THIS is a car that continues to fly under the radar.
It’s the Hyundai Sonata, a well-made, mid-sized sedan that offers exceptional room, comfort and value-for-money.
Despite considerable improvements in recent years and notable success overseas, the Korean-built offering remains very much a quiet achiever in Australia.
Hyundai’s stable star is the award-winning i30, which has proved the brand can produce affordable cars of very high quality.
But Sonata, too, has a touch of glass.
The enhanced 2009 models range in price from $27,990 for the 2.4-litre petrol SLX manual to $36,990 for the 2.0 CRDi Elite auto.
All come with new styling inside and out, better performance and economy, and improved ride and handling.
Standard features include ESP stability control, ABS, six airbags, cruise control, 16-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, power windows, remote entry with alarm, automatic headlight on-off system and front fog lights.
The plusher Elite variants add leather seats, 17-inch alloys, reverse park assist sensors, dual climate control air conditioning, 6-stack CD player, driver and front passenger power seats and mandatory automatic transmission _ 5-speed in the petrol and 4-speed in the diesel.
Five adults are easily accommodated in all Sonatas and aside from the seats being a little too soft, you will find an array of things to make life easier.
There’s a tilt and telescopic adjustable steering wheel, deluxe centre console with armrest and bi-level storage compartments, 60/40 split rear seats, iPod and other media player connectivity and a quality sound system.
The dash has been restyled with silver-detailed instruments and blue night lighting. All controls are within easy reach of the pilot.
Another pleasant surprise is the massive boot, bigger than many larger rivals.
Our test Sonata was the CRDi, which came with a high-output 2.0 turbo-diesel engine, mated to a slick 6-speed manual transmission.
Not only did the diesel perform well, it showed stunning fuel efficiency, sipping less than 6 litres for every 100km covered during our week of driving.
There’s plenty of get up and go to slice through the city traffic and the CRDi cruises effortlessly on the open road, the engine idling at 1800 revs in sixth gear on the 100km/h highway speed limit.
Tweaks have been made to ensure Sonata’s suspension is better suited to Australian conditions and steering also been revised, but is still light.
The exterior has been given a makeover, with slimmer front and rear bumpers, a large chrome radiator grille, and rearranged headlights giving the sedan a more contemporary look.
The 2009 Sonata is available in a stylish range of colours, including Noble White, Black Diamond, Deep Blue Pearl, Sleek Silver, Silky Beige and Iron Silver, all matched with a charcoal black-based interior.
As well as Hyundai’s standard 5-year new car warranty with unlimited kilometres, Sonata is backed by 12 months Premium Assist roadside coverage with inclusions such as hotel/hire car if required.