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First Drive: Hyundai Sonata

Rahul Ghosh, 27-Feb-2012. Car Tested: Sonata, Version: 2.4 GDi MT
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Introduction

Many will remember the thrilling car chase sequence in the 2006 Shah Rukh Khan starrer remake of the 1978 super hit movie 'Don'. Although Hyundai had hoped that the thrill of chase would filter down to the car in question as well – the Sonata, the cash registers failed to jingle hard. Since then the Sonata did go through a generation upgrade and then a facelift as well. But even that didn't do the trick. So will a new generation of the Sonata work then? 

Looks and interior

 

Unlike in its previous avatars, the new Sonata, which is due for launch shortly, has a very sporty styling, courtesy the application of Hyundai's new fluidic philosophy. Meanwhile the long sweeping HID headlamps, coupled with the all chrome grille and that longish bonnet give it a touch of class. In profile, the 17in wheels set in the flared arches and the rising shoulder line look smart. 

Inside, the driver gets a 10-way electrically adjustable seat. And one that is super comfy to be in too. The dash, meanwhile, is uncluttered and not too dissimilar to what's seen in the new Verna. An additional feel good factor comes by way of soft touch plastic all around. To round off the package there's quite a gadget list too – cruise control, the now-de rigeur-in-the-segment steering mounted controls, individual climate control, keyless entry and engine start, and more. There's also acres of space inside,  even at the rear, thanks to revised dimensions that have resulted in a longer wheelbase. The rear seats too are very comfortable.

 

The drive

 

The more significant change in the new generation of the Sonata has to be the one that's happened under its bonnet. This car, like the old one, gets a 2.4-litre petrol engine but the difference is this unit features direct injection. Press the starter button and the engine comes alive with barely a whisper. Slot the old school style gated shift lever into D and the 6-speed auto 'box allows a smooth roll off. The transmission unit however is a lazy one, which we found out while downshifting with the paddleshifters during some hard driving. For regular driving however the shifts are as seamless as those of a CVT and offer good driveability. The latter augurs well for city driving or overtaking on highways.

The engine meanwhile is a smooth unit that offers oodles of power – 201bhp to be precise. There's a good amount of torque too at 250Nm. As a result, the Sonata can get up to speed quite quickly; we had the car cruising at 140kmph in no time at all. And thanks to the smoothness of the engine, feeling of speed is muted too. So you'll need to look at the speedo to know how fast you're going really. The other thing that contributes to this feeling is how planted the car feels at high speeds. 

Manual gearbox: 

Hyundai will also offer the Sonata with a 6-speed manual transmission. Admittedly, the manual is more fun to drive. Especially since the shift action is smooth yet precise, albeit with a hint of a notch. The clutch too is light, which should make it easy to drive in the city. Visually, in the MT version the parking brake is on the central tunnel while in the AT the parking brake is on the foot. Also, the boot of the MT can't be opened from the outside.

But what really stands out is the car's ride quality. The suspension is set up to so that the car absorbs virtually all road irregularities. However there's none of the wallowy tendencies of the Verna.

 

Verdict

 

As far as impressions go, Hyundai seems to be on the right track with this new generation of the Sonata. The car looks splendid and interiors are contemporary. It offers a plethora of features and is not short on space either. The smooth engine has plenty of power. However going into the Indian car market at this point in time without a diesel option is taking a chance. One that Hyundai should perhaps have avoided.

 

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