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Hyundai Sonata 2005 review

Providing much of the ammunition will be the two all-new, all-alloy engines – a 2.4-litre four-cylinder and a 3.3-litre V6 – and a suspension package that is running the European damper and spring rates for Australia.

The NF Sonata has also been priced with competition in mind – $25,490 gets the manual four-cylinder, with a $1500 premium for the four-speed auto and the five-speed auto V6 slots in at $29,990.

The Sonata's standard safety features list will surprise many when the price tag is brought into consideration – anti-lock brakes, dual front, side and full-length curtain airbags are featured across the model range, as well as active front head restraints.

The V6 models also get electronic stability control and traction control added to the list.

The company's internal tests suggest a five-star U.S. crash-test rating will be forthcoming, thanks to the improved body construction and standard safety features.

Other standard features include reach/rake adjustable steering, airconditioning, cruise control, remote entry with alarm, power mirrors and windows and the MP3/CD sound system with six speakers.

The top-spec Elite model adds leather seats, carbon fibre-look or fake wood trim highlights, 17in alloy wheels, a six-CD, in-dash CD player and extra sound system power, climate control, a power-adjustable driver's seat, and reverse sensors.

The Sonata is a more mainstream look drawn at the company's European Design Studio in Germany. It sits lower on bigger wheels, with an extra 35mm of front track width and 30mm at the rear.

Longer and taller than its predecessor by 55mm, the NF Sonata measures 4800mm in length and claims more front leg and head room than its medium competitors – as well as Commodore and Falcon sedans.

Boot space has been increased to 462 litres – a 16 per cent improvement.

Hyundai Australia CEO B.G. Lee says the Sonata, which cost $330 million and took 46 months to develop, is a key model in the range.

"If Australian car buyers seriously and without bias look at this new Sonata and rigorously compare it with other contenders in its segments, I think they will see its absolute excellence and competitiveness – even aside from its exceptional value for money," Mr Lee says. "For those still holding outmoded perceptions of Hyundai, new Sonata will change their mind."

On the road, the new Sonata has all but banished memories of the poorly damped Korean sedans preceding this model.

Hyundai Australia has emphasised the point that as a wholly owned subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Company, it can have more influence on the development of new models.

It shows through with the new Sonata, which conveys an impression of better balance on the road during the first few minutes behind the wheel of the four-cylinder auto.

Light controls and decent response from the engine and gearbox combination mate well with the new-found suspension capabilities through the metropolitan area and continue to please on open-road corners.

The Australian suspension system includes German-sourced Sachs gas dampers, firmer coil springs, thicker stabiliser bars and firmer front and rear bushes.

The four-cylinder engine feels a little lacklustre at the lower end of the rev range but spins well to its red line.

The interior space – particularly in the front – will surprise many looking for a medium sedan. The only concern is headroom for anyone over 180cm. Boot space has been boosted.

The Sonata four provides a smooth, quiet drive, an impression continued during time behind the wheel of the V6 model – distinguished by twin tail pipes, a V6 badge and bigger wheels and brakes – which feels a little more nose heavy than the four but impresses with the smooth, quiet V6 powerplant and competitive outputs.

The V6 works well with the five-speed automatic gearbox to quickly gather speed, without requiring a speed reduction on bumpy corners or undulating straights.

Previous Sonata models, not to mention the wallowy Grandeur, would have delivered a far less composed and comfortable sojourn over the same sections of broken bitumen.

Of only mild concern are some plastics on the dash, but ergonomics, features and interior quality should prompt plenty of interest from buyers not swayed by badge snobbery.

Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

(base) 2.4L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $2,500 – 4,290 2005 Hyundai Sonata 2005 (base) Pricing and Specs
Elite 2.4L, ULP, 4 SP SEQ AUTO $3,900 – 5,995 2005 Hyundai Sonata 2005 Elite Pricing and Specs
GL 2.4L, ULP, 4 SP $2,600 – 4,400 2005 Hyundai Sonata 2005 GL Pricing and Specs