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Old 12th March 2012, 19:29   #1
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Default Hyundai Sonata : Official Review

The 2012 Hyundai Sonata has been launched in India at a price of between 18.52 - 20.61 lakhs (ex-Delhi).

What you'll like:

• Excellent styling & substantial road presence. Fluidic design does the magic
• Acres of interior space. Even for tall occupants
• Fantastic ride comfort. This is the perfect chauffeur-driven car
• Loaded with features & gizmos (cooled seats, xenon headlamps, rear camera and more)
• 5-Star safety rating. Equipment includes superb brakes, 6 airbags, ESP, ABS etc.

What you won't:

• No diesel engine! Period
• Doesn't feel as quick as a 198 BHP car ought to
• Back seat is optimised for 2 passengers. Thus, the Sonata is best as a 4-seater
• Dull Automatic transmission cannot match the response time of dual-clutch gearboxes
• Soft suspension leads to average high-speed handling. Not a corner carver at all

NOTE: Click any picture to open a larger higher-resolution version in a new window.

Last edited by GTO : 22nd March 2012 at 15:19.
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Old 12th March 2012, 19:45   #2
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The Hyundai Sonata has had an unpredictable run over the last 10 years. The 4th generation of this model enjoyed initial success at the time of its launch in India, thanks in no small part to the flashy Jaguar-inspired design. In fact, the first Indian Sonata frequently outsold its only competitor - the staid Honda Accord - in 2001 & 2002. On the other hand, the outgoing 5th generation Hyundai Sonata never really met the targets. Though a competent sedan, especially in common-rail diesel engine form, the market perceived the Sonata as being too boring, and completely lacking in the "feel good" factor. The dismal sales figures barely managed double digits in most months.

The Rs. 15 - 20 lakh segment has remained elusive to the Big 3. Maruti suffered one flop after another, Hyundai only recently gained some traction with the new Santa Fe (after a long list of failures like the outgoing Sonata, Tucson, Terracan etc.) while Tata's Aria continues to languish. Still, the Big 3 never stop trying. For one, a successful premium product can work as a halo car, the marketing department wiping its hands in glee as some of that aspirational value rubs off on the mainstream automobiles. Then, the profit margins on 20 lakh cars are understandably f-a-t when compared to the B-segment hatchbacks. Lastly, it allows the brand to retain customers within the family as they move up the ladder. Having a wide product portfolio is key to any car maker's strategy. On a related note, customers in the D2 sedan segment have never had it better; in fact, they are spoiled for choice now. The new Hyundai Sonata, Skoda Superb, Honda Accord, VW Passat, next-gen Toyota Camry (coming soon) and Nissan Teana all compete for the same rupee. Then, there are the entry-level variants of the Volvo S60 & BMW 3 series, along with a plethora of premium SUVs in the same price bracket.

Till recent time, Hyundai was never known for building good looking cars. There is a sole exception in the Tiburon, but that coupe never made it to India. With the launch of the i20, Verna, Eon & 2012 Sonata, that ugly car image may soon become history. The Fluidic design adopted by Hyundai has turned the frog into a prince, fairy tale style et al. If we go by the sales numbers, it can be safely presumed that the market agrees. The Fluidic 6th generation Sonata has been out in the International markets from 2009. Ever since, it has bagged a boat load of awards including top ratings for safety, and has proven a formidable competitor to the Camcord duo (namely, the Toyota Camry & the Honda Accord). BTW, Team-BHP.com was the first to show you scoop pictures of the Sonata being tested on Indian soil (Thread Link (*SCOOP* : New Hyundai Sonata / i45 caught testing on Bangalore-Chennai Road).

It is hard not to fall in love with this car at first look. The fluidic theme works the best with the Sonata...much more than it did with the Verna or Eon. As I walked around the car, I realised that it is an automotive photographer’s dream. All I needed was a great background and an overcast sky. That wish was granted only partially, as it was impossible to escape the harsh sunlight on our testing day. The build quality is very good, and it's hard to find any fault. Panel gaps are within acceptable limits, yet prominently visible on the white car. Fit and finish are impeccable, thereby meeting the segment expectations. Paint quality is top notch as well.

Hyundai Sonata : Official Review-sonata-stats.png

Unfortunately, the Sonata will not be offered with a diesel engine option at the time of launch. This is a missed opportunity as premium car owners prefer oil-burners. Just ask the Europeans, including VW, Mercedes & BMW.

Hyundai Sonata : Official Review-sonata-prices.png

The Indian Hyundai Sonata will be available in two variants, MT (manual transmission) and AT (automatic). Considering that ATs are most popular in the luxury segment, it's this variant that gets more features than the MT. The Sonata AT is equipped with cruise control, paddle shifters, ventilation on all seats, smart key with engine start / stop button and driver's seat memory. The sunroof is conspicuous by its absence from both variants.

Hyundai Sonata : Official Review-hyundai-sonata-feature-list.png

The term fluidic refers to how the design mimics the kinetic force of nature:




Even the rear is very premium-looking. A proportionate design:






Mercedes CLS-inspiration is obvious on the roof line:


Dual exhaust pipes bring character:


Not so apparent on the black car, but on this white example, you'll notice how the door handles are integrated into the swooping cut:


HID headlamps:


10-spoke 17 inch alloy wheels shod with 215/55 R17 Hankook Optimo tyres. When I saw 17 inch wheels and the aspect ratio of 55, a red flag went up about ride comfort (more on that later). The Sonata has ventilated disc brakes at the front and solid disc brakes at the rear:


Wraparound LED tail-lamps. Notice how the cluster extends onto the boot lid:


ORVMs have electric-fold function. However, they don't fold automatically when the vehicle is locked / unlocked:


Massive glass area offers a good field of view. That said, the large size can create a blind spot behind it:


As long as the smart key is in your pocket, simply press the black button to open the door:


Reverse camera is located just above the number plate. Well concealed:


Rear tow hook is located centrally, under the car:


Fairly spacious trunk. The rear seat can be folded down, albeit there is no split rear-seat:


You can't miss the sub-woofer on the top left:

Last edited by GTO : 22nd March 2012 at 15:46.
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Old 12th March 2012, 19:46   #3
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Default re: Hyundai Sonata : Official Review

The Sonata is astonishingly big on the inside. Thanks to the long wheelbase, it is a very spacious sedan. Leg room and head room are more than ample for even tall people (on all seats). The Sonata is longer than & about as wide as the 7-seater Toyota Fortuner. That should lend some perspective about the available space.

The interior theme is beige and black (standard fare for the segment):


Steering wheel is clad in leather for the most part, with rubber & beige plastic over the rest. It is pleasing to look at, and comfortable to hold. Steering has integrated controls for audio, cruise control, Bluetooth telephony and the trip meter:


Shiny audio controls and faux wood finish panels (surrounding each air vent) are cheesy, rather than elegant. Fingerprint resistant dull-black panel is usually the hallmark of luxury cars. While the Sonata has ample dull-black surfaces, the interiors are hardly fingerprint resistant. Smudges were all over the place:


Automatic gear lever with tiptronic control:


The 6-speed manual gearbox. You have to lift the ring (under the gear knob) in order to engage reverse:


Engine start / stop button:


The smart key:


Audio & Bluetooth controls on the left:


With trip meter & cruise control on the right:


First-in-class ventilated seats. Using these controls, you can individually heat or cool the seats. The AT variant gets ventilation on all 4 seats, while the MT gets it for the rear seats only:


While the Sonata MT has a conventionally placed handbrake lever...


...the Sonata AT gets a foot-operated parking brake (a la Mercedes) located just above the dead pedal:


The door gets a red warning light (when open). A thoughtful safety feature:


The fuel & trunk release buttons are placed (hidden??) on the door panel. This isn't a practical location, as we had to open the door & bend down to choose the right latch. Perhaps, one will get used to this positioning after living with the car:


The driver's seat gets 10-way electric adjustment. I can’t complain about the seating position. Additionally, the AT variant gets memory seats (storage for 2 positions):


Reverse camera system with video display on the rear-view-mirror. This system also provides a 3 level warning; the green, yellow & red lines indicate the distance from the rear wall. You better stop before it hits red! The system is very comfortable to use. Once you get used to it, you can't do without it:




Two 12V sockets and AUX/USB connectors. A fellow reviewer couldn't get his iPhone to connect though:


Medium sized glove-box. The glove compartment does have a cooling function:


The Sonata's seats are luxury personified and provide sofa-quality comfort. That luxury does come with one major compromise; the car is strictly a 4 seater. The rear bench is optimised for 2. If you put a 3rd passenger here, you might earn an enemy for life:


Even the floor hump is quite small and insignificant compared to the bump on the seat:


Ample legroom for the taller amongst us:


Rear passengers get their own seat ventilation (cooling / warming) controls. The feature works very well and was appreciated by all:


Rear passengers get individual A/C vents too. The Sonata is equipped with dual-zone climate control. The A/C was effective even under the harsh coastal sun. A powerful air-con can be a differentiator as this is, surprisingly, a weak spot in nearly all of the German luxo-barges:

Last edited by GTO : 21st March 2012 at 15:38.
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Old 12th March 2012, 19:47   #4
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The Sonata is powered by Hyundai's first direct-injection petrol engine. This 2.4L 4-cylinder GDI unit produces 198 BHP (@ 6,300 rpm) and 250 Nm of torque (@ 4,250 rpm). Internationally, a turbo-charged 2.0L petrol variant with an Accord-V6 matching 274 BHP is available, though I doubt we'll be getting the engine anytime soon.

The Manual Transmission


As I got into the driver’s seat, I found that the seat was positioned way too forward. The captain's chair has 10 way electric adjustment, and I got my ideal driving position within a few seconds of using the 3 adjustment buttons. However, the clutch travel is long and you have to literally stretch your left leg to fully depress the pedal. Thus, I had to push the seat forward again. This clutch has one of the longest travels amongst the D2 segment cars. That can cause some embarrassing moments while starting off. At first, I promptly stalled the engine; I was relieved when my co-driver too experienced the same stalling issue. It does take time to get used to that long clutch. However, the arrangement didn’t pose any problem while changing gears on the move.

The Sonata MT has a 6-speed manual transmission; the first 3 ratios are tuned for city driving while the final 3 are taller. If you were expecting to feel the raw power of a 198 BHP car, you are in the wrong place. At redline, 70 kph can be reached in 1st gear, 100 kph in 2nd gear and 150 kph in 3rd gear. Since we only drove on the crowded East Coast Road (2-lane) from Chennai to Pondicherry and back, we had very little opportunity to redline. We safely drove around the 80 - 100 kph mark. The 5th & 6th ratios are very tall, meant to maximise fuel-efficiency over long-distance touring. The 4th gear obviously had more torque delivery of the three, but the difference between the three ratios felt quite academic due to the tall nature of each gear. The engine sounds a little harsh past 3000 - 4000 rpm. Refinement is acceptable, but it's not a super smooth motor at high rpm. In both, the 4th & 5th gears, I could slow down to 30 kph and then recover to higher speed without having to shift down or lug the engine. I guess there is no replacement for displacement. In other words, the Sonata is a very convenient car to drive, though not exciting. If you want that feeling of adrenalin rush, you'll have to frequently downshift (to 3rd & below). On that note, I might add that the MT's gear shift quality is smooth to use.

The ECR also provided ample opportunity to test the comprehensive braking hardware that includes 4-wheel disc brakes, ABS & EBD. At one point, as I was overtaking a slow-moving car, a biker made a sudden U-turn, ending up right in front of me. I was able to instantly brake and avoid the biker with no drama at all. It wasn’t even a close call like it would have been in some other cars. In fact, the biker was completely unaware of the incident he just caused. Full marks to the Sonata's braking system.

High-speed handling has always been the Achilles heel of Hyundai. I was hoping that the latest generation Sonata will buck that trend. Alas, that was not to be. The suspension is softly set up and doesn’t imbibe much confidence when pushing the car on twisting roads. While taking a few long, gentle curves at 80 - 90 kph, I had to be very cautious with my steering control & input. That said, this is a hydraulic power steering that gives good feedback.

