In my family we have a game we play on birthdays called “I Remember When” which involves reminiscing about funny, poignant or embarrassing events of the birthday boy/girl’s life and sharing the story with all gathered. It serves to honour that person on their special day and usually starts with accounts of how cute you were when you were three or the time you glued the cat’s ears together.
The Hyundai Sonata is celebrating 21 years in the marketplace so I decided to honour a car that after many years of struggling with its niche in life has finally found its calling.
The Sonata started life as a cheaper alternative to mid/large cars like the Camry, Commodore and Falcon. The key selling point being that the Sonata could do most things the others could but at a lower price. This idea still permeates the consciousness of most new car buyers who see the Sonata as just a cheap option which is unfair as the Hyundai has a lot to offer in terms of comfort and economy.
The 2.0-litre diesel model that we tried was incredibly torque-laden despite its diminutive size twisting out 305Nm between 1800-2500 rpm. It may seem that this power-band is a little shallow but on the road the engine feels very linear and punchy through the rev range hauling the large saloon up to speed briskly.
The greatest thing about the diesel model though is the range on offer from having 7.3L/100km fuel efficiency (official). The trip computer displaying a distance till empty figure of 750km+ is something I wouldn’t mind getting used to.
The only doubt I have concerning the driveline is the 4-speed automatic which works very well, smoothly slurring changes, but really should have at least one if not two more ratios if only to keep up with the competition. This is a minor item though and is forgotten when you take a good look at the interior.
The Hyundai Sonata has come a very long way in recent years in terms of interior fit and finish and while not up there with the likes of Audi and BMW yet, (the upcoming Hyundai Genesis could well repeat the upset in the luxury market that Lexus pioneered in the early 1990s) it is more than a match for the local manufacturers and not that far behind the Japanese.
The plump leather seats are comfortable and great for long journeys providing enough support even for tall drivers.
The dash and other interior surfaces are of a decent quality and consistency with quite a feeling of solidity to the whole operation.
The stereo and climate control buttons are a little strange in that you have to reach over to the passenger side of the dash for some functions, not very driver oriented.
It is very easy to get comfortable in the Sonata with good legroom front and back and a ride quality that contributes to the feeling of comfort. The boot is very big and is a real compliment to the family carrying abilities of the Sonata and broadens the appeal of the car.
There was one issue with the Sonata we tested however and that was the dreaded ‘new car smell’. This car had a different kind of new car smell that was quite prominent and different to other cars I have driven. It wasn’t a dominating odour but it did get your attention.
If you’re looking for something with a bit of excitement, the Sonata isn’t it. It’s an everyday motor — inoffensive, inconspicuous, and fairly bland. But as a family car with enough comfort and luxury, along with great fuel economy the Hyundai Sonata Elite CRDi is a bit of a winner.
Click through to the next page for full specs on the Hyundai Sonata Elite CRDi.
Price: from $32,990 ($43,990 as tested).
What we like
- Interior quality
- Refined engine
- Boot space
What we don’t like
- A bit bland
- Pungent new car smell
Cylinder capacity 2.0 litres (1991 cc)
Number of cylinders 4-in-line
Valve system 16 valve single overhead camshaft
Maximum power 110 kW @ 3800 RPM
Maximum torque 305 Nm @ 1800~2500 RPM
Fuel System Common Rail Direct injection (CRDi) intercooled with Variable Geometry Turbo (VGT)
Bore Ã— stroke 83.0 Ã— 92.0 mm
Compression ratio 17.3:1
6 speed manual
4 speed with Selectronic HiVec
(Hyundai intelligent Vehicle electronic
control) adaptive to driver style with
lockup torque converter
Gear ratio Manual/Auto
1st 3.615 / 2.842
2nd 1.794 / 1.495
3rd 1.542 / 1.000
4th 1.176 / 0.731
Reverse 3.416 / 2.720
Final 4.063 or 2.955 / 3.274
Type Power assisted rack and pinion with tilt and reach adjustment
Column Energy absorbing dual collapsible steering column
Minimum turning circle diameter between kerbs / walls 10.92 / 12.00 m
Number of steering wheel turns lock to lock 3.01
General Hydraulic, power assisted braking system
ABS Standard 4-channel, 4 sensor Anti-skid Braking System (ABS) and
Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD)
Front 300 mm ventilated disc
Rear 284 mm solid disc
Length 4800 mm
Width 1830 mm
Height 1475 mm
Wheelbase 2730 mm
Wheel track — front / rear 1565 / 1550 mm
Minimum ground clearance (based on kerb weight) 152 mm
Head room front / rear 1020 / 970 mm
Leg room front / rear 1110 / 950 mm
Shoulder room front / rear 1460 / 1445 mm
Hip room front / rear 1410 / 1405 mm
Cargo area SAE (VDA) 462 (523) L
Manual 1659 kg
Automatic 1711 kg
Words Ben Dillon, photos Darren Cottingham