The medium sedan segment has been getting tougher with every new model. Now the equal top of the class Hyundai Sonata, goes head to head with the new arrival, the Ford Mondeo.
Australians, welcome to the future. In 2017, when the Ford Falcon and the Holden Commodore, powered by their rear wheels, roll off into the sunset, this is what your medium (almost large) sedan reality will look like. CarAdvice is giving you a 2015 window into what’s going to take place.
The 2015 Hyundai Sonata and the 2015 Ford Mondeo may both slot into the medium segment, but both err on the side of large cars, especially in regard to the cabin and the boot, where there is more than enough space to accommodate the average family and their luggage. Just like the large cars Aussies have come to know and love.
Unthinkable not so long ago for diehard lovers of Australian iron, buyers in 2017 will be choosing between small capacity four-cylinder engines powering the larger sedans that will ferry their families around. The days of large capacity sixes and eights powering RWD sedans will be over… and these two both subscribe to the downsized, turbocharged engine formula.
Indeed, in our most recent mid-sized sedan comparison the Sonata gave the Mazda 6 a tremendous run for its money, and in the eyes of some CarAdvice testers even outperformed the segment leader. A final score of 8.5 for both vehicles illustrated just how strong the Sonata is overall. The Mondeo wasn’t available to us at that time.
Spend even five minutes behind the wheel of either the Sonata or the new-to-the-segment Mondeo though and you realise this two-way follow-up fight will be a close tussle.
Outside of the more highly-tuned sports variants (like HSV or FPV), the medium and large segments can’t be accused of being dramatically exciting either, but these two vehicles offer up enough dynamic ability to inject some enthusiasm for potential buyers without detracting from their family truckster capability.
Let’s take a closer look.
On test, we have the respective range-toppers from Hyundai and Ford – but don’t assume the pricing is astronomical considering the amount of kit on offer. Starting prices well under the critical 50 grand mark ensure potential buyers will feel like they’re getting genuine value for money.
The Hyundai Sonata Premium is slightly cheaper than the Ford, ringing the till at $41,990 plus on-road costs. Equipment highlights include 18-inch alloy wheels (with Kumho Solus XC 235/45R18 tyres), front and rear parking sensors with reverse-view camera, HID bi-xenon headlights with auto leveling and static bending lamps, heated external mirrors, heated and ventilated front seats, rain sensing wipers and rear door sun blinds.
Read our Hyundai Sonata pricing and specification guide here.
The Ford Mondeo Titanium is a little harder on the wallet, coming in at $44,290 plus on-road costs. Equipment highlights include 18-inch alloy wheels (with Continental ContiSportContact 235/45/R18 tyres), a power tailgate, adaptive suspension, dynamic headlight leveling, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, LED DRLs, blind-spot detection, pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection, enhanced active park assist, lane-keeping aid and lane-keeping assist, lane departure warning and a driver impairment monitor.
Read our Ford Mondeo pricing and specification guide here.
On paper, the points initially go to the Hyundai then if money is purely the driving decision – unless you’re a fan of all the safety goodies, which aren’t available on the Hyundai, even as an option. That said, the two aren’t separated by a big enough amount for it to be a simple knockout win to either.
In the cabin
The Sonata possesses arguably the best cabin that Hyundai has brought to market thus far. Some CarAdvice testers reckon it’s a step above Genesis in execution and while that’s a matter of opinion, the Sonata’s cabin is beautifully executed. It’s comfortable from behind the wheel or the passenger seat and visibility is excellent.
The heated/ventilated front seats are sculpted in such a way that you sit ‘into’ them rather than ‘on’ them and there’s more than enough adjustment to get into the right position behind the wheel. The Sonata’s reverse-view camera is clear, even when it’s being pelted with rain.
The roof never feels like it’s closing in when you’re inside the Sonata’s cabin either, there’s a light and airy sensation (aided by the full length glass roof), even in the back seats. A major points victory comes in terms of space too, where the Sonata is significantly more spacious in the second row than the Mondeo. The second row seat squab isn’t as deep as that in the Mondeo, but there’s a lot more legroom as you can see in our photos.
For the purposes of photography, I sat in the back row, behind my own driving position. The standard rear blinds also add an element of comfort for back seat passengers that Mondeo doesn’t have – a strange comment to make, given the previous Mondeo set the rear-seat standard in the class for its time.
The Sonata’s boot is slightly compromised by the raised (full-size) spare tyre cover, which only just encroaches into storage space, but does leave you wondering why Hyundai engineers designed it that way. A fully flat floor would be smarter. With the second row seats in place, the Sonata has 540 litres of storage space. Hyundai doesn’t quote a figure for the space with the seats folded down but you can lower the backs almost flat to open up more space.
