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Pulling the right strings

You just can’t take your eyes off the new Sonata. But is the luxury sedan, expected to arrive in January 2012, good enough to take on its rivals?

autos Updated: May 12, 2011 01:47 IST

Hyundai will be hoping that this rakish new model (the i45), known internally as YF, can repeat the first generation Sonata’s success. It will mean a return to the mainstream for Hyundai in the luxury segment and will effectively reverse the fortunes of the current Sonata in India, which is languishing at the bottom of the charts at present.

Good looks
With the new Sonata, Hyundai certainly has the right weapon to get the job done. Channels flow outwards from the base of the grille in waves, the heavily raked windscreens allow the cabin to rise and fall gently. The new Sonata i45 looks even more attractive from the rear, those beautifully detailed taillights, the spot-on proportions of the boot and the manner in which the lines on the car all converge at the rear.

Ergonomic interiors
The large brushstrokes, bold lines and confident details are carried over to the inside of the car as well. The dashboard is clearly divided between the driver and passenger, and Hyundai has used sweeping arches to clearly define each binnacle. Hyundai’s new front seats offer fantastic thigh support, they are wide enough to support your shoulders and both elbow rests are perfectly placed and well-padded. Visibility from the driver’s seat is also excellent and headroom is good too.

There is plenty of space at the rear too and seat comfort is pretty good too. Like all cars in this segment, you get rear air-con vents and a very comfortable elbow rest. However, what’re missing at the rear are door pockets, which may have been axed to help make the seat wider. Interior quality levels are not as good as those on the Accord but they are pretty close. Some bits like the black plastic on the centre console, the vents, steering wheel and especially the stalks disappoint and their quality is not really up to what you expect.

Initial impressions from behind the i45s wheel in urban conditions are very good. There is a nice weight to the steering, the car doesn’t really feel as large as it should, and agility is pretty impressive too.

Smooth ride
The suspension has been tuned for comfort, and this is apparent. It soaks up small road imperfections quite easily, never crashes over bumps, and the ride is pretty flat too. The car that comes to India is likely to have a 2.4-litre direct injection GDI motor. Maximum power should be around 198bhp, which should be plenty.We expect the 2.4 GDI motor with 198bhp will perform better than the 2.0-litre motor we got to drive here. However, even more performance and a better sorted and stiffer suspension is unlikely to make the i45 a pleasing car to drive.

New Hyundai Sonata
Price: R 16-18 lakh (est)
L/W/H: 4820/1835/1470mm
Wheelbase: 2795mm
Fuel tank: 70 litres
Engine: 4 cylinders in-line, 2.0/2.4-litre petrol/4 cylinders in-line, 2.2-litre diesel*
Installation: Front, transverse
Power: 162/198/194bhp
Torque: 20.2/25.4/44.4kgm
Bore/stroke: 86.0/86.0 mm
Compression ratio: 10.5:1
Gearbox: 6-speed auto
Front suspension: Independent, MacPherson struts, anti-roll bar
Rear suspension: Multi-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Tyre size: 215/55-R17
Brakes (F/R): Ventilated discs

Hyundai’s new Sonata i45 will appeal to many a style conscious buyer for its sheer look-and-feel. The cabin is spacious and comfortable. The ride quality is comfortable too and there will be sufficient performance on hand with the 198bhp GDI motor. Furthermore, quality levels inside, in general, are pretty good too. It may not be blessed in the dynamics department and may lack the finesse of some of its competitors, but assuming Hyundai gets the pricing right, the i45 will give Hyundai its best shot at regaining lost ground.