|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
The all-new Hyundai Sonata has taken the second approach, executing targeted improvements while softening some of its predecessor’s qualities to create a car that’s much more refined and comfortable in its position in the executive sedan segment. Where the previous model aimed to establish credibility, the new one is gunning straight for customers who would otherwise be seeking entry-level European cars.
Hyundai is very proud of its new Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 styling language on the all-new Sonata which can be summed up as being “modern premium”; but there’s little denying that the previous model was much more aggressive and youthful. Nonetheless, this fresh albeit conservative look is more upscale and complement’s Hyundai’s new positioning. The Sonata continues to be aerodynamically slippery with a co-efficient of drag at just 0.27 thanks to carefully sculpted panels and a near flat underbody tray. Of course, being slick doesn’t equate to the lack of style. There are some nice, subtle cues like a chrome strip running across the hood to the C-pillar, 18-inch alloys with hidden lug nuts, and the twin exhaust tips integrated into the rear bumper. Overall, it’s a very clean and nice effort from Hyundai, but they could have hidden the front and rear proximity sensors better.
Despite the need to warm up to the new exterior, there are far less complaints with the interior which has moved upscale. It mimics many of the design cues of new Hyundais while adding a dose of sportiness. The four-spoke steering wheel is meaty and nice to hold while the dashboard has less of a cocooning feel compared to before, leaving an impression of openness. The wider center console also gives the occupants an increased sense of personal space.
Materials, as well as fit and finish, are impressive. The cabin offers nice, plush plastics and supportive, supple leather seats. All the controls, whether major or minor, offer the resounding ‘click’ of solidity. Hands down, the best part of the Sonata experience is the new gauges. Not only is it legible, but the clean-looking interface and quick, but animated menus look like it’s been lifted off a luxury sedan. The Sonata’s competitors should take note: high-tech need not look tacky. This interface offers all information you need, but presents it very well. On the other hand, the biggest offender is the extensive use of aluminized plastic to spruce up the cabin. It’s better than faux wood, yes, but Hyundai could have re-designed it with something less shiny.
The new range-topping GLS Premium is very generous in terms of equipment level with almost everything you need built in as standard. Smart Key passive entry with a push-button start/stop, power front seats with built in ventilation, panoramic sun roof, a full array of audio interconnectivity options operated by a 4.3-inch touch screen, and even a hands-free Smart Trunk. The last one sounds interesting in theory, but irritating in practice. It allows the Sonata to open the trunk remotely if you stand behind the car for a few seconds with the key in your pocket (no foot waving necessary). But, it caused a false alarm more than once. This can be a problem when you’re at the mall and all you wanted to do is check how well you parked.
Normally, Hyundai Philippines isn’t too sold on safety, fitting their vehicles only with the minimal of equipment in that aspect; not so with the Sonata. Not only does it get a full suite of airbags (including one for the driver’s knee), anti-lock brakes with EBD and brake assist, but it also gets the rest of the alphabet soup: blind spot detection (BSD), rear cross-traffic alert (RCTA), and proximity sensors with rear camera. In short, it has taken the safety lead in the executive sedan segment trouncing all of its rivals in one fell swoop.
Equally ballsy is Hyundai’s decision in offering the Sonata with just one 4-cylinder engine unlike its Japanese counterparts. However, it’s not the direct-injected or turbocharged variety. Instead, it’s the 2.4-liter Theta II unit carried over from the previous model. The 178 horsepower and 228 Nm of torque outputs are unchanged. It’s worth noting though that despite the larger body, the Sonata retains its 1,585 kilogram curb weight. This means the resulting on-road feel is largely the same as before. It’s punchy and responsive enough to give confidence when overtaking on two-lane roads. The power delivery is smooth with just a hint of growl at the top-end. The six-speed gearbox gives smooth, imperceptible shifts even when pressed, though paddle shifters would have been welcome.
New in the Sonata is an Integrated Drive Mode system with three modes: Active Eco, Normal, and Sport. It’s a system that alters engine response, transmission shift points, and steering weight to suit various driver preference and driving conditions. Despite leaving it on Active Eco most of the time, fuel economy still isn’t the Sonata’s strong suit registering just 6.86 km/L in the city. This figure does go up when it hits the open road at 14.97 km/L before settling down to a 8.75 km/L combined figure. As a result, it’s best to leave things in Normal or Sport and just enjoy the drive.
And that drive can be very enjoyable with a chassis that’s made to love the twisties. At the core is a stiffer body shell that offers stronger rigidity and more bending resistance. Built on top of this solid foundation are new MacPherson Struts with revise sub-frame bushings and a tweaked multi-link rear suspension. These contribute a solid, well-controlled ride that’s certainly one of the best in this class. There’s excellent stability through corners, perhaps limited only the standard Kumho rubber.
The previous Sonata established Hyundai as a credible competitor in the executive sedan segment. It showed how Hyundai can create a car that’s focused on design and sporty performance while keeping its price fairly reasonable. The new one it seems has a more focused ambition: going upscale. The resulting bump in price (P 1,868,000) and equipment level is pretty much evident of this. Still, in this intimidating segment, the Sonata remains to be a very strong contender. The badge may not have the same gravitas as its rivals, but beyond brand prejudice, it’s an executive sedan that ticks all the right boxes.
2015 Hyundai Sonata GLS Premium
|Ownership||2015 Hyundai Sonata GLS Premium|
|Vehicle Classification||Executive Sedan|
|Body Type||4-door Sedan|
|Engine / Drive||F/F|
|Under the Hood|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||I4|
|BHP @ rpm||178 @ 6,000|
|Nm @ rpm||228 @ 4,000|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline / 91~|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,585|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Independent, Multi-Link|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Tires||Kumho Solus XC 235/45R18 V (f & r)|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Parking Sensors||Yes, Front and Rear, w/ Reverse Camera|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Seating Adjustment||Electric (front, driver w/ memory)|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Power Mirrors||Yes, with Fold|
|Climate Control||Yes, Dual|
|No. of Speakers||6|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|