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Hyundai Sonata SLX Diesel Car Review

Author: NRMA MotoringDate: 1 October 2008

Hyundai Australia is pushing its diesel commitment even further in Australia thanks to the impressive diesel i30 sales figures that now represent more than half of all i30s sold in Australia.

Along with the new option of a CRDi turbo-diesel power plant, the new 2009 Hyundai Sonata is also sporting a mild face lift and an impressive line up of safety equipment and standard features that are starting to turn the heads of consumers that would traditionally only look at rear wheel drive Aussie cars or front wheel drive petrol Japanese imports.

Value for money

Pricing

The new 2009 Sonata will be available in two variants, the entry level SLX followed by the premium Elite model. Both models will be available with either the 2.4 litre petrol engine or a 2.0 litre CRDi turbo-diesel engine. The SLX will also have the option of a four-speed auto or a five speed manual in the petrol version or a four-speed auto and a six-speed manual in the diesel variant. The Elite model is only available with an automatic transmission. As you would expect from Hyundai, the pricing on the base model SLX diesel Sonata is very competitive and starts at 30,490 with a six speed manual.

Sonata SLX

  • 2.4 petrol 5-speed manual $27,990
  • 2.4 petrol 5-speed automatic $29,990
  • 2.0 CRDi 6-speed manual $30,490
  • 2.0 CRDi 4-speed automatic $32,490

Sonata Elite

  • 2.4 petrol 5-speed automatic $34,490
  • 2.0 CRDi 4-speed automatic $36,990

Standard features

The 2009 SLX Sonata has an impressive list of standard features that includes:

  • 16" alloy wheels
  • MPS/WMA/CD player, AM/FM tuner with six speakers & sub woofer, auxiliary audio input jack and USB audio input with iPod® compatibility
  • Steering wheel-mounted cruise control and audio controls
  • Six function trip computer
  • Power windows
  • Driver and passenger lumber support
  • Height adjustable driver seat
  • Tilt and telescopic steering wheel
  • Leather wrapped steering wheel and gear knob
  • Air conditioning with pollen filter
  • 60:40 split rear seat

Design & function

Space & practicality

The cabin and boot space is very generous with excellent head, shoulder and leg room for the driver and front passenger. Even the rear passengers have ample leg room that is often a shortcoming in many mid- and family-sized cars. Features like the 60:40 split rear seat that reveals a large usable aperture highlight a modern and practical design. Luggage and pram access will also never be a concern in a boot of this size. The storage compartments are a stand out with an abundance of conveniently located storage pockets that include a large glove box, big rubber lined centre console pocket with latched lid, dual compartment centre console arm rest, retractable roof mounted sun glass holder and front door map storage pockets.

Comfort

Up front, the driver can achieve a comfortable position thanks to the height adjustable seat and tilt and telescopic steering wheel adjustments that make country touring a pleasurable experience. Unfortunately the seat's backside support is not as supportive as you would expect and you'll probably find yourself needing to reposition your body back to the centre of the seat when exiting fast tight corners. Rear passengers experience a comfortable ride thanks to the seating position and the excellent leg room that is maintained even with the driver's seat right back. A family of five will have no problems getting a couple of baby seats or kids secured comfortably in the rear seat.

Ergonomics

Hyundai have formulated a good balance between style and practicality, which is becoming more evident across most of their range. The Sonata has a stylish upper dash that has all the controls and switches mounted high on the dash, clearly visible to the driver. The dash cluster is easy to read, as are all warning and indicator lights behind the steering wheel. The only disappointment is the styling of the lower centre dash that looks very bland and boring; apart from this, everything else has a sharp, clean and modern feel about it.

Safety

This is one area where Hyundai is not holding back. After the i30 (with side curtain airbags) was awarded five stars by ANCAP earlier this year, Hyundai Australia is increasing the levels of safety equipment across most of their range. The 2009 Sonata has a comprehensive safety package that includes driver and front passenger front, side thorax and front and rear side curtain airbags, anti-lock braking system (ABS) with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist System (BAS), Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with Traction Control System (TCS) and front seat belts that have pretensioners and load limiters. When tested by Euro NCAP in 2006 the Sonata achieved a 4 out of 5 star rating.

Build quality and finish

Gone is the plastic tinny feel that was almost a trademark of Korean car manufacturers in the past. The build quality of many Korean automotive products has improved in the past five years to the point that many of them are now approaching Japanese quality levels. The use of high quality interior plastics and soft trim materials within the Sonata makes for a rattle and squeak free environment and a comfortable driving experience.

The Sonata displays a top quality, consistent paint finish with tight, even body opening margins and a good overall attention to detail.

Security

The security on the Sonata consists of central locking with deadlock security system, engine immobiliser, keyless entry with burglar alarm and HALO, which stands for Hyundai Active Locking Operation. This system includes speed-sensing auto door locking, auto door unlock when the ignition key is removed and inside door unlock function.

On the road

Fuel

Out test car was the 2.0 litre CRDi turbo diesel engine with the six-speed manual. It achieved an impressive 4.15 litres per 100km during our highway cycle and 6.54 litres per 100km during our city cycle. The combined figure for our testing was 5.34 litres per 100km. Hyundai's own combined figures suggest it achieves 6 litres per 100km.

Performance

Low down performance is not great but once the engine pushes past 2000rpm it's go time - you will even start questioning if you're driving a diesel.

The combination of a meaty turbo-diesel and an adequately geared six-speed manual box makes this car the perfect cruiser on the open highways - but it is just as suitable as a commuter car battling Sydney's congestion.

