens and Fords in the cabin and boot.
Build quality of Sonata was on the cheap n’ cheerful category way back then, but has improved out of sight since its early days and Hyundai was rated number three in the most recent JD Power initial quality study in the USA – beaten only by Kia and Porsche. Interestingly, Kia is controlled by Hyundai these days, having gone under financially during the GFC.
For the 2017 sales season Hyundai has concentrated on improved handling and additional equipment, but has left Sonata’s styling alone. The latter probably makes sense because the shape has already received praise, however buyers can be a fickle lot and often demand a car gets an appearance upgrade.
In the suspension department, the Sonata Active and Elite have been upgraded to 215/55R17 Continental Conti Premium Contact 5 tyres. Both already have alloy wheels. Sonata Premium gets 235/45R18 Michelin Pilot 3 tyres.
The switch to the upmarket tyre brands is a direct result of Hyundai’s head office recognising Australian drivers’ demands for good handling.
Hyundai Australia’s general manager of product engineering, Hee Loong Wong (known to the company’s Aussies as Wongy), tells us, “Earlier this year head office gave us the option of testing the Continentals and Michelins on the car, and we jumped at the opportunity.
“We engaged former Hyundai WRC driver Chris Atkinson to evaluate them at the limit of adhesion under controlled conditions. His feedback was very pleasing. We have seen gains in outright grip level, ride comfort and quietness.”
As car journalists we have yet to get ourselves into the driving seat of a 2017 Sonata, but have admired Chris Atkinson’s work for many years and certainly trust his judgment on what cars feel like at, and perhaps a bit over, the limit.
To complement the improved handling all Sonatas now have steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. The mid-level Sonata Elite gains automatic wipers, heated front seats, front parking assist system and an electronic parking brake.
Sonata Elite buyers now have the $2000 option of a panoramic glass sunroof, something that was previously fitted only to the Sonata Premium as standard.
The Sonata Premium has an increasingly advanced range of safety aids: lane departure warning, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert and, best of all to our way of thinking, smart cruise control.
Hyundai Sonata has a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and comes with iCare Customer Care Program.
Prices begin at $30,590 for the 2.4-litre petrol Active and climb to $45,490 for the topline 2.0-litre turbo-petrol Sonata Premium. The mid-spec Elite turbo sells for $38,350. On-road costs have to be factored in, but such is the state of play in the redhot Australian car sales market at the moment that you may be able to get a dealer to do a special deal on the ORCs. Give it a try…