Well, more car, for a start. Completely redesigned for 2012, the new Sonata is more refined, better equipped and freshly styled than the model it replaces.
From a design standpoint, Hyundai has rolled in a healthy dose of its "fluidic sculpture" design, which makes it an inflated Verna in profile. However, the massive chrome grill flanking the cat-eye shaped HID headlamps, complemented with two aggressive lines running on the bonnet puts the Sonata head and shoulders above the contenders. The tail lamps have been significantly redesigned, giving the vehicle a splash of class as well. The exterior, in short, is exhilarating and looks absolutely classy. Thumbs up!
The sophisticated fluidic design character is reflected on the two tone beige and black interior, too. This, combined with Hyundai's proficiency in interior packaging, has created an interior ambience that delivers class-leading comfort, functionality and practicality. Button-heavy the dash may be, but it's all clearly labeled and ergonomically presented. The centre console flows smoothly all the way to the rear AC vents, serving as a comfortable armrest as well as dividing the front into two cockpits. Unfortunately, the armrest obstructs your elbow when changing gear. The seats are comfortable with 10-way adjustable driver seat and seat ventilation. There's plenty of head and leg room and the boot is very spacious.
Under that long, curvy bonnet, there is a 2.4-litre GDi petrol engine capable of developing 201bhp at 6300rpm. Hyundai will launch just two variants of the new Sonata, a six-speed manual and a six-speed automatic transmission. In the automatic version, the motor doesn't always respond instantly to your foot, especially while overtaking. Yet, it is equipped with paddle-shifters that help you stay in the preferred gear. However you will enjoy driving the manual transmission that delivers power at your slightest whim. Gear shifts are silky-smooth, too.
On the road
The new Sonata is equipped with independent suspension for both the front and rear and it wafts along serenely at any speed on a straight line. There was negligible body-roll and I didn't hear any wind noise at speed. Although it feels like the suspension is tuned towards comfort than handling, the new Sonata proved entertaining and agile on twisty roads, especially when compared to the earlier model. Steering effort and response is on the lighter side, but that's the case with almost all its competitors.
No diesel? Why?
Hyundai has been very successful as a diesel brand but you are never going to find a diesel motor under Sonata's hood. This move by Hyundai has invited experts' criticism but the carmaker has a very prudent explanation to it. "The average running of the cars in this segment is approximately 60 kilometres a day, which is less than 30,000 kilometres per year. Considering the price advantage diesel cars have over petrol, it will take three to four years to recover the extra amount (around three lakh) you spend on a diesel Sonata. I totally agree with Hyundai on this. What's your take? Post your comments below.
Overall, Hyundai Sonata is a nice place to be thanks to its spacious cabin, relaxed seating, solid build quality and quiet highway ride. Priced a few thousands below the rivals, Sonata is sure to bring fortunes to Hyundai in this segment — the same fortune Verna brought for Hyundai in the C-segment.