Hyundai Sonata 2008 Review

26 November 2008
, CarsGuide

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)


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