The car which will replace the current Sonata in Australia early next year was unveiled to the US public at the Los Angeles Auto Show badged as a Sonata but the Australian arm of the Korean manufacturer is doggedly referring to its next Aussie model as the ‘YF’ and ‘Sonata replacement’.
"This is the car that will become our new mid-sized model next year, and it is one we are very excited about," Hyundai Australia's Ben Hershman says. "There has been no decision made on how the YF will be badged for Australia. "That is something our marketing people are still working through with Korea."
While nobody at Hyundai is about to go on the record, behind the scenes the Australian operation is frantically working to convince head office to allow the car to be badged as the i40 for the Australian market to continue the alpha-numeric nomenclature that has worked so well with the i30 and will include the ix35 replacement for the Tucson soft-roader and the i20 small car next year.
The issue is that a second string of Sonata replacements has been developed for the European market where the sportswagon-style model will be badged as an i40 when it launches late next year. Sonata has not been the best-accepted Hyundai nameplate in Australia and the last thing the company wants is to launch what could be another runaway success with the baggage of a decade of buyer indifference.
Using the Sonata name could also lead to further confusion should Australia elect to take the European-styled car as a model derivative further down the track a distinct possibility? The coupe-like YF unveiled for the Korean market in September and then put on show in Los Angeles is an attractive four-door with high-end European looks that came out of Hyundai's California design studio.
The car is styled around what Hyundai calls "fluidic sculpture", a design language that will increasingly find its way into the entire Hyundai range. Speaking at the Los Angeles unveiling, Hyundai Motor Company President and CEO, S.S Yang, posed the questions that are central to Hyundai's marketing of the company's new-generation cars.
"The (new) Sonata represents a modern approach to the traditional midsize sedan segment by using only advanced four-cylinder engines, emotional design and luxury features offered with Hyundai's strong value proposition," Yang said. "The Sonata poses some intriguing questions: Why can't a smart, solid sedan also have modern, sleek, sophisticated style? Why pay so much to get a taste of luxury? Why can't an efficient four-cylinder engine give V6 power?"
In contrast to most of its competitors the YF/Sonata will launch with an all four-cylinder engine range with the most likely choice for Australia the new 2.4-litre Theta II direct injection unit that boasts 150kW, 245Nm and fuel economy of around 7L/100km. Drive will be through a pair of new six-speed gearboxes although there is no word on the double-clutch automatic that Hyundai has been developing and highlighted at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year.
By the end of next year there is also expected to be available in the model line a 2-litre direct injection turbocharged diesel and a Hybrid Blue Drive a conventional parallel hybrid system but using the latest in lithium-ion battery technology from the company's association with LG.
Specification and pricing for Australia is still under discussion but the Sonata/YF will be available in the US market with an extensive range of luxury items and accessories including satellite radio, real-time traffic navigation updates, data connectivity, HD radio, Bluetooth, touch-screen navigation and iPod/USB inputs. A major bonus for Australia is that local ride and handling engineers have been working alongside the project team to ensure that the latest Sonata's suspension and steering is to Australian tastes.
On Sale: May (est)
Price: from $31,000 (est)
Engine: 2.4L/4-cylinder direct injection, 150kW/245Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic