It's different, it's good looking, it's here. Here is how the Hyundai Sonata stacks up against the Kings of the D-Segment.
There's been a lot of teasing of new cars in Malaysia recently, and the award for Best Car Tease of a new product within a new product must go to Hyundai-Sime Darby Auto - if it's intentional-lah.
If you keep up with our Facebook page, then you would know what we are talking about, but for those who don't (come out of your caves), let us get you up to speed. We recently shared a teaser picture by Hyundai-Sime Darby Auto regarding the upcoming Hyundai Kona. While to the left of the Kona stood the butt of that beastly i30N hot-hatch which was launched here last year, to the right of the picture showed the rear end of the NEW Sonata.
Is this Hyundai Malaysia's way of telling us that the new Sonata will be launched next after the Kona? Our snooping around says yes, so maybe it's high time to see how the new Hyundai Sonata would stack up against the Kings of the D-segment.
In Malaysia, the kings of the D-segment or 'tauke car' or large family car or whatever you wish to refer to them as, is the Honda Accord or the Toyota Camry. The current King is the Honda Accord as it is currently number one on the sales chart, but generally, this spot always rotates between the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.
Why are they always on top? Some would argue that they present the best value for money as well as security (reliable, good after-sales, good re-sale value, all of that malarkey), while some would say that they trump more expensive cars when it comes to packaging.
The Hyundai Sonata sales-wise will most probably not come anywhere near the Honda Accord or Toyota Camry, but once upon a time, around 2011 to 2014 (sixth generation Sonata), it did put a small dent in the takings of the ever-present Japanese. So can this new Sonata emulate that previous success? Better it even? Well, let's take a look.
Looks - Winner: Hyundai Sonata
There's no denying that all manufacturers have had to make their D-segment cars more sportier-looking to attract buyers away from purchasing an SUV. The Camry now looks like a sporty yet classy car, reminiscent of a Lexus, while Honda has surprised everyone and gone all coupe shaped with the Accord giving it a dramatic sloping rear roofline. The left-wing looking Sonata is definitely the more interesting vehicle to look at. Did you notice that its bonnet extends all the way to the front grille? It is extremely rare among this segment and usually found on more expensive cars like the Volkswagen Passat. It gives the Sonata an air of premium-ness. Its rear is all coupe/hatchback too and really does give it excellent overall shape. But still, it's a radical design and we love it!
Interior - Winner: Honda Accord
Yes, the Camry's sweeping line which cuts through the centre console feels very driver-oriented and sporty, but it's the Accords' understated and simple interior layout that feels more appropriate. We haven't had the chance to physically be in the Sonata's interior, but from the pictures, it looks more European than Asian premium. We like what we see, it's very Audi and the little details like the alcove at the door that can serve as a phone holder or door grab tells us that Hyundai is trying their best to be different. Design is one thing, but we suspect that the Accords' interior materials will still be the best. Everything in that Honda feels supple to the touch and will be hard to beat, so it really is a case of wait and see, but really, we can't imagine the Sonata beating it, because even the Camry couldn't.
Performance - Winner: Toyota Camry
When it comes to the kings, on paper, the Accord trumps the Camry here. Not only is the 1.5-litre 4 cylinder, 16 Valve, DOHC Vtec Turbo (198hp, 260Nm) more potent than the Camry's 2.5-litre 4-cylinder, In-line, 16-valve DOHC with Dual VVT-I and ACIS (181hp, 235Nm), but you will also pay less road tax thanks to Honda's smaller engine displacement. But, we're just not big fans of CVT transmissions, so the Camry does get back some brownie points for having a 6-speed automatic with Super ECT & Sequential Shifter. The drivetrain is also super smooth - no replacement for displacement we suppose. The Hyundai Sonata will probably come with a 1.6-litre 180hp/264Nm downsized turbocharged engine, and if we are correct, it should be mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. The recent KIA/Hyundai powertrains have grunt and smoothness, but will it be able to beat the Camry's sleek and smooth powertrain combo? Stranger things have happened...
Price - TBC
Here is where it might get interesting. If Hyundai Sime Darby manages to pull a rabbit out of the hat and put an attractive price on the Sonata, then it might have a chance to put a dent in the dominance of the Japanese. The Honda Accord 1.5TC-P is priced around RM187k and the Toyota Camry 2.5V sits at about RM188k so if the Sonata can be had for around the RM150k-RM170K mark, then it would definitely make people think twice. Will Hyundai Sime Darby be able to price the Sonata competitively to give it a fighting chance? Launch date will tell, but for now, the best-priced vehicle is still the Accord, how else do you explain its position at the top of the charts?