We had the opportunity after testing the six-speed manual to drive the SLX with the four-speed automatic transmission; this gear box was not as well matched to the diesel engine as the six-speed manual was. When cruising over 70km/h the transmission shifted into fourth gear which left the engine labouring, the gear appearing far too tall for this speed, and a slight harmonic vibration was evident in the cabin. This concern was still evident at higher speeds.

The auto diesel combination also displayed an intermittent surge low in the rev range, around 40km/h on light acceleration. This phenomenon was hard to replicate but once the right vehicle speed and engine rev combination was found it was hard to ignore.

Ride

Up front the suspension package consists of an independent double wishbone system with coil springs and anti-roll bars. In the rear the Sonata has an independent multi link type system with coil springs and anti-roll bars.

This new package soaks up the bumps and humps on most of our state's patchy country back roads, which is a significant improvement for the Sonata.

Handling & steering

Hyundai has refined the suspension package on the 2009 Sonata to better suit Australia's diverse driving conditions. Extensive testing was completed prior to production, with input from Australian engineers used to develop a more refined package that will suit Australian drivers' diverse needs and high expectations.

The refined package gives the Sonata a sure-footed feel on the road, which was evident in the mountainous country roads around the Southern highlands where the Sonata successfully displayed its touring credentials.

This is now a car that can be confidently pressed into tight, fast-flowing bends and the driver can be reassured that they'll come out the other side without their heart in their throat. The power assisted rack and pinion steering is nicely weighted without being too light and provides the driver with good feel in all conditions.

Braking

During our testing the Sonata performed well, achieving an average braking distance of 24.8 meters. This is impressive for a vehicle of this size and demonstrates that modern braking aids like ABS, EBD and BAS are critical for improving braking performance, which in turn improves vehicle safety.

Smoothness & quietness

This is another area where Hyundai have done some rethinking. The NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) has been looked at on the 09 model and improvements have been made with both the fuel delivery system and engine mounts. The 2009 Sonata delivers a quiet and roomy driving experience with little exterior noise intruding.

One thing worth remembering is that the Sonata is a diesel and there is always going to be an unmistakable diesel chatter coming from under the bonnet. This is most evident on start up and when cruising at low speeds. Surprisingly the automatic diesel Sonata seemed much noisier and commercial-like during acceleration at low speeds whereas the diesel Sonata with the six-speed manual gear box was no more intrusive than many other diesel models on the market toady.

Summary

Hyundai has made significant improvments in build quality, reliablilty and safety. This has resulted in customers in Australia being willing to wait up to six months for some variants of the i30 as dealers can't keep up with supply.

The diesel line-up throughout the Hyundai range has enabled it to capture a rapidily growing market in Australia. The diesel Sonata is not going to disappoint Autstralian buyers, with impressive fuel consumption figures, improved chassis dynamics and a standard features and safety package that will be hard to beat for the price. All this is backed by a five year unlimited kilometer warranty, making the 2009 SLX Diesel Sonata a good option to consider when shopping for your next family car.

Test vehicle supplied by Hyundai Australia.

Quick Facts

Make Hyundai
Model Sonata SLX Diesel
Category Medium
Year 2008
Body type Sedan
Price of vehicle tested $36,990
Pluses

Interior space
Ride and handling
Top end performance and fuel economy

Minuses

Bland centre console
Cost of diesel in Australia
Boring colour range

Country of manufacture South Korea
Warranty 5years/Unlimited km
Models Available

SLX 2.4 petrol (manual & auto)
SLX 2.0 CRDi (manual & auto)
Elite 2.4 petrol (auto)
Elite 2.0 CRDi (manual)

Prices

SLX 2.4 petrol 5-speed manual $27,990
SLX 2.4 petrol 5-speed auto $29,990
SLX 2.0 CRDi 6-speed manual $30,490
SLX 2.0 CRDi 4-speed auto $32,490
Elite 2.4 petrol 5-speed auto $34,490
Elite 2.0 CRDi 4-speed auto $36,990

Specifications

Engine

 
Number of cylinders 4
Engine size 1.9 L
Induction Common rail direct injection
Fuel Diesel
Claimed max power (kW) 110 kW @ 3800 rpm
Claimed max torque (Nm) 305 Nm @ 1800-2500 rpm

Transmission

 
Type Manual

Wheels

 
Wheel type Alloy
Wheel size 16 x 6.5 "

Tyres

 
Spare tyre type Full size spare

Steering

 
Type Power assisted rack and pinion
Turns to lock 3.1 m
Turning circle (measured) 11.5 m

Dimensions

 
Mass 1659 kg
Length 4800 mm
Width (including mirrors) 2050 mm
Height 1475 mm
Seating capacity 5
Fuel capacity 70 litres

Towing

 
Max towed mass (trailer plus load) 1700 (auto), 750 (manual) kg

NRMA Theft Rating

 
Points on scale 0 - 120 (high score is best) 76

Acceleration - Test results

 
50 - 80km/h 4.75 secs
60 - 100km/h 6.71 secs
0 - 80km/h 8.62 secs
0 - 100km/h 11.97 secs

Fuel Consumption

 
Best recorded during testing 4.15 L/100km
Worst recorded during testing 6.54 L/100km
Average on test 5.34 L/100km

Braking

 
Distance to stop (from 80km/h) 24.80 metres

Noise

 
Interior noise at constant 80km/h 70.2 dB(A)

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