High-speed handling was obviously compromised in favour of superior ride comfort. The Sonata offers probably the best-in-class ride quality, whether on the rear seat or the front. Ride quality remains stellar at low & high speeds, whether the roads are good or bad. This feels like a deliberate compromise to suit the target segment of customer. The Sonata is all about comfort and convenience, totally ignoring the needs of the enthusiastic driver. No car in this segment is truly fun to drive though. The Accord & Camry are boring while the Superb’s wheelbase is too long to be fun. The Passat is probably the closest to what one can call an enthusiast's car.

The Automatic Transmission


Driving an automatic car doesn't come naturally to a lot of people in India. Habits from driving manual transmissions often get passed over. That typically means a heavy-footed driving style. With the exception of a high-end or DSG equipped car, almost all automatics are better suited to light-footed drivers. Therefore, those who try to test the sheer performance of an automatic car with heavy-footed driving end up being disappointed.

The Sonata AT is for those with a sedate style of driving. Shift quality is smooth & seamless. Customers from this segment prefer ATs for the convenience, and should be happy with the Sonata's 6-speed Automatic. With a regular driving style, it's never really "hunting" for gears. In fact, you won't even notice the gear shifts.

Those looking for fun, on the other hand, will end up empty handed. If the Sonata MT was unexciting, the AT version is downright boring. Usually, I am quite upbeat about AT variants. Having continuously owned AT cars across many segments for nearly two decades, I am quite realistic about how ATs should perform. I don’t judge an AT car's performance via comparisons to their MT counterparts, or by the pedal-to-the-metal feel...that would be ludicrous. No, I merely wanted to compare it to the last 6-speed AT car I test drove, albeit from a lower segment, the Skoda Rapid AT. The Sonata AT simply doesn’t measure up. It is a lot lazier than even the Rapid AT, which is more exciting to drive despite having 1/2 the power. While the Sonata has paddle shift controls, the Rapid has an "S-mode" for when you want to have fun. The Sonata simply calls the tiptronic as the Sports mode.

In the normal drive mode (D) of Sonata, one is forced to drive conservatively with no sudden movements, except for braking. Overtaking has to be carefully planned too. Any attempt to suddenly accelerate results in a grotesque scream from the engine. It intimidated me enough to stop trying. I then decided to try my luck with the tiptronic & paddle shift controls. The Tiptronic mode is not something you will frequently use. Although one may assume that an aggressive driver would use tiptronic all the time, research suggests otherwise. In a manual-shift, we change gears all the time because we have to. Do we enjoy changing it all the time? Not really. One enjoys shifting gears only while driving spiritedly on open stretches or the twisties. For the rest of the driving time, gear shifting is quite a mechanical process. So there it is. Tiptronic is something you use when you want absolute control over which gear is used. That might comprise of less than 5% of your driving, may be a little more amongst sporty drivers. The Sonata Tiptronic driving experience was hardly different from the MT version and probably has the same gear ratios too. It was as unexciting as driving the MT version. After shifting the gears manually a few times, I switched back to "D" and stopped bothering.

The AT version also features cruise control. Once you set a certain speed, the car will maintain it, until the cruise control is switched off or the brakes are applied. Cruise control is useful only on fast highways with minimal traffic.

The NVH is very well controlled. Engine noise is subdued below 3,500 rpms, but can be heard thereafter. Wind and road noise are negligible. The ground clearance is rather low at 155 mm; we didn’t hit the underbody on any speed-breakers though. With this long wheelbase, I have my reservations and leave it to the ownership reviews to pass judgement.

By the end of the test drive, the verdict was clearly painted on the sky for me. This is the perfect chauffeur driven car. It gives great ride comfort and convenience for rear seat passengers. Drivers will find both variants quite boring to drive, and almost impossible to abuse. In other words, the best seats in the house are at the rear.

