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Hyundai Sonata Active 2018 review

Sporting a new look: The facelift Hyundai Sonata is clearly trying to look sportier than previous models
EXPERT RATING
7.1
Hyundai has given the Sonata a facelift, with a new front and rear end , but will it be enough to get this challenger any closer to the acknowledged medium-sized family car champ; Toyota's Camry?

Hyundai's Sonata is part of that fading market segment - the medium family car. If you're not the Toyota Camry, your sales are in the hundreds per year (the hitherto Australian-built Camry slaughters all-comers), with the Sonata clocking up around 800 so far in 2017.

Hyundai sticks with this car, like David sticking with throwing stones at Goliath, to ensure that it has a vehicle in its dealerships to suit buyers in every segment.

The Sonata was relaunched here a few years ago as a far better car than any of its previous namesakes. In fact, my family had one for a year as a long-termer and we really quite liked it. Big and capable, it was only missing the design flair that following Hyundais inherited.

Hyundai Sonata 2018: Active
Safety rating
Engine Type2.4L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.3L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$16,900

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

Hyundai has given the Sonata a good old fashioned facelift, with a new front and rear end to liven things up a bit. The old car was sleek but not at all sporty, so the new look is designed to match the dynamism that is steadily creeping into the Hyundai line-up. The big new grille, angrier headlights and kicked up bootlid with new taillights combine to make the Sonata look sportier, saucier and, oddly enough, shorter.

Auto headlights come as standard. Auto headlights come as standard.

The grille is different between the entry-level Active and top-spec Premium, with the latter scoring a more interesting 3D look, while our Active made do with a slightly more conventional one. The effect is a bit trout-lippy, but it grew on me.

The cabin didn't need much work, with just a few materials swapped out and made to look and feel a bit more upmarket. The dash is a very conventional design - clean and clear with big dials and a small digital screen for extra information. The general fit and finish is good and my newly re-discovered fandom of cloth trim was given a boost by a rather fetching textured interior.

The new kicked up bootlid with new taillights help to make the Sonata look sportier. The new kicked up bootlid with new taillights help to make the Sonata look sportier.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

The Sonata is one of the roomiest cars I've ever been in, save for properly big cars like the Audi A8 or BMW 7 Series. Rear-seat passengers cheerfully loll about with tonnes of leg and headroom. The bench seat is comfortably padded and it's probably the best spot in the house for long journeys. If you were a ride-sharing driver who specialised in basketballer transport, this would be the car for you.

Storage isn't bad either, with four cupholders, pockets and slots scattered about and a bottle holder in each door. The boot is a solid 510 litres - drop the 60/40 split-fold rears and you'll have a seriously large load area.

  • The boot is a solid 510 litres. The boot is a solid 510 litres.
  • drop the 60/40 split-fold rears and you'll have a seriously large load area. drop the 60/40 split-fold rears and you'll have a seriously large load area.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

As before, the Active opens the range, now priced at $30,990, a rise of $400 over the MY17. Hyundai reckons there is an extra two grand of included gear, though, so let's have a look.

17-inch alloys come as standard. 17-inch alloys come as standard.

Standard are 17-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control (new), 8.0-inch media screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (new), leather steering wheel, cloth trim, reversing sensors, full-size alloy spare wheel, auto headlights and wipers, six speaker stereo, sat nav, keyless entry (new) and start, front and rear parking sensors and cruise control.

Yes, that is a reasonable amount of new stuff for your money.

Rear-seat passengers cheerfully loll about with tonnes of leg and headroom. Rear-seat passengers cheerfully loll about with tonnes of leg and headroom.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

The Active soldiers on with Hyundai's 2.4-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder, which is good for a reasonable 138kW and 241Nm. The front wheels are driven by the same six-speed auto as before, pushing the Active's 1587kg kerb weight along at a reasonable clip.

Towing capacity is rated at 1300kg braked and 400kg unbraked.

The Active soldiers on with Hyundai's 2.4-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder, which is good for a reasonable 138kW and 241Nm. The Active soldiers on with Hyundai's 2.4-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder, which is good for a reasonable 138kW and 241Nm.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Hyundai claims 8.3L/100km on the combined cycle for the Active. I've always found Hyundai figures unusually accurate and we got 8.7L/100km in the week we had it. There is no stop-start trickery to reduce consumption, which explains the baseline figure. It's worth noting that the Sonata makes do quite happily on standard 91 RON fuel, which is a good saving.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

Hyundai's Australian suspension tuning team gave the Sonata the once over first time around, so the tune hasn't changed for the facelift. That means a plush, easygoing ride that dismisses potholes and speed bumps the way polite company ignores something in your teeth.

It's an effortless thing to drive around in, with smart response from the gearbox and engine when you want a bit of go, yet both are completely unobtrusive otherwise. Passengers will enjoy that ride and while the handling is pretty tidy, it's not going to excite the keen driver. The turbo-engined car is the one to go for if you're a fan of chirping front wheels and powerful overtaking urge.

The cabin didn't need much work, with just a few materials swapped out and made to look and feel a bit more upmarket. The cabin didn't need much work, with just a few materials swapped out and made to look and feel a bit more upmarket.

City driving is as serene as highway running, with little in the way of any wind noise. The engine is a distant drone, easily overcome with the stereo.

The only quirks are the slightly grabby brakes (which require some getting used to), the halogen headlights are still a bit ordinary and the steering is still absurdly light, but that's about it.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   7/10

The Sonata's five-star ANCAP rating from February 2015 continues unchanged, with six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls.

The little ones are looked after with three top-tether anchors and two ISOFIX points.

Irritatingly, the rather more expensive Premium is fitted with blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, reverse cross traffic alert and active cruise, none of which is even optional on the Active. And none of them have AEB, because the South Korean factory doesn't fit it, although the US factory does.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

The Sonata is covered by Hyundai's impressive five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with 12 months of roadside assist. The Active requires a trip to the dealer every 12 months or 15,000km (the turbo Premium needs a visit every 10,000km).

Hyundai also offers lifetime capped-price servicing. For the first five years, you'll pay $1425 all up - four of the five services are $265 each while the third service jumps to $365.

Verdict

The Sonata's new look is unlikely to send it rocketing up the sales charts, but that's not what  it's all about here in Australia. Having said that, it comes with some useful improvements, especially in Active trim, with a few spec additions that make the Premium's almost 50 percent... er... premium on price look a bit stiff.

While the Camry romps off into the distance, are the Sonata's new looks attractive enough to get you across the line?

Pricing guides

$23,884
Based on 24 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$21,977
Highest Price
$24,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Active 2.4L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $16,900 – 23,540 2018 Hyundai Sonata 2018 Active Pricing and Specs
Premium 2.0L, ULP, 8 SP AUTO $26,800 – 35,530 2018 Hyundai Sonata 2018 Premium Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.1
Design7
Practicality7
Price and features7
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption7
Driving7
Safety7
Ownership8
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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Pricing Guide

$21,977

Lowest price, based on 24 car listings in the last 6 months

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Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.