There's a lot to look forward to in the new Hyundai Sonata

The latest Sonata's predecessors, the Embera and the facelifted Transform could not match the resounding success of the first generation Sonata launched in 2001. But now Hyundai is ready to launch this latest version and if the styling is anything to go by there's a lot to look forward to.

Styling on the latest Sonata combines Hyundai's ‘Fluidic Sculpture' design language and the car's large dimensions to give the Sonata serious presence. The chrome grille and the large and elegant headlamps give the car an imposing face. Styling at the rear is attractive too and the tapering taillights with their LED elements look terrific. Panel gaps are really tight all around and build quality is fantastic.

On the inside there is plenty on offer. There is enough headroom even at the rear, great legroom and the nicely contoured rear seats are comfortable. There is enough space for two adults to sit comfortably at the back. Adding to the comfort factor is the large flip-down armrest that has controls for the music system and seat ventilation. And yes, the Sonata has cooled seats for the rear occupants, while the front pair is both heated and cooled.

The front seats are well-bolstered and very supportive. Ten-way power adjustments for the driver's seat with a memory function make it easy to find the perfect driving posture. You also get a great view out of the large windscreen and a rear view camera makes parking the large car easy.

Hyundai has also done a fine job with the sweeping dashboard design that seems to draw inspiration from an aircraft cockpit. Overall fit and finish is impressive, but some plastics on the centre console don't look all that nice. Hyundai has also given the automatic Sonata a foot-operated parking brake which frees up storage space in the gearbox area. A massive 523-litre boot further adds to the Sonata's practicality.

There is the usual bouquet of features expected on a car of this class, including xenon headlamps, dual-zone climate control, cruise control and steering-mounted audio controls and Bluetooth telephony. Safety-features include six airbags, active headrests, a coned bonnet for enhanced pedestrian safety, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability program and traction control.

The new Sonata will only be available with a petrol engine for now. The 2.4-litre direct-injection motor outputs a healthy 198bhp at 6000rpm. Also, apart from the six-speed automatic, Hyundai will offer a six-speed manual unit too.

The engine is very refined and settles at a quiet idle and bottom-end responses are good, allowing you to make swift progress through town. However, it is on open stretches that the Sonata doesn't feel as fast as the power figures suggest. Power is delivered in a smooth and linear manner, but the engine needs to be revved past 4000rpm if you want serious performance.

We drove the automatic variant and found that the gearbox works well, but at part throttle the 'box does feel a bit indecisive at times. If you are in the mood for enthusiastic driving though, you can use the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel to shuffle through gears.

Though we couldn't put the Sonata's dynamics to a definitive test, first impressions are positive. The steering is well-weighted at both city and highway speeds and body control and stability at speed is reassuring. The Sonata uses independent suspension for all four wheels which bodes well for ride quality, but there is some underlying firmness felt over sharper bumps.

The Sonata has an attractive exterior, a spacious cabin, and enough features to pamper the driver and passengers, and is quite nice to drive making it an excellent package. The problem is that the lack of a diesel engine is bound to be a downer for many buyers.

Keywords: Hyundai Sonata

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