2018 Hyundai Sonata Review
Isaac Bober’s 2018 Hyundai Sonata Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: The refreshed Hyundai Sonata builds on the mechanical excellence of the old car and adds a stunning new look inside and out.
2018 Hyundai Sonata
Price from $30,990+ORC Warranty five-years, unlimited kilometres Safety five-star ANCAP Engine 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol; 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol Power 138kW at 6000rpm; 180kW at 6000rpm Torque 241Nm at 4000rpm; 353Nm at 1350-4000rpm Drive front-wheel drive Dimensions 4855mm (L); 1865mm (W); 1475mm (H); 2805mm (WB) Boot Space 510L Spare full-size alloy Fuel Tank 70L Thirst 8.3-8.5L/100km depending on variant (claimed combined)
IT’S HARD TO believe but the current Hyundai Sonata can trace its origins back seven generations to 1985 – it hasn’t been here all that time, but it is Hyundai’s longest-serving nameplate in Australia. The second-generation was penned by Giorgetto Giugiaro who also designed the Audi 80, Alfa Romeo 2600 Sprint, the Lotus Esprit and way too many more to mention here, but I digress.
The current Sonata arrived in Australia in January 2015 marking a huge step up for the medium car. The one you see here is the face-lifted Sonata which was unveiled in April this year and is on-sale now in Australia.
What is the Hyundai Sonata?
The Hyundai Sonata is a medium car and competes with the likes of the Toyota Camry, although it’s now likely to undercut the all-new Camry launching later this month, as well as the Ford Mondeo, Subaru Liberty, Mazda 6, the Honda Accord and others. For the facelift, Hyundai took the chance to tweak the line-up and reduced it from three variants to just two (the Elite was dropped) leaving just the entry-level Active ($30,990+ORC) and the top-spec Premium ($45,490+ORC).
Beyond features, the two variants run different engines and transmissions, with the Active getting a 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine which is mated to a six-speed automatic while the Premium runs a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder with eight-speed automatic transmission. The engines might be a carry-over from the old car, but the turbocharged engine’s eight-speed automatic is new.
We’ve put up images of the new (above top) and old Sonata so that you can see the changes between the two, because it’s only the styling and some key interior features around infotainment that stand the refreshed Sonata apart from its predecessor. And what a change the new design makes…
From either the front, back or inside, the refreshed Sonata feels more premium than its predecessor and that’s the case whether you’re in the entry level Active or leather-swathed Premium. Starting at the front, the most obvious change is the adoption of the new-look cascading grille, new headlights, and the tweaked rear end; if you squint you can see hints of Audi A4 in the design. Everything forwards of the A-pillar is all-new metal, the flanks are largely carry-over and the rear end has been reworked.
Taking a definite lead on design now, Hyundai’s Californian design studio was responsible for the refreshed Sonata, as it was for the recently launched Kona. Head of crayon twirlers for Hyundai in the US, Chris Chapman said the aim with the refreshed Sonata was to make an impact with the design.
“We wanted to deliver an exciting, expressive car to our customers and show the world how passionate Hyundai is about design and craftsmanship. This design provides the visual excitement and unique identity our customers associate with Sonata.”
At the local launch of the refreshed Sonata, Hyundai was asked whether it still supported the medium car segment given the fact it was shrinking, replaced by a lust for SUVs. Hyundai’s local PR boss, Bill Thomas, said the brand was all about giving its customers choice and that meant being in as many segments as possible. And, with an all-new Sonata due to drop in 2019 with a raft of active safety features among other things, the brand clearly sees life in the segment.
What’s the interior like?
Over the course of the launch, I managed to spend equal amounts of time in both variants. Let’s run through the key changes over the old model, the dropping of the Elite variant has allowed the entry-level Active to pick up kit that you wouldn’t necessarily expect from an entry-level car, like an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment unit with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, native sat-nav and SUNA live traffic updates, dual-zone climate control with automatic de-fogging, push button start, hand-free boot release via the key fob and chrome door handles. Step up to the Premium and you’re adding the eight-speed automatic transmission, LED headlights, driver attention alert and wireless smartphone charging.
Key interior changes across the grades, include the switches and buttons for the climate controls now copping a piano black finish, an improved infotainment unit and slight tweaks to the lower portion of the centre console. Both variants get a new steering wheel design, with the Premium copping a flat-bottomed steering wheel.
Climb in behind the wheel of either variant and you’re met with broad but comfortable seats offering good adjustment both up and down and forwards and backwards. There’s good adjustment on the steering wheel for reach and height, too. Looking across the dashboard, no matter which variant you’re driving, the Sonata feels more premium than before and the entry-level Active feels like a much more expensive car than its $30k price tag would suggest.
