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Test Drive Hyundai Sonata SLX diesel

image The diesel engine has strong torque through the driving range for swift and confident overtaking, but lacks top-end zest. Photo Gallery

Quiet and unassuming.

That's what I thought when I hopped in the beige Hyundai Sonata diesel.

Nothing flamboyant, inspiring or exciting, just a conventional-shaped, four-door, mid-sized family vehicle that doesn't stand out from the crowd.

You could easily mistake it for a Camry or many other mid-sized cars, even though the updated Sonata has a new face, revised lamp clusters, new alloys and more chrome.

On close inspection, the build quality is perfect with close panel gaps and neat shut lines. The interior is also faultlessly constructed.

Sit in the driver's seat and all the controls feel exactly where they should be. You could be sitting in any of a hundred other vehicles.

It takes a nanosecond to work out how to operate the airconditioning, sound system, wipers, etc.

Goldilocks would love the controls. They don't feel too stiff, nor too light. They feel just right.

But turn the key in the ignition and the two-litre turbo-diesel engine clatters loudly. It's out of character for such an unassuming beige-coloured vehicle.

While the diesel engine is on the noisy side at idle, it is soft-spoken once you get going. In fact, it is one of the quietest mid-sized sedans on the market.

Out on the highway, the road, wind and engine noise are as low as in cars 10 times more expensive.

I drove the four-seed automatic and six-speed manual SLX versions over a week.

The manual was brilliant. A lovely slick-shifting box that felt light, but not flimsy, with a clutch feel to match.

The auto was found wanting. It hunted around and flared, and there was a significant pause when you planted your foot. Yet you pay an extra $2000 for the auto privilege.

Shame it doesn't come with the five-speed auto in the petrol model, but it is apparently unsuitable for the extra torque stresses of the diesel engine.

I didn't have enough time nor distance to perform rigorous fuel economy comparisons, however the figures quoted by the factory (6L/100km for the manual and 7L/100km for the auto) seem a bit on the conservative side, especially for the manual.

Certainly, if you are doing a lot of highway driving fuel consumption will be well below the quoted figures with the engine ticking over at 1800rpm in sixth at 100km/h.

But you would have to do a lot of kilometres before the better economy of the more-expensive diesel fuel negated the extra $2500 list price for the car.

The diesel engine has strong torque through the driving range for swift and confident overtaking, but lacks top-end zest.

The brakes are strong, but the pedal is too squishy for my liking.

Steering feels too light for Goldilocks' and our taste, while handling is fairly neutral unless pushed really hard into understeer.

Interior comfort is ample for five big adults with plenty of legroom in the back, seats a little on the soft side and enough headroom for an airy cabin feel.

The boot is flat-floored and spacious with a full-size spare under the carpeted floor.

Like half the Hyundai fleet, it comes with full iPod and MP3 capability with a handy USB and auxiliary plug in the centre console.

Even some luxury cars don't have this level of iPod compatibility.

It's not only a luxury, but also a safety device as all controls can be operated off the steering wheel. No need to dangerously play around with your iPod.

Yes, Goldilocks and the beige-suited man would be very happy in a Sonata diesel.

Hyundai Sonata SLX diesel

Engine: 2.0-litre i4 turbo-diesel

Power: 110kW @ 3800rpm

Torque: 305Nm @ 1800-2500rpm

Transmission: 6-speed man, 4-speed auto (+ $2000)

Economy: 6L/100km (manual), 7L/100km (auto)


Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 10 comments

  • Just hired the SLX Diesel in Gladstone and I came away impressed, the NVH is very good. Some critisisms are a narrow steering wheel and seats that need more support in the backrest and squab,they are comfortable but in a favourite sofa kind of way. I would like to try the manual but I wasn’t dissapointed with the auto for the short time I had the car. By the way, the boot is huge with a great hinged lid for access.

    bga of Brisbane Posted on 31 October 2009 10:48pm
  • I was recently in Singapore & noted that every Blue brand taxi (of which there were many) was a diesel Sonata current model.Presumably that = reliability.I am a petrol Grandeur owner who will happily upgrade to a diesel model soon.Reliability of the Grandeur has been impeccable.

    paulBlue Mts of Blue Mts Posted on 26 May 2009 1:42pm
  • We purchased our SLX 6 speed Diesel in March ‘09. Absolutely fantastic car. Trip to Sydney (2300k) averaged 5.6 Km x 100 (50.44 mpg) or $130 for fuel! Could’nt beat that if it rolled downhill all the way. Really the best car we have had and thats a helluva lot, last one a Merc 180. Recommend to anyone.

    Neil Gannon from Mystic Park, Vic. of Mystic Park, Victoria, 3579. Posted on 10 May 2009 2:32pm
  • I have had my diesel 6 spd man for one month now.  Economy is excellent, I am curently commuting 1 hour each way each day, east to Adelaide and back, no serious open road stuff yet.  A little over 4,000kms driven so far and over a thousand between drinks it is beyond expectation, right out to 1,160 km on the best fill.  Considering this is city and hills driving it is great.  With apologies, and showing my age, overall has been just on 48 miles per gallon. Best 51 mpg and worst 46.9 mpg and that with a 7 x 5 trailer (lightly laden) in tow.  I am off to western NSW and will see how it goes on open road.

    Comfort, features all very good as with previous Sonatas we have owned.

    Bruce of White Cliffs NSW Posted on 14 April 2009 4:48pm
  • I recently purchased the SLX petrol version of this car & i am very impressed. It
    goes well, is much quieter than my previous Mazda, the 5 speed auto is very smooth,& the quality of finish is up to Japanese standards. It was cheaper than a Mazda 6, and a lot cheaper to insure. Drive one, you too will be impressed!

    P. Ginman of Hurstville Posted on 23 December 2008 11:58am
    SLX AUTO -FROM $32,490+ ON ROADS

    And at the moment Hyundai have a Myer card $1000 bonus according to their website.

    Sounds like the perfect xmas pressie, and the Myer card would go well also

    james sheehan of brisbane Posted on 08 December 2008 9:53am
  • I actually own one of these cars, and I must say, I totally agree with the review.  The power/performance is comparible with a V6 Commodore, however, on the highway, I get 5.5L/100km.  The car is by far the best in it’s class.  RRP is around $32k plus on roads, but the dealer threw in the “On Roads”  for free, savin about $3500. (Diesel Auto).  Over taking is awesome on outback highways, accidently hitting 160km/hr, however, there was a scary under steering moment as the road turned tighter than expected for a highway.  Bris. to Rocky I achieved 1100km+ out of a single tank.  Boot space is amazing as it the rear leg room.  Much larger than a commodore.  I hope this helps anyone considering a purchase.  Send back any comments if you have questions,  I love this car.


    Jas of Brisbane Posted on 06 December 2008 5:28pm
  • I agree with VYBerlina, these reviewers drive the car for a week and this is the best they can come up with. My mates talk about these cars in more detail during our conversation and we have only sat in them at the car show or in a dealership let alone actually drive them!

    Shane of Melbourne Posted on 02 December 2008 4:00pm
  • How much is it?!

    Steven of Sydney Posted on 02 December 2008 7:35am
  • No real world fuel consumption figures, no pricing information, no performance figures.  C’mon guys, this article sucks.

    VYBerlina of Canberra Posted on 01 December 2008 3:02pm
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