Car Reviews

2017 Hyundai Sonata Premium review

Robert Pepper’s 2017 Hyundai Sonata Premium review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.

In a nutshell: The Sonata is Hyundai’s medium-large sedan, designed to offer easy, safe and comfortable driving.

2017 Hyundai Sonata Premium

PRICE $42,850 (+ORC) WARRANTY 5 years / unlimited km SAFETY 5 star (33.84/ 37, tested in 2016) ENGINE 2.0L petrol twin-scroll turbo 4cyl POWER 180kW at 6000rpm TORQUE 350Nm at 1400-4000rpm TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic with paddleshifts DRIVE front wheel drive BRAKED TOW 1300kg UNBRAKED TOW 750kg BODY 4855mm (L); 1865mm (W); 1470mm (H) TURNING CIRCLE 10.9m TARE WEIGHT 1560-1645kg SEATS 5 FUEL TANK 70 litres SPARE full-size alloy THIRST 9.2 L/100km ADR81/02 combined cycle FUEL 91RON petrol

Editor's Rating

Design
Interior and practicality
Infotainment
Performance
Safety
In the large sedan market where driving dynamics, power and looks don't really set a car above the rest it's down to day-to-day usability to make a car stand out. The Sonata Premium is above average because of all the little things that add up; the remote boot, value features like adaptive cruise and cooled seats, and it does this without making any egregious, can't-live-with-it errors. It's not a sporting machine, and nor does it represent the latest in design and technology, but it is a powerful, comfortable cruiser.

What is it?

THE SONATA nameplate dates back to 1985, and the seventh-generation was released in 2014. In Australia the name replaced the i45, continuing Hyundai’s rather confusing naming method of alternating between names like Accent and designations like i30. Perhaps that’s why the Sonata is not a particularly well-known car, so to put it in perspective it’s pretty much the same size, and dare I say, in a fairly similar market as the Toyota Camry which everybody knows if not loves – sizewise the Sonata is about 100kg heavier, 5mm longer, and 30mm wider.

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There are three trim levels of Sonata; Active, Elite and our tester, the top-end Premium. The Active has a 133kW motor, whereas the latter two offer 180kW and more luxury features.

Hyundai promotes the Sonata as a comfortable, luxurious sedan with “some serious grunt” but don’t pretend it has sporting capability. So that’s how we’ll review it. Our test spanned 10 days over the Christmas break and around 3000km, driving from Melbourne to the Grampians, then to Mildura and back, taking in some dirt roads and city driving.

Design

The Sonata looks reasonably modern and perhaps a little upmarket, but it’s not going to impress or upset anyone. That’s probably exactly the way most buyers want it.

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Hyundai’s designers are fans of the crease running along the flanks but can never quite decide if it should merge with the door handles. For the Sonata they’ve chosen to run it between the doorhandles and side windows.

The only blemish is at the front where the look is spoiled by the prominent rectangle for the front sensors, indicating it was, perhaps, something of an afterthought?

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WHAT’S IT LIKE INSIDE AND HOW PRACTICAL IS IT?

Having run an i30 Series II on long-term test it was immediately apparent the Sonata’s interior isn’t as modern as Hyundai’s newer vehicles like, say, the i40. I wouldn’t say it’s dated, but it’s not up to the minute either, but it’s still on the functional side of stylish.

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Nevertheless, it works. As you approach the car it senses the key, unfolds the wing mirrors and turns the interior light on but doesn’t unlock – you need to grasp the doorhandle for that which is fair enough. As you slide into the driver’s seat you notice it’s further back than usual, but once the engine starts it returns to its previous position. That’s handy for the less agile, but the feature can be disabled if it annoys.

The cooled front seats were most welcome in the hot northern Victorian climate – we’ll just assume the heating is as effective. There are two memory positions for the driver’s seat, a must-have for many couples who are different sizes.

There’s sufficient USB and 12v outlets, the latter protected by sensibly designed lids. The central drinks holders and storage compartment both have covers (pictured above) which is good for security and can lend the car a cleaner look. Storage is sufficient.

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All the controls fall easily to hand. The toggle up/down switch for volume, mode and cruise control is better than having two separate buttons as it’s easier to quickly move up and down, and easier to feel without looking.

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The rear seats are spacious and comfortable. The rear windows have sun blinds, useful not only for children but even when you’re solo as they help stop the car heating up. There’s also rear ventilation, and a pocket on each of the front seats. In the second row you do get a centre fold-down tray, and the Sonata has something which will instantly endear it to teenagers across the world – a 12v socket. No Internet access via WiFi though.

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The boot is, as you’d expect, commensurately large for the size of car. Sadly, it’s not particularly well lit nor are there any tie-down points. The rear seatbacks fold down in a 40/60 split, but there’s no central luggage hole, so the car drops to the lower end of the interior practicality rating in the back.