Run your hands across the surfaces and there are very few hard, scratchy plastics used with a wide array of good quality or soft-touch plastics used throughout the cabin, with highlights used to emphasise the quality and fit and finish. All the controls are easily reached from the driver’s seat and, more importantly, easily adjusted while on the fly.
But it’s over in the back seat where the Sonata really surprises, there’s just stacks of legroom. And I mean, stacks. There are ISOFIX mounts for the two outboard seats and top tether anchors for all three rows. Both variants get air vents at the back of the centre console and pockets on the front seat backs.
Around at the boot, there’s a new remote open via the keyfob or you can press the top part of the H on the boot-mounted logo to release the boot lid (you can see this in the Facebook video we’ll add to the top of this post). Inside, there’s a cavernous 510 litres and it’s a good shape too. The volume is the same as the recent Infiniti Q50 we tested, but the shape of the boot on the Sonata is taller, allowing you to easily load large suitcases; something I struggled with in the Q50. Beneath the boot floor is a full-size alloy spare.
What’s it like on the road?
The local launch for the refreshed Sonata took place on the highways and byways of Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. The Active’s 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine makes 138kW at 6000rpm and 241Nm of torque at 4000rpm, it’s mated to a six-speed automatic and fuel consumption is a claimed combined 8.3L/100km. While the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder makes 180kW at 6000rpm and 353Nm of torque from 1350-4000rpm, this is mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission; fuel consumption is a claimed combined 8.5L/100km.
The carry-over engine and transmission in the Active continue to impress, just as they did when this seventh-generation was launched here in 2015. It offers comfortable cruising with enough in reserve for overtaking. The transmission is perfectly matched to the engine and offers smooth fuss-free shifts.
The more-power turbo engine in the Premium variant with its new eight-speed automatic transmission is an altogether livelier prospect. There are four Drive Modes to choose from, including Comfort, Eco and Sport as well as Smart which automatically flits between those three modes depending on the driver’s inputs. And it works well. I found that Sport does tend to hold onto gears for a little longer than is necessary, and using Smart Mode allows the car’s computer to tailor the mode to the driver, plumping for the right gear at the right time. Even in Comfort I didn’t find the thing running to top gear too quickly, having to hunt back through the ‘box for a lower gear when punching out of a corner.
The new transmission isn’t about making the Sonata Premium feel quicker; it already feels quick, rather it’s about making it more fuel efficient and the fact it only drinks a tiny bit more than the entry-level variant with less power is impressive and down to the smart, more-gears transmission.
Besides the iLoad and iMax, Hyundai’s local team of engineers tunes the suspension and steering on all models available here. Running a multi-link rear end, the seventh-generation Sonata had already been extensively worked on with Australian cars getting bespoke damper, spring and sway bar combinations. Because this refreshed car is largely just a carry-over the suspension has been left as it was… if it ain’t broke, and all that. The only real changes are new tyres, the Active gets Continental rubber on 16-inch alloys and the Premium gets Michelin rubber on 17s.
Across the roads we drove over, the Sonata, in both trims, was comfortable and exhibited well controlled body movements. You might read overseas reports about the Sonata leaning in corners, well, our cars don’t and that’s thanks to the local tuning program; it really is to be commended. While there isn’t a lot of feel through the steering wheel there’s decent weight and a nice direct and consistent action with good straight ahead stability.
What about safety features?
The 2018 Sonata carries over, like much of the car, the old car’s five-star ANCAP rating and while it offers an impressive safety package, Australian models aren’t available with autonomous emergency braking. According to Hyundai Australia, it wasn’t homologated for our market, read right-hand drive.
Standard safety features include, Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS), Brake Assist System (BAS), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Hill-start Assist Control (HAC), Traction Control System (TCS) and Vehicle Stability Management (VSM), Emergency Stop Signal (ESS), Rear-view Camera with dynamic guide lines and four-sensor rear Park Assist System (PAS). Sonata Premium adds Blind Spot Detection (BSD), Driver Attention Alert (DAA), Lane Change Assist (LCA) and Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Smart Cruise Control (SCC) and four-sensor front Park Assist System.
So, what do we think?
The Sonata is a smart refresh in that it leaves intact the existing good stuff and adds elements that improve the car, like a fresh face and improved interior and infotainment package. If you’re hunting for a very roomy family car that’s good looking, good to drive and well equipped, then the new Sonata should be on your shopping list, that it manages to undercut many of its key rivals and offers a better than most five-year warranty is icing.