Last edited by GTO : 22nd March 2012 at 15:08.
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Old 13th March 2012, 21:00   #5
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Default re: Hyundai Sonata : Official Review

The Smaller yet significant things:

The Sonata has 6 airbags; dual front, dual side and dual curtain. The USA NHSTA gives the Sonata a 5 star safety rating, while the IIHS has given it the top safety pick award. The car has also received the maximum possible stars in the Australian NCAP:


Odometer and speedometer are housed in a dual oblong housing, pointing away from each other. The status information display is split into 3 areas; the center of each meter and the space between the meters. Lots of places to keep an eye on:




In-Car-Entertainment system has a 6 CD changer as well as AUX / USB inputs. The graphics are a blast from the past. ATARI anyone?


You can control the rear (room) lights from the (front) map light console:


One-touch-down window for the driver only. Shocking!


Even the rear doors can hold a 1 liter water bottle:


Lots of storage space inside the rear armrest:


The fuse box is located right about the driver's right knee. Easy to access:


After dumping 3 aircraft-cabin sized bags into the boot, they only occupied <25% of the available space:


You'll need the key (or a screwdriver) to activate / de-activate the child lock feature of the rear doors:


The front passenger gets a 4-way adjustable seat (not 10-way like the driver's). No lumbar support either:


Subwoofer positioned on the rear parcel tray:


The vanity mirror. Light has to be turned on manually:


Disclaimer : Hyundai invited Team-BHP for the Sonata test-drive. They covered all the expenses for this driving event.

Last edited by GTO : 22nd March 2012 at 15:11.
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Old 22nd March 2012, 15:16   #6
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Default Re: Hyundai Sonata : Official Review

The 2012 Sonata performs as expected. Most people loved the design at the time of unveiling, it's spacious and - as is standard fare for Hyundai's these days - the equipment list is top-notch. The Accord is slowly & steadily looking bare naked.

Handling appears to be classic Hyundai too, and I don't mean it in a good way. Well, that's the last of Hyundai's worries as how many customers even care about dynamics. What really matters is the lack of a premium / aspirational badge and diesel engine. In other news, petrol prices are going to be hiked by about 5 bucks soon.

Nevertheless, it is competitively priced and is the cheapest full-size D2 segment sedan now. A lakh lower than the Superb, and nearly 2 lakhs lesser than the Accord! The gap narrows, however, when it comes to the Automatic variant that Hyundai is charging a 2 lakh rupee premium for.

Last edited by GTO : 22nd March 2012 at 15:44.
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Old 22nd March 2012, 15:32   #7
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Default Re: Hyundai Sonata : Official Review

Nice crisp review! You forgot to include the VW Passat in the comparison table
The new Sonata seems to tick all the boxes for a consumer in this price bracket. Good pricing along with a strong after-sales support might earn a good number of customers for this large saloon.
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Old 22nd March 2012, 15:33   #8
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I hate to rain on the party but without a diesel this car is going nowhere and I am tempted to say - dead on arrival. The looks and Kit are impressive, however in this segment brand image is something Hyundai doesn't have and other than the initial excitement, its another Kizashi in the making.

Hyundai has to compete on price and 20L is just stretching it.
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Old 22nd March 2012, 15:36   #9
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Default Re: Hyundai Sonata : Official Review

I have been very keen on this product ever since I saw the 1st video on which was way back in 2009. The thing I miss the most which has not made it to the production line in India is the sunroof.
But looks gorgeous. I have always loved the car for its price positioning.
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Old 22nd March 2012, 15:41   #10
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Default Re: Hyundai Sonata : Official Review

Quote:
Originally Posted by theragingbull View Post
Nice crisp review! You forgot to include the VW Passat in the comparison table
The new Sonata seems to tick all the boxes for a consumer in this price bracket. Good pricing along with a strong after-sales support might earn a good number of customers for this large saloon.
Good Pricing? 20 lacs plus for a Hyundai! Agreed the styling is attractive but no sane person is going to chose this over the Accord, Camry, Teana, Superb and Passat - all in the similar price bracket and far more superior. The only way this car would have done well was if it had a huge price advantage over the competition, which it sadly does not.

Quote:
Originally Posted by avira_tk View Post
I hate to rain on the party but without a diesel this car is going nowhere and I am tempted to say - dead on arrival. The looks and Kit are impressive, however in this segment brand image is something Hyundai doesn't have and other than the initial excitement, its another Kizashi in the making.

