HYUNDAI SONATA N LINE

The Hyundai Sonata dates all the way back to 1989 in Australia.

Now in its eighth generation, it started life as a medium-sized four door sedan that offered family-friendly motoring for a budget $19,990.

More than 30 years later, the latest Sonata N Line, launched in December last year, has undergone a transformation — to emerge as a highly desirable turbocharged sports machine.

There’s just the one fully equipped model priced from $50,990 plus on-roads (for a white one). At the moment you can grab one for $55,654 driveaway, which includes metallic paint, normally a $595 extra.

STYLING
With the latest model Sonata N has adopted the low-slung lines of a coupe, sitting low and wide with aggressively sculpted curves.

The wide, droopy face with its bold cascading glossy black grille evokes classic Italian sports cars of yesteryear.

At the rear, an LED strip across the boot ties the LED tail lights together to create a sense of width and striking night-time appearance, with twin tailpipes integrated into each side of a diffuser-style lower treatment.

A Sports body kit, LED headlights, DRLs and tail lights, and 19-inch alloys wrapped in 245/40 Continentals complete the picture.

There’s four colour choices; White Cream, Hampton Grey, Flame Red and Midnight Black, and only white is free.

One small annoyance is the lack of an exterior boot release.

INTERIOR
Inside the cabin is trimmed in an upmarket combination of suede and black Nappa leather, with decorative N Line badging.

The dash incorporates a free-standing 10.25-inch touchscreen and separate 12.3-inch configurable LCD hi-res colour instrument binnacle.

Creature comforts include heated and ventilated, power-adjustable front seats, heated outer rear seats, dual-zone climate control air conditioning and a panoramic glass sunroof.

Profiles store multiple driver preferences, for settings such as seat and side mirror positions, HUD and driving mode settings, navigation history, and active Bluetooth device and radio station settings.
Other nice touches include auto high beam, adaptive cruise control, wireless smartphone charging, Head-Up Display plus front and rear park sensors, with Surround View Monitor with Rear View Monitor and Parking Guidance.

Although upmarket, the cabin is a bit monotone and glare makes some controls hard to see.

The driver’s door handle is easy to fumble, while the handbrake switch is buried down and to the right of the wheel.

The head-up display is almost invisible with polarised sunglasses.

INFOTAINMENT
A 12-speaker Bose premium audio system surrounds the occupants with three speakers up front, three on each side and three in the rear.

The system features CenterPoint surround technology, which splits music into multiple channels, to fully immerse occupants in a surround sound experience.

The infotainment system offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, along with satellite navigation, AM/FM and digital radio, Bluetooth audio streaming and you can use voice command for text messages.

ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
The Smartstream 2.5-litre turbo-petrol engine delivers 213kW of power and 422Nm of torque, the latter from 1650 through to 4000 rpm. That’s more than the excellent i30 Fastback N, which is good for 206kW and 392Nm. Of course, Sonata is larger and weighs more — but you get bragging rights.

The engine is paired with a ‘wet’ eight-speed dual-clutch transmission developed specially for N vehicles, featuring shift-by-wire, push-button gear selection as well as paddle shifters.

SAFETY
Standard SmartSense technologies include Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with Junction Turning Assist function, Driver Attention Warning and Blind-Spot Collision Avoidance-Assist systems.

It also features Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist and Lane Following Assist systems, and Smart Cruise Control with Stop & Go.

DRIVING
The addition of a turbocharger, different cylinder head and revised internals contribute to significantly better performance compared to the 142kW of the standard naturally aspirated engine in the previous model.

With 422Nm of torque, N Line has stacks of low and mid-range grunt and pulls strongly all the way to redline, with fast, snappy changes from the twin clutch transmission.

It does however display a slight hesitancy when you back off, then almost immediately hit it again. But then, you’ve got to remember that it has a twin clutch.

With launch control, the dash from 0-100km/h takes 6.2 seconds, pretty quick for a car that was once a mum and dad special.

Drive modes include normal, sport, sport+ and custom, while shifting between modes changes the look of instruments to reflect each mode.

In addition to changing the cluster, toggling through them alters the steering weight and the speed and strategy of the transmission shifts.

With a kerb weight of 1636kg, suspension is MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear, with monotube rear dampers that deliver rapid response, making the car more agile than you might expect for the size.

To bring Sonata to a stop, engineers have added larger front and rear brake calipers and discs, 345x30mm ventilated front and 325x12mm solid discs rear.

Yes, you might have picked up on the fact that active sound means the engine note is enhanced artificially, but you know what? I don’t mind. It simply makes the driving experience more engaging and that’s what really counts.

With claimed fuel consumption of 8.1L/100km we were using 9.1litres during our test period.

SUMMING UP
Is it worth it? Drive it and see what you think. Sonata N Line makes all the right noises and has all the right moves.

It will be a shame if this car does not get the attention it deserves, primarily because of the name and associated baggage.

Say Sonata to someone and it conjures images of a boring, four-door econobox. Quite frankly, they should have ditched the name to make the transformation complete.

RATINGS (out of 10)

  • Looks – 8
  • Performance – 8
  • Safety – 8
  • Thirst – 7.5
  • Practicality – 7.5
  • Comfort – 7.5
  • Tech – 8
  • Value – 8
  • Overall – 7.8

AT A GLANCE

MODEL RANGE
Hyundai Sonata N Line: $50,990
Note: This price does not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Hyundai dealer for drive-away prices.

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

ENGINE: SmartStream G2.5
Capacity: 2.5 litres
Configuration: In-line four
Maximum Power: 213kW @ 5800 rpm
Maximum Torque: 422 Nm @ 1650 – 4000 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 8.1L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 188g/km

DRIVELINE: 8sp Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT)

DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4900 mm
Wheelbase: 2840 mm
Width: 1860 mm
Height: 1445 mm
Turning Circle: 11.0 metres
Kerb Mass: 1636 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 60 litres

BRAKES:
Front: Ventilated disc 345mm x 30mm
Rear: Solid disc 325 x 12 mm

STANDARD WARRANTY:
Five years / unlimited kilometres

About Chris Riley

Chris Riley has been a journalist for 40 years. He has spent half of his career as a writer, editor and production editor in newspapers, the rest of the time driving and writing about cars both in print and online. His love affair with cars began as a teenager with the purchase of an old VW Beetle, followed by another Beetle and a string of other cars on which he has wasted too much time and money. A self-confessed geek, he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions - at the risk of sounding silly.
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