Tough road ahead for classy Sonata

2018 Sonata Premium 009

What is it?

HARD to believe that Hyundai’s Sonata dates back to 1985, because the mid-sized sedan seems to have been around forever — but in its latest form it’s as fresh as tomorrow’s tweet from The Donald.

The car is a visual stunner with an all-new body, the fresh Kona-like grille, sleek headlights and a new transmission and updated interior too.

The model range has been reduced to two, Active and Premium, both pretty high-spec but with different engines and detail changes — and a big difference in price.

Fact is the sedan market is shrinking in the face of burgeoning SUV sales, so the mid-spec Elite has been dropped.

2018 Sonata Premium 014

What’s it cost?

Both Active and Premium get satellite navigation and a new in-dash multimedia’s 8.0-inch touchscreen with satnav and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, but the Active has a 2.4-litre naturally aspirated 138kW/241Nm motor while the Premium gets a considerably more muscular 180kW/353Nm 2.0-litre turbo.

Also common to both are  gloss black ‘piano key’ switches and upgraded audio units and centre consoles.

Other features of the touchscreen include live traffic updates,  Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, AM/FM radio and AUX and USB audio inputs.

Both also have handsome new three-spoke steering wheels.

Our steed was the $45,490 Premium, while the Active sells for $30,990, plus on road charges.

It seems a huge gap, but apart from the engine, the Premium also gains a new 8-speed automatic transmission which gives drivers the choice of Comfort, Eco, Sport and Smart modes.

There’s also a host of extra stuff, among them powered and ventilated seats, several sensory safety items, such as lane departure, blind spot and rear cross traffic warnings, a panoramic glass sunroof, dual zone climate control, LED headlights and static bending  lights.

Premium also gets bigger 18-inch alloys, alloy pedals, leather seats with contrast stitching, wireless charging pad for mobile phones, rain-sensing wipers and an electronic handbrake — or should that be finger brake?

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What’s it go like?

The interior is pretty impressive, with lots of space front and rear, comfy, supportive seats, good visibility and a big boot, which can be extended from its generous 510 litres via the 60/40 split-fold rear seats.

The driver gets comprehensive instrumentation, a leather-trimmed multi-button steering wheel, electro-chromatic mirror and a vehicle ready to respond to any input.

The powertrain can take the five-seat sedan to 100km/h in 8.0 seconds and runs along smoothly and sans effort at any legal speed.

The ride is quiet and confident, with excellent stability.

As before, the suspension has been tuned to suit local conditions, so the Sonata is a competent handler with the dynamics to keep a keen driver happy while giving the Premium’s Michelin performance tyres a bit of joy.

The official average fuel use figure is 8.5L/100km so we were pretty chuffed with the 9.2 we recorded in our usual mix of urban, suburban and country roads, including a few performance squirts.

The Premium also has paddle shift for Ricciardo wannabes, but we really did not think that was necessary. For us, the Sonata is much more class sedan, a long distance pleasure, than something you’d want to punt along like a sports car.

As it is, it takes a constant look at the digital speed readout to stay on the right side of the law. The car is so smooth that you’re in police camera territory before you know it.

We liked the clear reversing camera too, which made the 4.85m long car easy to park.

2018 Sonata Active 013

What we like?

  • Great appearance
  • Refinement
  • Classy interior
  • Quiet, comfy ride

2018 Sonata Premium 029

What we don’t like?

  • Some formidable rivals at its price

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The bottom line?

A sedan of obvious status with glam looks and excellent new techno features. That 8-speed transmission is a honey, so is the turbo motor. And then there’s its pioneering five-year warranty, now being copied by more rival brands.


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Hyundai Sonata Premium, priced from $45,490
  • Looks - 8.5/10
  • Performance - 8.0/10
  • Safety - 8.0/10
  • Thirst - 8.0/10
  • Practicality - 8.0/10
  • Comfort - 8.0/10
  • Tech - 8.5/10
  • Value - 7.5/10

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