Hyundai’s seventh-gen Sonata tunes up with a mid-life facelift that sees both living improvements and uptempo driving
Photos: Derryn Wong
I know what a Sonata is! But…I can’t remember what it looks like…
For much of its history, Hyundai’s large sedan has slipped by as an anonymous – but very successful – example of its kind.
Older buyers will remember the fourth-gen model with its C-Class-esque headlights, the Honda Accord-referencing fifth-gen, and the swoopy-as-heck sixth-gen, also known as the i45.
Oh, but there was a newer, cooler one right…
By the 2015-debut, seventh-generation model, as we noted in our review on CarBuyer.com.sg, things shifted on a big scale.
The Hyundai Sonata, with the latest face-lifted seventh-gen model here, is an excellent case study on the benefits of sedan-dom.
It looks intriguing…
Unsurprising, since the Koreans have long since ceased to be followers, as the excellent Genesis sedan and Kia Stinger show, and the Sonata showed that with its bold cribbed-from-Genesis design, which echoes European luxury but doesn’t ape it.
In this case it means bonnet sculpts, prominent body creases along the side, and a streamlined silhouette. Those chrome ‘eyebrows’ that stretch the entire length of the car could be polarising for some, but we’re glad Hyundai took the leap with it, as you certainly can’t say the Sonata is boring to look at.
The facelift does the usual by-the-book updates: There’s a new grille design too. Hyundai calls it a ‘cascading grille’, which ends in a sharp-looking lip spoiler, flanked by stacked daytime running light (DRL) units. Projector LED headlamps are now standard too.
It’s a pleasing improvement, one that enhances the Sonata’s uniqueness in a segment that, on the whole, still favours anonymity.
Didn’t other markets get a turbo engine?
Under the bonnet it’s business as usual.
While the Koreans have been pushing the envelope when it comes to affordable technology – see our reviews of the Hyundai i30 and Kona for examples – turbo power is still absent from the Sonata, though this could change in the near future.
Most East Asian big sedans have switched to 2.0-litre engines only, with the larger 2.4-litre engines long phased out by our road tax structure, and the Sonata’s been that way since 2013.
The 2.0-litre, naturally-aspirated Mu engine has been around for some time, and still pulls decent duty under the Sonata’s bonnet.
There’s a slight power dip this time around in order to meet Euro VI emissions regs – 157hp and 196Nm becomes 150hp and 192Nm now – but it’s not significant in daily use. Fuel consumption is the same, at 7.9L/100km.
The the Sonata is pure smooth progress, which is exactly the point of a big sedan. It won’t set any records for acceleration, obviously, but there have been updates to the steering and suspension.
Does that mean it drives better?
Yes, it actually does. The steering column is 12 percent more rigid than before, while the steering has been tuned for better, more precise response, and the suspension now features the dampers found on the latest Tucson SUV, which displayed such exemplary ride quality.
The Sonata now has a shade of near-sportiness, actually. It still deals well with bumps, but there’s a firmness and directness both to the ride and steering absent before, and while it doesn’t impinge on comfort, it does make the Sonata a surprisingly fun car to drive.
While Honda’s Accord is still top of the (now admittedly small) big sedan pile when it comes to driving fun, the Sonata isn’t far behind.
A big sedan is supposed to have space yeah?
There’s still the usual big sedan pluses too: Immense legroom makes passengers in the rear seem very far away from the driver. So much so that being chauffeur driven in a Sonata isn’t such a ridiculous idea.
A brace of improvements to the cabin strengthen that idea: Satin-chrome buttons, a dusting of upmarket materials, and even a wireless smartphone charger. Other nice points include a sunroof, blind spot monitoring, and the most vital addition, cooled seats.
So is it worth the money?
If you’re not engulfed in crossover lust, sure.
At a shade under $130k with COE, the Sonata brings the appeal of big sedans squarely back into focus. Hyundai may not be squealing out divine improvisation with the Sonata facelift, but it’s a strong tune that almost any buyer can hum along to.
Hyundai Sonata 2.0 Sunroof
|Engine||1,999cc, inline 4|
|Power||150hp at 6200rpm|
|Torque||192Nm at 4000rpm|
|Price||$127,999 with COE|
Verdict: The Hyundai Sonata 2018 facelift prime example of a big sedan done well – refinement, masses of room, plentiful features now with improved handling and ride.