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Long term test: Hyundai Sonata 2.4 Automatic

Hyundai

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Review

Believe it or not, the latest Sonata is in fact the fifth generation of what Hyundai likes to call its ‘executive car’ and it’s obvious that it has been designed with the European market in mind.

Hyundai has gone for a sharp and modern feel with a hint of Audi and Volkswagen more than apparent, but the Korean manufacturer hopes that it will be Sonata’s size advantage that wins buyers.

Although competing in the D-sector, Sonata has a longer wheelbase and overall length compared to main rivals such as the Ford Mondeo.

This means more interior leg and head-room, which is particularly noticeable for passengers in the rear. There’s also a sizeable boot.

Power comes from a 2.4-litre petrol engine with a choice of either a five-speed manual or, as our test car has, a four-speed H-matic automatic gearbox.

Hyundai expects the automatic to make up 80% of total sales, which are estimated at around 800 to 1,000 a year. This will be significantly boosted by the introduction of a new 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine in 2006, which should also help fleet sales.

The equipment list is impressive with 17in alloy wheels, ESP, air conditioning, CD and MP3 player, leather seats, electric mirrors and windows, along with cruise control all as standard. In fact, there is very little that is optional on the Sonata, apart from a touch screen and remote-operated stereo.

The Sonata does appear to be a good package and Hyundai is hoping that customers will see it as the start of a new breed of cars with improved quality and design.

“We will encourage existing Hyundai and potential Sonata customers to judge the car for itself and not pre-judge it by its badge,” says marketing director Jim Campbell.

But ironically, if there is one thing that will doubtless hold the Sonata back, it is the badge. Buyers in the D-sector and particularly fleet drivers are notoriously brand conscious, and it’s still very much the case that the badge on the bonnet is as important as the car itself, reflecting status and position.

Hyundai is still seen as a budget brand by many and while some buyers may see past that, there are plenty who will play it safe and opt for something mainstream.

Price: £17,495
Engine: 2.4-litre 160bhp: 0-62mph 10.4sec; top speed 126mph.
Test period: June-September
Start mileage: 120
Mileage now: 2075
CAP RV (3yr/30k): £5775 (33%)
CAP RV (3yr/60k): £4850 (28%)
Faults: None
Likes: Sharp styling, spacious interior
Dislikes: Dated automatic ’box

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