Hyundai has to compete on price and 20L is just stretching it.
Completely agree with you! I give it 3 months for a massive price cut.
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Old 22nd March 2012, 15:46   #11
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Default Re: Hyundai Sonata : Official Review

Quote:
Disclaimer : Hyundai invited Team-BHP for the Sonata test-drive. They covered all the expenses for this driving event.
Well done review....the AT performance seems to have spoiled the product.

By the way, what exactly do you mean by that disclaimer.I still cant understand whether its a good thing or a bad thing.

Normally,its a bad thing to be covered by the company whose product you are reviewing.So when you yourselves are mentioning it as a disclaimer, what exactly are you trying to say...?

Last edited by ahmed26 : 22nd March 2012 at 15:47.
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Old 22nd March 2012, 15:55   #12
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Default Re: Hyundai Sonata : Official Review

Quote:
Originally Posted by ahmed26 View Post
By the way, what exactly do you mean by that disclaimer.I still cant understand whether its a good thing or a bad thing.

Normally,its a bad thing to be covered by the company whose product you are reviewing.So when you yourselves are mentioning it as a disclaimer, what exactly are you trying to say...?
That is the standard line we mention in every official review, have you missed seeing it until now?

Rest assured that TBHP official reviews are never influenced by who paid for the trip.
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Old 22nd March 2012, 15:55   #13
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Default Re: Hyundai Sonata : Official Review

A very nice & detailed review. Thanks.

I feel a car like Sonata is apt for the Indian conditions. It has the features, the style, the space, the safety & even the ride comfort. Who cares about handling in this segment? Anyways the car will be driven by a chauffeur.

The only thing lacking is a diesel motor which Hyundai should bring in fast. Oh yes, pricing is also the key. 20 Lacs is a bit steep for the petrol which may push the diesel to 21 or 22 Lacs which means around 25 Lacs on road. It should have some 4-5 Lacs lesser IMHO.

Quote:
Originally Posted by manishk123 View Post
no sane person is going to chose this over the Accord, Camry, Teana, Superb and Passat - all in the similar price bracket and far more superior. The only way this car would have done well was if it had a huge price advantage over the competition, which it sadly does not.
I will. And I believe I am sane!

Agreed, its a bit over priced but I feel this is better than the Accord, Camry, Teana & Passat. It's just personal preferences. If I had the money, I would close my eyes & pick the Santa Fe over the Fortuner. I dont care if it's a Hyundai, its a good car.

Last edited by raj_5004 : 22nd March 2012 at 15:59.
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Old 22nd March 2012, 15:59   #14
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Default Re: Hyundai Sonata : Official Review

A crisp Team-Bhp style review

Hyundai Always floods their cars with features and other added gadgets over their rivals.

Inside looks super spacious, boot space is huge and i can dump any person creating a nuisance for me

As per you it has average high-speed handling and its not a corner carver at all. Every time they launch a car i expect them to get the handling better, "True Drivers Car", but it is always a disappointment in that regard.

Also, Diesel burner would have got many interested, but that's not the case and we don't expect a Good FE from petrol.

A sales chart break-up with how much sales does the rivals petrol counter part manages would definitely summarized a clear picture.
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Old 22nd March 2012, 16:04   #15
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Default Re: Hyundai Sonata : Official Review

Great review Samurai-san. These Hyundais just keep getting prettier and prettier don't they? This one sure is a looker!

Some disappointments for me:
  • Auto up/down power windows only for driver- what were they thinking? My Vento two segments down has this feature!
  • Electric mirrors that auto-fold on ignition shutdown is standard even in the Civic one segment down. Rather cheap omission.
  • The Superb is the car to beat in this segment and pricing the Sonata higher than that seems foolhardy. The Kizashi suddeny looks like a VFM option
  • Lack of sunroof is a weird omission. Nothing says "premium" more clearly than one of those.

Otherwise I like this car. Am quite eager to get my hands on that 200 horsepower GDI engine but your reaction seems rather lukewarm so I'll reserve judgement!

I wonder if the Fluidic Verna's success will rub off its elder sibling. Be nice to see something other than Superbs (and the odd Accord) on the streets in this segment.
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