That said, a neat feature is the automatic opening boot. Just stand close enough to the boot for a few seconds and the car flashes the indicator before opening the boot. That’s very useful, and even better than the foot-gesture operated bootlids which in my experience are difficult to operate, especially when it’s raining and you’re carrying a heavy load.

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Overall, there’s nothing wrong much with Sonata’s interior, and quite a lot to like. Really the only criticism is what Hyundai could have done better, not what they haven’t done.

Click any image to start the Hyundai Sonata interior gallery.

WHAT’S THE COMMUNICATIONS AND INFOTAINMENT SYSTEM LIKE?

A touchscreen as usual, and not the latest on the market either. There’s little information about the music you’re listening to, the satnav was already out of date and the system didn’t read texts or emails. But it did what it did well enough, being easy to use to and responsive to the touch.

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Fairly basic radio display. At least it’s big and clear, and the omnipresent clock below is useful.
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Satnav. Could not find the north up on the map so had to endure track up.

The driver’s in-dash display is a bit more modern, with a nice range of information such as fuel consumption and trip meters, all easy to scroll through.

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Performance, ride and handling

Around town

The Sonata is an easy-driving, comfortable medium-large car. The ride is quiet and comfortable across any and all surfaces, and there is more than adequate power even for high-speed overtaking uphills, but the method of delivery leaves something to be desired…

When I collected the Sonata it was a wet Melbourne day, and my route home involved the freeway and one of those stop/start traffic lights designed to filter traffic at peak hours. So I stopped, pulled away when the light turned green… and the Sonata spun its front wheels. Now I wasn’t anywhere near full power, just the sort of reasonably brisk start you’d make in a situation like this, but the Sonata couldn’t effectively put its power to the ground. Further testing proved the point – the Sonata has a decent amount of power, but the calibration of the power delivery is too harsh until you get used it. You’re actually better off driving it in eco mode most of the time to settle the car a bit.

There is another power delivery problem which is apparent if you accelerate out of tight bends. There’s no actual torque steer effect thanks to Hyundai’s motor driven power steering (MDPS) system, but you can certainly feel the car fighting the torque, leading to a feeling of vagueness through the steering – you kind of aim the car, rather than steer it. However, that’s only on lower-speed bends and if you power out hard, perhaps not something Sonata drivers will in general worry about. At least the six-speed gearbox is intelligent, never needing a touch on the paddleshifts.

The front and rear parking sensors are handy, but the reversing camera resolution and quality could be improved. Speedbumps are dealt with as comfortably as these things get and the car is not so low for scraping of bumpers to be a concern.

The auto hold function will apply the parkbrake when you stop and it disconnects when you drive off. Handy in traffic, and is, in effect, a better hill start assist system than equivalents which merely hold the footbrake on for you.

Open roads and cruising

After something like 20-hours freeway and rural road cruising I think I can make a judgement on the Sonata’s long-distance abilities, and it’s better than average for several different reasons.

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First, what Hyundai have managed not to do. The car runs on 91RON fuel, available everywhere, unlike so many cars these days which demand 95. When you’re rolling into a country town and there’s just one servo open till 5pm you can’t nick down the road to the local 24×7 for a different choice. Then there’s this:

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Yes, a full-sized spare. Alloy, too. We had a reader question on the relative merits of such spares vs space savers and runflats, but in summary, I think you’re taking a big risk if you do a lot of country travel with anything other than a full-sized spare, a view shared by everyone I’ve met that lives away from the city.

That’s two big open-road problems avoided, so now onto what the Sonata does well, and that starts with power. The car is not far off the straight-line levels of a performance car, so open-road passing, even uphill at 100km/h doesn’t require a foot flat to the floor, and the gearbox doesn’t need to, nor attempts to downshift – two different things, let me assure you. I speculate that on country roads it would be easy to exceed 140km/h after pulling out to pass another car doing 105km/h, so quickly did the Sonata accelerate to 109.5km/h.

Then we come to the adaptive cruise control, which is most excellent, smooth and precise, not given to fits of panic leading to unseemly braking and acceleration even when changing lanes.

Had I not stopped, I could have driven from Melbourne’s CBD to Mildura’s CBD without touching the pedals. You simply set your desired speed on the digital display, and the car adheres to it, even downhill. When you enter a town you just drop the cruise speed down to 80, 60 or whatever you choose, then once you’re through wind it back up. If the Sonata finds a car in front it maintains a distance behind – exactly how far is up to the driver. If you wish to overtake just exercise your right foot and once past the Sonata resumes speed control.

Should your mind wander there is lane keep warning and it’s a quiet cabin with a nice clear Bluetooth system for your phone. I also appreciated the cooled seats plus rear window blinds when returning to a sun-baked Sonata after a rest stop.

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Fuel consumption for that trip was 7.4L/100km measured, and the car reckoned it was 7.6 which is an unusually pessimistic view, mostly the computers display an optimistic figure. The ADR81/02 figure for extra-urban is 6.7L/100km.

