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Hyundai Sonata Elite 2015 review

EXPERT RATING
7
Richard Blackburn road tests and reviews the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Elite.

If you keep an eye out at international motor shows, you'll often see furtive engineers - deep in enemy territory - running tape measures over rivals' cars.

Every millimetre of head, leg and shoulder room is diligently measured and the results are fed back to the planning division for input into the next model.

Run the eye over the Hyundai Sonata and it's not much of a stretch to imagine the company's engineers spent a fair bit of time on the Toyota stand when the last generation Camry came out. The formula is eerily similar: roomy cabin, a comfortable ride, well put together and functional.

Toyota even has an acronym for it: QDR (Quality, durability and reliability). But on higher grade Sonatas, Hyundai has another ace up its sleeve in the form of a punchy turbo engine under the bonnet.

As Hyundai challenges Holden for third spot on the sales ladder – and the Camry prepares for dwindling sales as it switches from local product to import — you can bet Toyota executives are scanning their rear view mirrors.

Design

The new Sonata incorporates what Hyundai calls its "fluidic sculpture" design language. It's a more modern and masculine look than its predecessor, with a more pronounced front grille and sleeker lines.

Inside, the cabin is bordering on large car dimensions, there's plenty of rear leg room, a big boot and ample headroom. But the interior design lacks pizzaz, even with the leather trim and imitation carbon fibre and alloy highlights that come standard — along with the turbo engine — on the Elite model we tested.

The dash layout is functional without exciting the senses and dark grey plastic abounds. In the rear, soft touch surfaces give way to hard plastic. The ambience improves at night, when a pleasant blue hue pervades the cabin.

About town

Even the cheapest Sonata comes well equipped for the urban crawl, with rear parking sensors and a reversing camera that on the Elite is big and clear.

The most impressive thing is the way the Sonata soaks up concrete joins, potholes and corrugations on inner city rat runs

There's keyless entry, a burglar alarm, dusk-sensing headlights and all the connectivity the modern passenger demands. On top of that, the Elite's side mirrors fold out of harm's way in carparks, satnav helps you navigate the city and a smart boot lid means you can open the boot with armfuls of shopping bags.

The most impressive thing, though, is the way the Sonata soaks up concrete joins, potholes and corrugations on inner city rat runs. It's better than some premium offerings.

On the road

The good news is that the cosseting ride doesn't come at the expense of composure on the open road. At speed, the Sonata soaks up bumps without wallowing and it's pretty sharp through the bends for a family focused, biggish sedan, with accurate steering and minimal body roll. 

The car's suspension was tested and tweaked on local roads, and it shows

The car's suspension was tested and tweaked on local roads, and it shows. Seat comfort, though, isn't brilliant on long highway trips and the headlights aren't great.

Performance

The turbo four-cylinder under the bonnet is a big step up in performance from the adequate power of the normally aspirated engine in the cheaper Active. It puts out 180kW of power and 350Nm of torque, compared to the Active's 138kW and 241Nm.

That translates to noticeably more shove during overtaking manoeuvres and getting away from traffic lights. It's a little coarse, though and not as quiet or sweet-sounding as some European rivals.

Fuel consumption isn't great, either, at 9.2L/100km, compared with the similarly powered Falcon, which uses 8.0L/100km. Around town, you'll get 13.0L/100km.

Verdict

Hyundai excels at small cars (pardon the pun) and the Santa Fe SUV is on par with the best in class, but it has always struggled to put together a compelling family sedan.

The Sonata is the maker's best effort yet. It's comfortable and composed, spacious and practical, with impressive equipment. But it's still not up to the standard of the Mazda6 and Subaru Liberty, and it needs a price cut to challenge the heavily discounted Camry.

Pricing guides

$17,984
Based on 39 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$15,990
Highest Price
$22,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Active 2.4L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $9,400 – 14,190 2015 Hyundai Sonata 2015 Active Pricing and Specs
Elite 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $11,900 – 17,490 2015 Hyundai Sonata 2015 Elite Pricing and Specs
Premium 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $14,100 – 19,910 2015 Hyundai Sonata 2015 Premium Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7