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Hyundai Sonata returns to basics

Carmaker aims to sell 7 millionth unit with new model

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Published : 2014-04-06 20:28
Updated : 2014-04-06 20:28

Hyundai Motor is quick to suggest that its Fluidic Sculpture design philosophy has given its vehicles a more modern look and ultimately helped it impress a growing number of customers over the past five years.

But with the introduction of Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 and the newly fashioned Sonata, the Korean carmaker has pledged to go back to the basics.

But this time, the basics will be more refined than ever.

The Sonata is Hyundai’s longest-serving model, as it made its debut back in 1985.

Due to this lineage, the Sonata became the first Hyundai car to adopt the Fluidic Sculpture concept in 2009.
[Behind the Wheel / Hyundai Sonata]
Design: ★★★★☆ / Interior: ★★★☆☆ / Performance:★★★★☆ / 
Fuel economy: ★★☆☆☆ / Cost and A/S: ★★★★☆

The new Sonata is more conservative than the curvaceous outgoing model. The fluidity is still there, but the lines are more refined.

Its overall look, which is marked by the new hexagonal grille that is also used in the Genesis lineup, seems to have global tastes in mind; Hyundai is aiming to sell its 7 millionth Sonata worldwide this year.

The interior could be compared to key rivals such as the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord. The keen attention to detail was obvious, and generous amounts of high-quality leather and other expensive materials were used to complete the look.

The new Sonata was also more fun to drive than the Camry.

The V6 engine had plenty of power, responding quickly. On twisty roads, it had a sportier ride than its Japanese rival, with tighter control. The steering had more weight and felt better than in the previous model.

The 2.0 CVVL model that I test-drove churns out a maximum of 168 horsepower and a torque of 20.5 kilogram-meters, and has a fuel economy of 12.1 kilometers per liter. The top-end 2.4 GDI model has 193 horsepower and a torque of 25.2 kilogram-meters.

The Advanced Smart Cruise Control, a first for a Korean-made midsize sedan, also worked well. It automatically adjusted the speed to maintain a safe distance from the vehicles ahead through on-board sensors.

For the new Sonata, Hyundai has made safety a strong selling point, covering more than half of the body with ultrahigh-strength steel.

The car is also stuffed with high-end features include Blind Spot Detection, Forward Collision Warnings and Lane Departure Warnings.

Despite the enhanced safety and performance, Hyundai said it had tried to keep price increases to a minimum. Prices for the new Sonata range from 22.55 million won to 29.9 million won ($21,300-$28,300), up 450,000 won to 750,000 won from those of previous models.

Hyundai poured 450 billion won into the development of the seventh-generation Sonata over three years. It is also working on diesel-powered models to be launched next year.

“The Sonata seeks a balance between American comfort and European dynamics,” said Lee Sang-dae, Hyundai’s sales director. “Our Japanese and U.S. rivals will be pleasantly surprised by the overall improvements.”

I agree ― the Sonata will reinvigorate the competition in the crowded midsize sedan segment.

By Lee Ji-yoon (jylee@heraldcorp.com)

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