The Sonata? Forget any reference to a run-of-the-mill classical instrumental composition, think more in terms of the Surprise Symphony for the new eponymous Hyundai.

The eighth generation of the mid-size sedan, which first saw the light of day here in 1989, and now with a single designation N Line, is a genuine sports sedan not to be sniffed at.

The range has been pared back from Active and Premium variants to a single model – the Sonata N Line – in a less-is-more move. The new Sonata, with performance-plus and looks to match, is a surprise package.

The only sticking point to universal acceptance of the Hyundai could be the more-than-$50,000 price tag. However, a closer look shows off the four-door classic coupe style with luxury, tech and turbo power of more expensive European rivals.

The new model debuts the all-new Smartstream 2.5-litre turbo-petrol GDi engine mated with a new wet-friction eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, incorporating a shift-by-wire push-button gear selector and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifts.

The Sonata N Line is on sale for $50,990, plus on-road costs, and comes with a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, complimentary roadside assistance for 12 months and free 1500 km first service.

The front is straight out of the Hyundai playbook with its hallmark cascading radiator grille, with black inserts flanked by the lighting set-up. However, it is this lighting architecture that sets the Sonata apart.

Daylight running lights start under LED headlamps, wrapping around the lenses up to the bonnet edges, segueing into metal strips on the way back to the windscreen. This theme is repeated at the rear, with a red-light strip going the width of the vehicle, looping up on both sides to end in a boot-lid spoiler.

As well as the stand-out lighting the N Line Sports body kit includes a set of 19-inch Continental tyres that fit well with the sleek profile.

Sonata’s swish suede and Nappa leather trimmed cabin includes heated and ventilated, power adjustable front seats, heated outboard rear seats, dual zone climate control air conditioning and panoramic glass sunroof.

A simple centre console is the base for Sonata’s rotary shift-by-wire gear selector and system controls saving space and coming easily to hand.

Also on view for the first time is a 12.3-inch LCD high resolution colour instrument cluster, complemented by a 10.5-inch touchscreen multimedia unit with satellite navigation.

A 360-degree surround view monitor, wireless smartphone charging and 12-speaker Bose Premium audio, the latter featuring surround technology that splits music into multiple channels, producing full sound immersion.

The new Sonata is the first Hyundai to make use of the latest Smartstream 2.5-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine with high efficiency combustion and integrated thermal management. It has 213 kW at 5800 rpm and 422 Nm between 1650 and 4000 revs.

As well as sporty performance, mated with an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, the powertrain is sparing with fuel and puts out lower emissions.

A suite of SmartSense technology heads up advanced safety, with forward collision avoidance / junction turning assist, driver attention alert and blind spot warning.

Also fitted is lane keeping assist, which consists of two functions – lane departure warning and lane keeping assist. LDW alerts the driver visually and audibly if the vehicle begins to wander out of a lane, while LKA intervenes to assist steering if the LDW is not acted on.

Advanced body construction and six airbags ensure occupants are protected with the latest in passive safety measures.

With Sonata, Hyundai has taken a new approach to chassis and tuning development, with Australian engineers involved early in the piece, before signing off with a grueling test on city, highway, country and gravel roads. The result is a versatile tourer with a touch of spice.

The new engine is in tune with the eight-speed auto transmission, the latter matching revs on downshifts depending on driving style. This works especially effectively in driver selected sports modes.

Fuel consumption is claimed to be 8.1 litres per 100 kilometres in the combined urban / highway cycle. The test car came up with 10,6 litres per 100 kilometres in the city and 5.8 on a motorway run.

The soundtrack is closer to the classical music mode of the Wagnerian Valkyrie, rather than a raw explosive rock vibe. After all, this is a Sonata seeking premium sports saloon acceptance.

A Drive Mode system provides the driver with a choice of normal, sport, sport+ and custom modes, accompanied in the instrument cluster with graphics setting out such things as engine oil temperature, torque and turbo boost pressure.

Launch control pays homage to the racetrack, optimising acceleration from a standstill. With the accelerator fully planted, the system maintains an engine speed that exerts maximum torque, hence performance to match.

The head-up windscreen display is one of the better ones. It shows vehicle speed, navigation instructions, speed limits and traffic sign info, plus active safety alerts and driving system status.

Users choose what is on display and are able to change the position and brightness to suit varying cabin lighting.

Having driven Sonatas since their first appearance Down Under, the latest version is a pleasant surprise in looks, performance and value. It deserves to do well in the war with its more expensive opposition.


Hyundai Sonata N Line: $50,990
Metallic / Mica paint: $595
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Hyundai dealer for drive-away prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (Hyundai Sonata N Line 2.5L Turbo 4-cylinder petrol, 8sp automatic, FWD)

Capacity: 2.497 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 213 kW @ 5800 rpm
Maximum Torque: 422 Nm @ 1650-4000 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 91 RON
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 8.1 L/100km
CO2 emissions 188 g / km

DRIVELINE: Eight-speed dual clutch automatic, front-wheel drive

Length: 4900 mm
Wheelbase: 2840 mm
Width: 1860 mm
Height: 1445 mm
Turning Circle: 11.0 metres
Kerb Mass: 1623 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 60 litres

Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Disc

Five years / unlimited kilometres

About Derek Ogden

On graduating with an honours degree in applied science in London, Derek Ogden worked for the BBC in local radio and several British newspapers as a production journalist and writer. Derek moved to Australia in 1975 and worked as a sub-editor with The Courier Mail and Sunday Mail in Brisbane, moving to the Gold Coast Bulletin in 1980 where he continued as a production journalist. He was the paper's motoring editor for more than 20 years, taking the weekly section from a few pages at the back of the book to a full-colour liftout of up to 36 pages. He left the publication in 2009.
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