While the Sonata isn’t a dirt-road machine, our travels did involve some rougher roads. Now a 180kW front-drive sedan is not the best match for dirt, and so it proved. There’s a lot of gravel noise, and what’s amusing is that at around 80km/h you only need to touch the accelerator and you hear even more gravel noise as the front wheels don’t completely manage to deliver the extra grunt to the ground. The suspension is again quite acceptable, but if a lot of dirt roads figure in your plans there’s better cars, mostly all-wheel-drive vehicles. We found the headlights jiggled over corrugations at night, and on that same occasion in a dirt-road carpark at night we were grateful for the cornering assist on the headlights which throw out a decent amount of light.

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How safe is it?

The Sonata has a 5 star rating, 33.84 out of 37. Our tester, the top-end Premium model also had a reasonable array of advanced safety:

  • Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB);
  • Active Cruise Control;
  • Blind Spot Assist Rear;
  • Cross Traffic Alert;
  • Lane departure warning; and
  • Front and rear parking sensors with a reversing camera.

There’s also ISOFIX points in the rear, as there should be for every car today.

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Visual and audio sensors front/rear.

As we’ve written before, all 5-star cars are far from equal. At least the Sonata Premium has a few extras to deserve its top 5-star rating.

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All of the safety features were tested, with the exception of AEB. They all work effectively, are not prone to false positives and are easy to use. The only improvement point is the lane departure warning which should be an assist system that helps bring the car back in to line, and the reversing camera quality is a bit average by 2017 standards.

Pricing and range

There are three trim specs of Sonata; Active, Elite and Premium. The Active has a 138kW engine, and the other two share the 180kW engine. Our tester was the Premium.

The list below shows the significant features of the Active and then what extra you get for Elite and Premium, excluding cosmetic garnishes. All prices are exclusive of onroad costs.

Active $30,590+ORC

  • 2.4L petrol 4 cylinder 138kw
  • LED tail lights
  • 17″ wheels
  • Front seat rear pockets
  • Sunglasses holder
  • 3.5″ TFT dash display
  • 5″ infotainment unit with CD player
  • Manual aircon
  • Bluetooth
  • LED daytime running lights
  • Hill Start Assist
  • Dusk sensing headlights
  • Rear parking sensors
  • Rear view camera
  • Full sized alloy spare
  • Standard cruise control

Elite $37,750+ORC

  • 2.0L petrol 4 cylinder turbo 180kW
  • LED tail lights
  • LED lamps in front doorhandles
  • Dual zone climate control
  • 8″ infotainment unit with satnav, DVD, 3 years nav updates
  • Electric driver’s seat
  • Heated front seats
  • Electric parkbrake
  • Rain sensing wipers
  • Front parking sensors
  • Auto hold function
  • Keyless entry

Premium $42,850+ORC

  • LED puddle lamps in mirrors
  • LED map lamps for second row
  • 18″ wheels
  • 4.2″ TFT dash display
  • Electric passenger’s seat
  • Memory system for driver’s seat and mirrors
  • Cooled front seats
  • Heated wingmirrors
  • One touch front passenger window
  • Rear window sun curtains
  • Glass sunroof (option for Elite)
  • HID headlights with corner view
  • Lane departure warning
  • Blind spot detection
  • Lane Change Assist
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert
  • Adaptive cruise control

The Active is decent value, and the $7k step to the Elite is mostly about the more powerful engine. You might want that if you need to carry a few passengers at rural road speeds or spend a lot of time in the car, and if so then it’s Elite or Premium. The big drawcards for the extra $5k or so to jump from Elite to Premium has to be the cooled seats, safety features like lane departure, blind spot and rear cross traffic alert and for me anyway, the adaptive cruise control. I think that’s worth the extra coin.

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Why would you buy one?

The default car in this size and around this price bracket is the Camry, so let’s start there. The Sonata Active is really the Camry equivalent, same sort of power, but our test car was the Premium which is up against the bigger-engined Camry that is the V6 200kW Aurion, both in terms of specifications and power. The Sonata comes off ahead on value compared to direct rival Aurion Sportivo, as it’s cheaper and better specified – heated/cooled seats, electric passenger seat and so on, and has a 5-year unlimited km warranty vs 3 year 100,000km for the Toyota which in 2017 is looking increasingly stingy. The suspension on both cars is excellent, but I’d give the nod to the Sonata which manages Camry-esque compliance without the associated lack of body control.

Buy a Sonata if you like the idea of a Camry but can’t bear one or want better value. If on the other hand you intend to actively enjoy driving then I’d like to direct you to the Subaru Liberty 3.6R which is in my view more of a sportscar than even the WRX CVT – cheaper, larger, just as quick and more fun, but not as well specified or refined.

Further reading


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Pro tourer
Pro tourer
3 years ago

I40 is an older vehicle than this…i40 was around when the i45 was being sold.

Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper