Road Test: Hyundai Sonata Embera [2005-2009]

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Lots of power for the money, but we wish the auto was still on sale.

Engine

The Sonata CRDi’s muscle comes from a front, transverse, FWD inline-four cylinder 1991cc SOHC common-rail direct injection diesel engine that possesses a variable geometry turbocharger. This engine generates 142bhp@4000rpm and 33kgm@2000-2680rpm. The engine is clattery and rough at idle, but smoothens out a little before getting vocal near the redline. It is extremely noisy on the outside. However, cruising at 80kph in top gear, the engine is completely silent; tyre roar is louder at this speed! Despite the VGT, it is responsive only from 1800rpm onwards and power tails off at 3800rpm. It is lots of power for the money but the power delivery isn’t linear. Special mention has to be made of first and second gear, because you can’t crawl away from walking speeds in second gear, and to keep in the powerband you have to rev it right to 3000rpm in first gear, which can be a pain in stop-start traffic.

Drivetrain

The Sonata has a six-speed gearbox, and the gears are placed in an H pattern. The shifts are positive but cannot be hurried. The shift action is smooth through most gears with almost no engine vibration filtering through. Shifting from second to third is extremely notchy and quick upshifts cannot be done with ease in this car. Sixth gear is useful when cruising above 100kph, else five speeds are enough.

Fuel Efficiency

The running costs, of the Embera are, as expected, quite low, that tall sixth gear ratio for the highway helping it achieve figures that will have your accountant falling in love with it - but be warned, in bumper-to-bumper traffic, many petrol cars will get ahead of the Embera thanks to the huge difference between first and second gears, which necessitates frequent visits to 3000rpm in first. Overall, the number evens out to a respectable 10.5kpl given the size of the car.

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