It will probably go down on record as the shortest First Steer we’ve ever done, but after little more than 50 kilometres at the wheel of the revised Hyundai Sonata, with an all-new 2.0-litre diesel engine, we can report that the car is worth consideration.
For a whole range of reasons the drive section of Hyundai’s launch of the revised Sonata, which introduces diesel power further up the model range for the Korean carmaker, was severely curtailed.
As a result we are reluctant to make any resounding pronouncements about the driveability of the Sonata, other than to say it seems to be an improvement over the outgoing model, and the diesel drive train is up to the job.
Like its larger sibling, the Grandeur, the Sonata is spreading diesel power through the Hyundai range.
In the case of the Sonata the new diesel engine is from the same engine family as the one that’s being added to the Grandeur, but in this case it is a 2.0-litre common-rail diesel engine that produced 305Nm of torque from 1800rpm to 2500rpm and 110kW of power at 3800rpm.
The Sonata CRDi comes with either a six-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic, although we were only able to drive the manual version, which proved smooth and easy to use on our brief sojourn on the roads around Camden, near Sydney.
The gearbox is a little notchy in action but smooth and light, with well spaced ratios that produced strong acceleration from the diesel engine.
The manual version returns an impressive 6.0L/100km fuel consumption and the automatic 7.0L/100km. The engine is Euro Four compliant and the CO2 emissions are a very commendable 159g/km for the manual transmission car.
The engine has a distinctly diesel rattle at idle but once underway is smooth and quite, and with plenty of torque on hand it can power the Sonata up most hills.
As with all Hyundai CRDi models, the Sonata will be supplied with a pack of latex free vinyl gloves to, as Hyundai puts it, make refuelling a clean and carefree experience.
Hyundai says the car has been considerably revised both inside and out. The exterior revisions are subtle, but effective and the interior looks a little cleaner and very neat, on the inside there is also new blue-hued instrument lighting, a revised centre console and like the smaller i30 the audio head unit now offers a myriad of connectivity for MP3 and iPod units.
Connect your iPod through the centre console cable and you get the full functionality of the unit on the dashboard display. The SLX gets an audio unit with a single CD player and the Elite a six-CD unit.
The Sonata comes in two trim levels, the SLX with cloth and the Elite with full leather trim. The Elite also gets power operated driver and passenger seats.
Hyundai bills the Sonata as a five-seater but we would have to say that with two Australian sized adults in the back the third person would need to be extremely slim. Three children or teenagers would be okay.
Hyundai product planning manager Ben Hershman told us that considerable development work had been done on the Sonata’s suspension set up, something which has come in for some media criticism in the past, to adapt the car better to Australian conditions.
Front suspension is an independent double wishbone system with coil springs and anti-roll bar. Rear suspension is an independent multi-link system with coil springs and anti-roll bar.
Once again we’d have to say that because of the brief nature of our drive we cannot pass final judgement, but the car did seem to ride and handle better than had been our past experience with the Sonata.
The steering on the car has also been sharpened with a reduction in the turns lock-to-lock and again we felt that the car was sharper on its turn in. The cars ride on 16-inch (SLX) and 17-inch alloys (Elite) with 215/60R16 and 225/50R17 tyres respectively.
Safety is certainly to the forefront in all Sonata models with six-airbags, ESP, traction control and ‘anti-whiplash’ front headrests among the standard equipment.
Hyundai’s Director of Sales and Marketing, Kevin McCann, said at the launch “The 2009 Sonata underlines Hyundai’s commitment to bring latest generation technology within the reach of all Australian motorists.”
In addition to the new diesel power models Hyundai continues to offer the 2.4 litre petrol powered Sonata with either five-speed manual or five-speed Selectronic automatic transmission.
The Sonata is available in a range of colours, which include: Noble White (solid), Black Diamond (pearl), Deep Blue Pearl (pearl), Sleek Silver (metallic), Silky Beige (metallic) and Iron Silver (metallic) with all exterior colors matched with a charcoal black based interior.
Pricing spans $27,990 to $36,990, with the Sonata SLX CRDi turbo-diesel starting at a class-leading $30,490 and the Elite CRDi costing $36,990.
In addition to the Hyundai five-year, unlimited kilometres warranty, Sonata is also backed with 12 months Hyundai Premium Assist roadside coverage with inclusions such as hotel / hire car coverage if required.