There’s no doubt that the Mondeo has a more premium feel inside the cabin. Like the Sonata, the seats are trimmed and sculpted in a way that makes them comfortable even over longer distances. Auto down and up on all four windows trumps the Sonata, which has that feature for front windows only. The Mondeo’s reverse-view camera is significantly wider than the Sonata’s making reverse parking maneuvers even easier than they would otherwise be. Add to that the car’s auto-parking system, and the Mondeo pips the Sonata for inner-city drivers.
The Mondeo’s rear seats are heated, which is a nice bonus for people sitting back there in winter. As you can see in the photos, leg and knee room is tighter than the Sonata, but the second row itself is comfortable. Back row passengers also get a 12V plug and a conventional 220V plug as well – a win for parents taking their device-addicted kids on long distance trips.
Like the Sonata, the Mondeo has a full size spare (unlike its wagon sibling, which, believe it, or not is also 4mm shorter), and also has the advantage of a wide opening hatch aperture as opposed to a conventional boot. With the second row seats up, the Mondeo offers 557 litres of storage space. Fold the 60:40 seats forward and that figure grows to a whopping 1356 litres.
The Sonata’s central control system, which measures 8.0 inches, is supremely easy to access and learn. The display itself isn’t as premium in appearance as the Mondeo’s, but the system doesn’t do anything wrong either. My two crucial indicators are the initial Bluetooth pair and the ease with which the system can stream audio via Bluetooth.
I pair my phone with the Sonata quickly and easily - there’s no complicated 15-step system to negotiate. Impressively, if you leave the Sonata for a few days and come back to it, your phone pairs straight back up quickly. The phone call clarity is also solid and the connection never dropped in and out as some systems tend to do.
Audio streaming is easy to access as well and I like the general functionality of the system. Once set up with audio running, it didn’t drop out either. The Sonata’s satellite navigation system is quick and accurate and the screen is easily viewable from the driver’s seat as well, though it is perhaps a little lower resolution than we’ve come to expect. The main gauge display also isn’t quite as premium as the Mondeo’s but we like the different central info displays you can scroll through.
The Sonata’s strong point is the clear and sensible layout to all the critical infotainment controls. The three-tier design that keeps each set of controls together and easy to access is a real winner. Hidden auxiliary inputs forward of the gear shifter mean you can charge your phone or connect your audio device via USB and keep them away from prying eyes.
Where the Sonata has a stripped down, no nonsense feel to it, the Mondeo has a European influenced design and feel. That’s mainly thanks to its 8.0-inch colour touchscreen, which controls the Sync 2 media system. While that Euro design influence delivers a premium feeling, it also means there’s a surfeit of buttons and switches. That’s especially the case on the steering wheel, which resembles an F1 tiller.
The Mondeo is equally easy to set up initially, with my phone pairing quickly and simply. Like the Sonata, the connection and call clarity proved to be reliable. Audio streaming also worked well. The Mondeo’s mapping especially has a more upmarket feel to it and is quick to lock on to new destinations.
The Mondeo’s main gauge display between the dials is a clear winner over the Sonata, though. It looks more expensive, and it displays more information in a classier manner without ever looking too cluttered.
As with the Sonata, the Mondeo has plenty of charging points and inputs. Some are out of sight ahead of the gear shifter (12V), while the centre console hides auxiliary, USB and 12V points.
Under the bonnet
The aforementioned small capacity four-cylinder engines are the motivation of choice for each manufacturer on test here. As with everything else, the specifics are close. Both also generate a fair whack of power and torque for FWD vehicles, which, as we found on wet roads, can result in some wheelspin, torque steer and tyre tramp – especially off the mark.
Hyundai has opted for a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine, which generates 180kW at 6000rpm and 350Nm between 1400-400rpm, backed by a six-speed automatic transmission. The ADR fuel usage claim is a little thirsty at 9.2L/100km. On test around town, we used an indicated 11.4L/100km. In Premium trim, the Sonata tips the scales at 1645kg.
The Mondeo is powered by the 2.0-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, which makes 177kW at 5400rpm and 345Nm between 2300-4900rpm. The Mondeo’s 2.0-litre is also backed by a six-speed automatic. The ADR fuel usage claim for the Mondeo is a little more frugal than the Sonata at 8.5L/100km. That lower number also rang true in the real world, where we used an indicated 11.1L/100km. In Titanium guise, the Mondeo has a kerb weight of 1690kg.
