Hyundai Sonata

Raises its game without changing its tune

ALEX INWOOD

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

THE LAST time Wheels reviewed the Hyundai Sonata we delivered a rather blunt verdict: ďAs a work in progress, Sonata is on the right trackĒ, we wrote, before handing it eighth place in our 10-car family sedan megatest back in 2016. Our review, which praised the Sonataís space, equipment and fluid handling, finished hopefully, suggesting an imminent replacement could address its lack of dynamic verve and all-round appeal.

Well, fast-forward 12 months and the updated Sonata has arrived. Now boasting overhauled styling that ditches the old carís restrained and slightly dour look for a sportier and sleeker appearance with a cascading front grille, the 2018 Sonata also brings important tech and safety upgrades and a rationalised, twotier model line-up. The mid-spec Elite variant is no more, with the range now starting at $30,990 for the entry-level Active and, as before, tops out at $45,490 for the flagship Premium variant weíre testing here.

Both cars use carryover engines: a 138kW/241Nm aspirated four-cylinder petrol in the Active, and a gutsier 180kW/353Nm turbo four in the Premium, which is now paired to a smooth and intuitive eightspeed automatic (replacing the old carís six-speeder) for a 0.7L/100km improvement in fuel economy.

Inside, a revised centre stack with piano-key buttons houses an 8.0-inch touchscreen with sat-nav and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity. Disappointingly, AEB isnít available on either Sonata variant.

The Sonataís cabin remains spacious and comfortable with ample knee, shoulder and headroom in both rows, plus excellent vision and an airy, light-filled ambience helped by the Premiumís standard panoramic sunroof. Rear-seat passengers are well catered for too, with centre air vents, wellpadded seats and window blinds.

Dynamically, little has changed despite the inclusion of higher quality tyres Ė 17-inch Continental Contact 5 on the Active and 18-inch Michelin Pilot Sport 3 on the Premium. Both variants use the same locally tuned chassis and suspension settings as before to deliver handling thatís fluid, predictable and easy to place.

Yet there are flaws. Despite the better rubber, wheel spin and torque steer are apparent in the Premium under heavy throttle inputs. And on poor surfaces the ride is consistently busy. Theyíre niggles that take the edge off what is a well-judged dynamic package and mean that despite its improvements, the 2018 Sonata falls largely into the same trap as before: much to like and little to offend, but also little to excite. unroof. re tre welland ly, clusion

PLUS & MINUS

Boosted equipment and safety tech; practical and spacious; gutsy 2.0 turbo AEB unavailable; torque steer and axle tramp; uninspiring dynamics Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Hyundai Sonata Premium 1998cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo 180kW @ 6000rpm 353Nm @ 1350-4000rpm 8-speed automatic 1560kg 7.0sec (estimated) 8.5L/100km $45,490 Now

Thicker kit list

The Sonata Premium gains the most bells and whistles, with additions to an already extensive list of standard equipment including a flat-bottom steering wheel, a wireless phone charging pad (Android only, for now) and an updated safety pack that brings blind-spot detection, lane-departure warning and radar cruise control. whistles