Hyundai Sonata learns that you can’t please everyone

Article by Christian Andrei, on October 6, 2011

Hyundai’s Sonata has been very successful in the US but the Korean market at the start was turned off with what some customers will probably say is the vehicle's bold design language, which Hyundai dubbed as "fluidic sculpture." Basically, the Korean market obviously favors something less revolutionary.

Evaluating Hyundai's past model range, "ultraconservative" is perhaps the more appropriate word. As Automotive News' Ryan Beene reported in its October 3 issue, much of Hyundai's latest success here has been because of the audacious exterior design of its new cars, specifically the Sonata.

Indeed, design is the second most prominent factor why U.S. customers obtained a Sonata, as per J.D. Power and Associates. The No. 1 explanation is the warranty, says Autonews. However, it's been a different scenario in Korea. Hyundai Motor's chief marketing officer Cho Won Hong said in an interview with Beene that there are some people who are "very critical" of the company's design activities.

The executive added that they believe they should continue to apply this "design identity." Hyundai's design studio has the unenviable task of working around this predicament.

The sleek design of the new Sonata as well as Hyundai’s know-how in interior packaging has allowed the vehicle to offer comfortable, functional and practical interior. While a sleek roofline means a compromised headroom and interior volume, it did not change the fact that the Sonata offers an interior space larger than those of its key rivals at 120.2 cubic feet. As a matter of fact, the spaciousness of the new Hyundai Sonata has prompted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to continue classify it as a Large car, which means it is larger than the Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion and Chevrolet Malibu – all of which are classified as Midsize cars.

In terms of trunk space, Hyundai Sonata offers 16.4 cu. ft., which is around 9.3-percent and 17.1-percent larger than the Camry and the Accord, respectively. At launch, the new Sonata is offered with the new Theta II GDI 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. This new engine from Hyundai features a Gasoline Direct-Injection (GDI) fuel delivery system that provides for shorter, more direct path of fuel delivery, thereby enabling greater control of the fuel mixture.

In fact, the new Sonata is the first midsize sedan to feature GDI technology as standard in a naturally aspirated engine. This system could help enhance the Sonata’s fuel efficiency while lowering its emission level. Fuel is injected through a camshaft-driven, high pressure pump that could operate at pressures up to 2,175 psi.

In addition, direct injection employs a higher than normal 11.3:1 compression ratio for greater power, while the pistons are "dished" for higher combustion efficiency in the cylinder. This all-aluminum, 16-valve engine is also laden with an array of technological wonders like Continuously Variable Valve Timing (CVVT) on both camshafts as well as a Variable Induction System (VIS) for better engine breathing.

Interestingly, a variant complies with Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (PZEV) standards. As a result, new Theta II GDI 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine offers best-in-class four-cylinder horsepower, torque and fuel economy. It is estimated to produce up to 198 hp in output and up to 184 lb.-ft. of torque.

The SE trim with a standard dual exhaust allows the engine to develop up to 200 hp. The resulting fuel economy rating – as estimated -- for the new Hyundai Sonata are 23 mpg city and 35 mpg highway, when equipped with the available six-speed automatic gearbox with Shiftronic. The estimated fuel economy ratings for the Sonata when equipped with the six-speed manual are 23 mpg city and 34 mpg highway.

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