With the kerb weights so similar, it’s a little surprising that the Sonata feels a touch more spritely than the Mondeo – certainly off the mark and up to freeway speed. While the Hyundai does make more power and torque, it isn’t enough just by the numbers to make a huge difference, so we need to look at where the power and torque is generated.
The sharper feeling behind the wheel of the Sonata down low in the rev range makes sense looking at the raw numbers, with the Sonata coming into the meat of its torque curve significantly earlier in the rev range, but the Mondeo counters by reaching peak power 600rpm earlier at the top end.
While both vehicles feel a little sportier than you might expect, don’t expect goose bumps when the engine is fired into life. Neither engine sounds incredibly evocative especially at start up when the engines are cold. There’s a bit of thrashing and gargling evident.
Once warm and settled into a smooth idle, there’s nothing nasty or invasive about either engine and both are smooth up to 110km/h with very little engine noise entering the cabins at any speed.
Ride and Handling
Ride comfort especially is one significant category that concerns Australian motorists in regard to the cessation of local manufacturing. No-one knows local conditions like local engineers, and while locally built product has had its issues in other areas, Commodores and Falcons have always made easy meat of soaking up Australia’s challenging road surfaces effortlessly.
If imported cars can deliver the way these two have, though, there’s absolutely nothing to fear…
Having attended the local launch of the Sonata, I expected to once again be impressed by the Sonata’s locally tuned suspension system, especially when faced with uneven choppy surfaces, and I was. The Sonata’s all-round ability is exceptional and is a testament to the benefit of tuning a suspension system specifically for the roads where it will ply its trade.
It’s a rare car at the medium to larger end of the spectrum that can deliver a sporty ride but also manage to be comfortable as well. The Sonata absorbs the initial, harshest part of the bump comfortably, and there’s no bouncing or pogoing after that initial cushion either, with the body settling back down to ride height quickly. Better quality rubber than lesser Sonata models ably assists the top-spec Premium model on test here.
The Mondeo is likewise impressive over most road surfaces. Quality Continental tyres deliver grip and safety, though it feels a little heavier on the road than the Sonata, not quite so light on its feet or nimble. That said, the level of comfort it delivers makes it the perfect medium to large sedan to run round town in. Initial bump absorption is well executed and we never experienced any harsh jarring through the chassis, even over sharper ruts.
If you’re into the idea of the occasional sporting drive on the open road, the Sonata edges marginally ahead of the Mondeo. There’s deftness and a direct action to the Sonata’s steering inputs and throttle response that the Mondeo comes very close to matching but can’t quite achieve.
Both vehicles are powered by enthusiastic boosted engines that encourage a spirited drive, so while there might not be the outright muscle of the big Aussie six or eight, there’s still plenty of power and accessible performance on offer – not to mention slightly lower fuel usage.
The Sonata feels the punchier and more rapid of the two, especially off the mark, although the Mondeo does get up to freeway speed effortless once it builds up speed. On twisty backroads, the Mondeo remains balanced and composed, but it’s not as sporty as the Sonata, which can swoop through bends faster than you would ever expect it to.
Warranty and Servicing
The Sonata gets lifetime capped-price servicing, three years worth of map care coverage for the satellite navigation, a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty and ten years roadside assistance.
The Mondeo is covered by Ford’s three-year/100,000km warranty and also carries a lifetime capped-price service program. Ford offers a seven-year auto club membership with new cars, and recently introduced a capped-price brakes program, as well as loan cars for when your car is subject to maintenance.
So tight is this comparison in every sense, it’s hard to pick an easily identifiable outright winner. CarAdvice praised the Sonata at launch and we felt the same way about the Mondeo too. In subsequent testing, the Hyundai has backed up our initial assessment a little more so than the Ford.
Both the Sonata and Mondeo impressed on this twin test beyond what we expected of the segment. It’s almost a case of nitpicking the finer details. Hatch or conventional boot? An interior that feels Euro premium or one that delivers Japanese-style functionality despite its South Korean roots,
While the Mondeo has slightly more of that premium feel – especially behind the wheel – we’re giving the win to the Sonata by a close half point. That’s 8.5 out of 10 for the Sonata and 8/10 for the Mondeo overall.
The Sonata is slightly cheaper, it has everything you need and nothing you don’t, and it feels just that little bit more spritely.
The positive aspect of this comparison is that you wouldn’t be unhappy with the Mondeo if you were a fan of the blue oval even though it isn’t quite the benchmark it once was. There’s a lot to like about Australia’s motoring future if a sedan of this size is something you want to consider.
Click the Photos tab for more images by Christian Barbeitos.