2015 HYUNDAI SONATA PREVIEW DRIVE
UPDATE: Turbo model confirmed for Australia.
It’s not easy to glean much from a brief stint behind the wheel, travelling mostly in a straight line on a surface that would make a billiard table look lumpy.
But, after our first taste of the 2015 Hyundai Sonata at the Korean carmaker’s Namyang development centre, it appears safe to say that it will find more than a few buyers when it arrives here in the first half of next year.
And with the high-featured model we drove offering a great many mod-cons, along with excellent rear leg and headroom (as well as heated rear seats, a lá i40 Premium), it could serve as a budget alternative to the large and luxurious Genesis sedan.
NOTE: Event/drive photography still to come. (members of the press were not permitted to take cameras into the Namyang centre.)
The car we drove was equipped with a 143kW 2.4 litre petrol inline four, an engine that doesn’t feel overwhelmingly quick but has little problem accelerating the Sonata to triple-digit speeds.
Also confirmed for Australia, as of today, is the 2.0 litre turbocharged petrol engine of the Sonata Turbo - though we didn’t have the opportunity to experience that powertrain at Namyang.
Today's swift confirmation follows comments to TMR earlier this week, when Hyundai Australia's Bill Thomas said an Australian debut for the turbo model is "not officially confirmed yet, but likely".
The Sonata Turbo's 183kW and 353Nm will make it one of the most powerful midsized sedans on the Australian market.
The drive at Namyang was all too brief and told us little about the ride and handling characteristics of the car, but, besides the excellent cabin comfort, one other attribute really shone through: this car is whisper-quiet.
As long as you're not asking much of the engine, the 2015 Sonata's cabin is blissfully hushed at speed, with hardly any mechanical noise, wind noise or engine vibration making its way to the cabin.
Luxe light? Perhaps. It all depends on how Hyundai Australia chooses to fill out the local model's specifications list.
That's one of a handful of question marks hovering over the new Sonata, which will effectively take the place of the now-discontinued i45.
The biggest question is on launch timing, with crucial systems like the Sonata's satellite navigation still yet to be adapted to an Australia-friendly specification.
But, according to Hyundai Australia's Chief Operating Officer John Elsworth, the likely arrival date is sometime in the first quarter of 2015, perhaps stretching to the second quarter.
The other unknown is what it will do to the existing i40's position in Australia.
“We just have to work out where i40 and Sonata fit in the market honestly, it's still a work in progress,” Elsworth said during the preview drive of the Genesis in Korea.
However, he did say that the i40's ability to offer both a wagon bodystyle and a diesel engine (both of which are not available in the new generation Sonata) will likely see it carry on alongside the Sonata.
“The whole model mix of i40/Sonata is still a work in progress, [but] Sonata doesn't come in a wagon. There's not too many midsize wagons so it'd be silly to walk away from [i40 Tourer]," Elsworth said.
“We've just got to sit down and work out what is practical for the dealers to stock and for us to manage from a promotion point of view, trying to manage two brands in one segment.”
Australian pricing and specification details are also far from finalised, though it would not be unreasonable to expect the 2015 Sonata to replicate the i40's three-model (Active, Elite, Premium) structure.
NOTE: Event/drive photography still to come (members of the press were not permitted to take cameras into the Namyang centre.)
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