2012 Hyundai Sonata road test and review: Luxurious cruiser

The Hyundai Sonata is a car that looks like it is a lot more expensive than it really is. The fluidic design language that Hyundai has given the Sonata gives it a rich look. The Sonata (also called the i45 in some markets) is available in two variants in India, priced between Rs. 18.6 lakh and Rs. 20.5 lakh.

We recently test drove the manual transmission version of the Hyundai Sonata and were impressed with the way the car can pamper its occupants. Here’s our review.

Looks, fit and finish

 

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Photo: The Sonata has strikingly good looks and demands immediate attention on the road

Exterior

The Hyundai Sonata is all about looks. The car has so many sharp cuts and curves that all blend together in perfect harmony to give it a very luxurious look. The front has sharply cut headlamps with projectors and regular halogen beams that swoop into the large chrome grille. There’s a bold muscular shoulder line that rises all the way to the boot. The tail-lamps wrap around the sides and are a combination of LEDs and bulbs.

The car rides on large 17-inch alloys that fill up the wheel rims quite nicely. It has 215/55 low-profile tyres that give it a purposeful stance. It is shod with all-round disc brakes that provide very good stopping power. Build quality is excellent for the most part.

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Photo: Inside too the Sonata looks sleek, classy and upmarket

Interior

The interiors of the Sonata are done up in beige leather upholstery. The dashboard has a flowing, waterfall design, with the climate control unit dominating the center console. The integrated music system has a large blue-backlit information display above it while there’s another MID in the instrument panel that provides just the basic driver information. There’s plenty of legroom available in the rear seats, although the seats are quite low and you sink into them.

The large 523 litre boot can also swallow a fair bit of luggage. It can be remote opened using the key fob or by tugging on the lever that’s kind of hidden under the driver’s door arm rest. There’s ample room in the driver’s foot-well along with a dead pedal.

Comfort and features

The Sonata boasts of a host of comfort features. You get dual-zone climate control with individual settings for the driver and passenger. The AC is very effective and managed to keep us chilled at 22 degrees centigrade in 46 degree heat. You also get rear AC vents. But the best part of the setup is the ventilated rear-seats. Rear seat passengers can control the fan speed that circulates air through the seat back to keep rear passengers in relative comfort.

The rear armrest has controls for the seat ventilation, and for the music system as well. That means the music system can be controlled from three locations – the steering, the rear seat armrest and the central console itself. The car features Bluetooth phone connectivity, USB port and auxillary ports. It has a chilled glove box, but it’s rather small and doesn’t quite go with the rest of the car’s luxurious interiors.

The driver’s seat is 10-way power adjustable, with lumbar support and thigh support adjustments. The front passenger seat is also 4-way power adjustable. Rear parking camera and parking sensors are standard fare. Automatic headlamps, rain-sensing wipers and power-fold mirrors wrap up the equipment list. The manual transmission variant does not get cruise control or push-button start. That comes only with the automatic.

In terms of safety, an electronic stability program, six airbags and ABS are standard.

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Photo: The Sonata sports a 2,359 cc GDI engine with VVT that makes 198 Bhp of pwoer

Performance and handling

The Sonata is powered by a 2,359 cc, gasoline direct injection engine with variable valve timing. This is relatively new technology that is supposedly more fuel efficient and provides better power at lower rpms. The engine puts out 198 bhp of power at 6,300 rpm and 255 Nm of torque at 4,250 rpm. Sound deadening is really good in the Sonata with the interiors remaining whisper quiet at normal cruising speeds.

The six-speed manual transmission has very short shifts and is easy to use. At city speeds the car easily lunges forward with just a blip of the throttle. It’s easy to get it to three digit speeds in third gear itself, a characteristic that’s useful for quick overtaking maneuvers.

That said, it’s not a car that will please an enthusiastic driver. Rather it’s meant for relaxed cruising and can gobble up miles with ease. The car hits an indicated 80 kmph at a relaxed 1700 rpm in sixth gear, which should be good for fuel efficiency on the highway, although it is a bit thirsty in city traffic. It has a gear change indicator that keeps urging you to downshift to keep it in the power band.

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Photo: From the rear the Sonata looks elegant and sophisticated

The Sonata’s suspension is an all-independent set up which is great for comfort. At normal cruising speeds, the car soaks up road undulations with ease not transmitting it to the cabin. But it’s also a bit on the softer side, and if you take turns at speed, there is a fair amount of body roll, with the car making its weight felt. The steering feels light and easy, but not sporty. The car depends a lot on its ESP to keep things in check.

Mileage

The 2.4 GDI engine is supposed to offer a good mix of power delivery and mileage. It succeeds very well at the former, with plenty of power on tap and is a very refined motor. However, rated mileage is only 12 kmpl for the Sonata. During our 170 km road test, the car guzzled a fair amount of fuel. Some of it was due to excessive idling on our part to keep the AC going. Back of the envelope calculations showed we squeezed out barely 9 kmpl from the car.

What we think

One of the biggest disappointments when the new Sonata was launched was the lack of a diesel engine. But then, if you look at the target audience and the kind of ride quality and comforts that the Sonata offers, you realize that the car offers a whole lot more. At its price point, it is great value for money when you compare it with its competitors like the Maruti Kizashi and the Honda Accord (which is nearly Rs. 4 lakh more expensive). Only the Skoda Superb is a worthy opponent. In terms of looks alone the Sonata can even give a Mercedes E-Class a run for its money at less than half its price.

The Hyundai Sonata will appeal to buyers looking for a luxurious cruiser to be chauffeured around in and also one that you would want to drive on weekends. It pampers its occupants in luxury, making any long journey a comfortable one with its key attributes – it’s strong, silent and classy.