"I LOVE Hondas," the missus said as we took off for a weekend away.
"That great dear," I replied. "But this is a Hyundai."
Such is the appeal of the Sonata, which has recently received some upgrades after the initial introduction of the new model in 2005, and obviously occasionally mistaken for the Accord.
Already equipped with standard Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Traction Control (TCS), six airbags and active front head restraints, the 2.4 litre four cylinder Sonata variants now have several extra safety-conscious packs available.
Coinciding with these upgrades is a model name change which sees both four- and six-cylinder entry level Sonata variants badged ‘SLX’ on their front mudguards and further identified by chrome rather than black window sill strips.
Sonata SLX 2.4 can now be ordered with Hyundai’s Protectz Pack factory option which adds ESP and TCS for $990 over the unchanged $25,990 RRP of the manual and $27,490 for the Selectronic automatic.
Sonata SLX V6, which has the full safety kit and five speed Selectronic automatic transmission, is $30,490 RRP, up $500 from the prior similarly-equipped entry level V6.
The luxury Sonata Elite 2.4 Selectronic automatic adds ESP and TCS to its full standard equipment list and is offered for $32,740 RRP, which is $750 extra.
Both Sonata Elite 2.4 and Elite V6 roll out on more stylish, flush spoke re-designs of their 17” alloy wheels while their ‘Elite’ badging is also moved to their front 'guards. Sonata Elite V6 is now $35,240 RRP, up $250.
Inside, all 2007 Sonata variants have added a Seek tab to their steering wheel audio controls for easier and safer radio station scanning while driving.
For a full road test please see our story on the model's launch, but we'll recap some of it here NB: Straight from the Press Kit.
Sonata’s standard equipment includes:
air-conditioning with pollen filter and heater ducting to the rear foot wells;
cruise control via steering wheel tabs;
remote entry with alarm;
power mirrors and windows;
two 12 volt power outlets;
sun visors with slide-out extensions and illuminated vanity mirrors; and,
an audio system with MP3-capable CD/FM/AM, six speakers including tweeters, steering wheel auxiliary controls including a seek tab, rear glass-imbedded antenna with a signal amplifier and a cassette player.
Unusual for this class is Sonata’s cargo security. Its huge 462 litre boot is fully securable via locks on the rear seat’s 60/40 split/fold backrests, an internal boot lid catch and—ideal in commercial carparks and big hotels—a separate valet key that only accesses doors and ignition.
Stowing three fully stocked golf bags with space to spare, the boot still packs a full size spare wheel and tyre.
The luxury ‘Elite’ model Sonata is offered with either V6 or four cylinder engines and automatic transmission. Leather trim is a highlight with subtle carbon fibre-effect elements in a light Warm Grey tone interior or walnut inlays with the Soft Beige alternative.
Elite’s 17” alloy wheels are shod with low profile 225/50R Dunlop SP Sport tyres. The audio system upgrades to a six-disc in-dash CD stacker and adds an 8” 90W sub-woofer and a 200W external amplifier.
Auto climate control, eight-way power adjusting driver seat, reverse sensors, stainless steel door sill plates and chrome door handles are other Elite touches.
ESP by Bosch is now standard on both Sonata Elite models and SLX V6 and optional in SLX 2.4. This compares with its unavailability in Camry Altise/Ateva, Holden Epica, Mazda6, Subaru Liberty and Honda Accord VTi.
Apart from its strong body shell with optimized front and rear crumple zones and impact load diffusion paths, Sonata has dual frontal airbags, front-side (thorax) airbags (extra cost options on Commodore Omega, Falcon XT and Camry Altise) and full cabin length curtain airbags which latter are unavailable in Falcon XT and Holden’s Daewoo-built Epica CDX and which cost extra in Commodore Omega and Camry Altise.
A class rarity is Sonata’s active anti-whiplash front head restraints which adjust fore-aft as well as vertically. The front passenger seat has a PPD (passenger presence detection) sensor to prevent the left side dash airbag deploying in a crash if the seat is unoccupied.
Helping to better restrain occupants during an impact are front seatbelt dual pre-tensioners, load limiters and adjustable-height pillar mounts as well as anti-submarining front seat steel pans and rear seat ramps.
Sonata V6 delivers competitive performance and driver enjoyment with indicative 0-100km/h acceleration approximating 7.7 seconds and 0-400m in 15.6 seconds.
Both Sonata’s engines have offered Euro-4 low-emission calibration since mid 2005, three years before being mandated by Australian Design Rules.
Sonata’s premium engine is Hyundai’s 3.3 litre, all-alloy ‘Lambda’ series 60-degree V6 with dual overhead camshafts (DOHC) per bank and four valves per cylinder with CVVT (continuously variable valve timing).
It is matched to a smooth-shifting five-speed Selectronic automatic transmission. Maximum power and torque on standard ULP are 173 kW at 6000rpm and 304 Nm at 3500rpm.
Fuel economy according to the standard ADR 81-01 comparative test regime is 10.1 litres/100km, more frugal than Mitsubishi 380’s 11.4, Commodore’s 10.9 and the 10.6 of Falcon and Honda Accord V6. Similarly, ADR 81/01 CO2 emissions at 241g/km are less than 380’s 274, Commodore’s 260, Accord’s 256 and Falcon’s 253.
Dual chrome tailpipes and a ‘V6’ rear badge denote the bigger-engined Sonatas.
Sonata’s four-cylinder ‘Theta’ 2.4 litre, all-alloy twin-cam, 16-valve, CVVT engine is the Hyundai-designed power plant also licensed to DaimlerChrysler and Mitsubishi for some of their models under the Global Engine Project.
Sonata 2.4’s maximum power of 119 kW at 5800 rpm bests Camry’s 117 kW and six cylinder Epica’s 2.0 on 105 kW and 2.5 on 115 kW, while maximum torque is a healthy 219 Nm at 4250 rpm. ADR 81/01 fuel usage for Sonata SLX manual is just 8.3 litres/100km, 0.6 less than Camry Altise while in automatics, Sonata’s 8.8 l/100km betters Camry Ateva’s 9.9, 9.3 for both Holden Epica 2.5 CDX (on premium unleaded petrol) and Accord VTi and 9.5 for Mazda6.
Again with CO2 emissions, Sonata 2.4 manual’s 8.3 g/km is cleaner than the 9.1 of Honda Accord Euro and Subaru Liberty 2.0R, Camry Altise’s 8.9 and Mazda6’s 8.8. Sonata 2.4 automatic’s 8.8 g/km is greener than Camry Ateva’s 9.9 and the 9.3 of both Epica (on PULP) and Accord VTi.