The All New Hyundai Sonata – a potential segment leader in the making

19 May 2012: The mid size luxury car segment or the D segment as they call it in India is a fast growing category, aimed at those who want full blown luxury and won’t go for the no frills entry level BMWs or Audis. The segment had for long been dominated by the Honda Accord and the Skoda Superb – both great cars, until the launch of the new Hyundai Sonata, which was unveiled here for the first time at the Auto Expo 2012. Although the Sonata has been here for a while, with a good range of engines and great pricing, it never really took off in the last decade. It didn’t have a particularly spacious cabin, and wasn’t as refined as the Accord or the Superb in terms of built quality. Also the Korean tag didn’t really work for it, when pitted against German and Japanese compatriots in that segment.

The new Sonata however, is a huge step up and only now does it pose a serious challenge to its more well entrenched competitors. It has been available in the U.S. for a while, and at first glance looks promising. The car is longer than the outgoing model, looks aerodynamic and feline, and has integrated the fluidic design language very well. The head lamps are sleek and there are smooth, flowing lines all across the car. The tail lamps with LED and the twin oval exhaust pipes give the back a bold finish. The side profile of the car looks especially magnificent, and there is a coupe-ish feel about its stance. Of course the design cues are similar to the Verna which we are familiar with on the roads, but given its size and road presence, this one is quite a looker. Step inside and you’ll be treated to more of the fluidic design on the dashboard. The centre console smoothly flows into the middle, and the design is simple, elegant and exudes a lot of class. Hyundai has crammed in a lot of equipment in this car, and some of the features are unique to the segment. Ventilated seats at the front and back, automatic 2-zone climate control, cruise control and automatically adjustable front seats are some of the highlights.

 The 2.4 litre in-line four motor engine produces an impressive 200 bhp and 260 nm of torque. The GDi badge at the back is however deceptive, since it is a petrol engine. The car comes with either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, and sits on 17 inch tubeless tires. According to the company, the engine is powerful and efficient at the same time, and should deliver good mileage.

Hyundai has made a bold move, bringing in a petrol powered car in India in this segment. This is a country obsessed with fuel efficiency and diesel powered cars are flying off the shelves. In such a scenario launching a powerful luxury car with a petrol engine is a gamble. Honda Accord sales have plummeted in the past year for this very reason, and the Skoda Superb which is a diesel version has gained to emerge as the segment leader. The Sonata might just be tough competition to the Superb based on head to head specs and the price advantage, but it would have been a winner by a mile if it had a diesel option as well.

The Sonata ex-showroom price at Rs.18.0 lakh for the base version is great when you compare it with the Rs.23.0 lakh price of a Skoda Superb. The Sonata certainly looks the part, has a great road presence and a powerful and refined engine. It has everything going for it really, and should prove a worthy challenger. And between the three, the Sonata is the one I’d bet my money on!

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