Ask yourself this: When was the last time you considered a mid-size sedan as your next car?
If you answered in the late 90's, then we don't blame you. With a slew of more affordable crossovers and SUVs hitting the market in the mid-00's, the mid-size (or D-Segment) sedan may soon face extinction. In the meantime though, I'm glad these cars are still around.
One of these offerings is the Hyundai Sonata. I've been curious about this D-Segment offering since it came out and I've finally been given the chance to take it for a spin. But does the Sonata have what it takes to sway buyers towards the good old big sedan over the ever-versatile crossover?
On looks alone, it seems promising. This seventh generation model is a handsome looking car with its chiseled front end complemented by swooping design elements. Hyundai calls it 'Fluidic Sculpture 2.0', and suffice to say it looks the part. In my eyes at least, it looks cohesive with its various character lines seamlessly flowing into the other parts of the car's body. The fastback-like shape gives it a touch of class and elegance. The panoramic roof is a nice touch too and was a feature that I truly enjoyed.
Inside, it was a pleasant place to stay with its 'T-design' dash wrapping around you. Proper fit and finish is what you would expect from a car nudging two million pesos, and the use of soft-touch materials throughout and the cabin accents heighten the solid feeling you would expect in cars from this segment. One thing the Sonata does not lack is space, with healthy doses of leg, hip, and shoulder room from front to rear. It's also well equipped as this range-topping 2.4 GLS Premium model came with air-conditioned seats. These were particularly handy after parking the car under the heat of the sun. Simply turn it on, put it to the coldest setting and you'll be sitting on more comfortable seats in no time.
I do wish Hyundai added a little more flair to complement its exterior design. Another thing I'd like to change with the Sonata is its infotainment system. It's not difficult to use but it does perhaps have the tiniest touchscreen ever installed in a big sedan, measuring at just a little over four inches. Just to compare, an iPhone 6 screen is bigger than the Hyundai's touchscreen. Also, the faux carbon fiber trim seems out of place for a car that is targeted towards executives. I think wood paneling (faux or real) would complement it better.
In 2.4 GLS Premium trim, the Sonata comes with an impressive list of safety equipment standard. It has six airbags, proximity sensors for both front and rear, blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert. The last feature I mentioned was of big help when reversing out of parking spaces. The system takes out the guesswork in leaving parking spaces in reverse, letting you know if it's safe to proceed.
Under the hood is Hyundai's trusty Theta II 2.4 liter four-cylinder engine. It has dual variable valve timing which the automaker calls D-CVVT and is rated at 178 PS with 229 Nm of torque. No surprises then that the only transmission choice available is a six speed automatic.
In this segment, one would expect a car that glides over bumps and isolates its occupants from ambient noises of the outside world. On that point, the Sonata does the job well considering it was on low profile 18-inch tires. The ill-maintained roads of the metro didn't unsettle the Sonata that much although a set of 17-inch wheels may make it ride even better. As for noise isolation, it does a decent job although there is some intrusion since the car essentially has a glass roof.
One thing I did note was the Sonata's slow throttle response. Even on sport mode, the car takes a while to set off from the lights and is far from pleased when asked to hustle. It's not slow per se but a little patience is required when stepping on the gas pedal. As for steering, its electronic power assist typically feels artificially weighted at speed.
The Sonata then is much happier on the highway. The 2.4 liter mill is hushed and the aerodynamic exterior keeps wind noise to a minimum. I would call the Sonata an excellent highway companion but, again, the throttle response lets it down a little. Once the engine does decide to react, there is more than enough pulling power for confident overtaking. The Sonata averaged a rather thirsty 6.7 kilometers per liter in the city but makes up for it on the highway with the best figure of 12.2 kilometers per liter. Had Hyundai equipped the Philippine market Sonatas with their direct injection engine, economy would have surely been better.
So far, the Sonata has been a good car with its good ride, impressive safety equipment and highway manners. Now comes this car's biggest hurdle: The price. At Php 1,898,000.00, the Sonata is priced similarly to bigger, higher riding SUVs in the market today. Throw in a little more and you'll already be in the neighborhood of V6 powered D-Segment sedans as well. Granted, it's very well equipped with the bonus of neat features that come standard. Generally though, the Sonata needs a little more polish to attract more buyers to this otherwise solid package.
The Sonata does present a good case for the mid-size sedan, but swaying consumers to get this over the ever popular SUV or crossover will be difficult. As good as it is, there is still room for improvement. But for those seeking a big sedan that's loaded with a lot of kit, the Sonata certainly won't be a disappointment.