The Hyundai Sonata is a midsize or D-segment car, built as a four-door sedan made by South Korean manufacturer Hyundai. It has been on the market since 1985 and is still going strong in its eighth generation at present.
It started as a facelifted Hyundai Stellar, paired with a more powerful engine. The Hyundai Sonata's life story didn't start smoothly. Two years on the market and the first-generation Sonata had to be taken away because customers didn't like it too much. Thankfully, the car was only available widely in South Korea, with minimal exports to international markets like Canada and New Zealand.
It was only by the second generation that Hyundai began exporting it widely throughout the world.
First Generation (1985-1987)
As mentioned earlier, the first-generation Hyundai Sonata was a facelifted Hyundai Stellar with a 1.8 SOHC Mitsubishi Sirius inline-4 engine that produced an output of at least 104 kW of power and 218 Nm of torque. This generation was built at the Hyundai plant in Ulsan, South Korea. For markets outside of South Korea, the car was called the Hyundai Sonata II.
The car came equipped with features like power steering, cruise control, power breaks, and electrically adjustable side mirrors. All of these features were quite advanced at the time, adding to the car's luxurious image. At least for the domestic Korean market, it came in two trim levels: Luxury and Super. The Super had a larger 2.0-litre engine.
Transmission-wise, the car came with the option of either 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual.
Second Generation (1988-1993)
For its second generation, the Hyundai Sonata made quite a comeback. Not only was it widely available for the domestic South Korean market, but it was also released in Australia and many other countries. This time around, the vehicle was manufactured in two locations: Ulsan in South Korea just like before, and also in Quebec, Canada.
In Australia, the engines for this generation were:
- 2.4-litre 4G64 inline-4 petrol engine paired with either 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual (maximum output: 82 kW of power and 193 Nm of torque)
- 3.0-litre 6G72 V6 petrol engine paired with either 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual (maximum output: 108 kW of power and 233 Nm of torque)
In terms of transmission, the car came with the choice of either 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual.
Giorgetto Giugiaro of the Italian design company ItalDesign penned the exterior styling of this generation.
Third Generation (1993-1998)
The third-generation was aimed at the upmarket segment. It also received a facelift in the second half of this generation including aesthetic updates.
The car came as a 4-door sedan, standard with ABS, air conditioning, an alarm system, heated mirrors and much more. Some models also came with a CD changer, which as you can imagine was still considered high-tech in the '90s.
Models with the 2.0-litre 4G63 inline-4 petrol engine had outputs 102 kW and torque of 180 Nm, sending this power to the drive wheels via a 4-speed automatic transmission or 5-speed manual gearbox. This generation also retained the 3.0-litre V6 for the higher level GS and Levant trims.
Fourth Generation (1998-2004)
During the fourth generation, the Hyundai Sonata was slightly larger, though its wheelbase remained the same. This time around, the car also came with a double-wishbone front suspension and an independent multi-link rear suspension.
A 2.5-litre Delta V6 petrol engine with an output of 127 kW and 230 Nm of torque, although the 2.0-litre inline-4 engine still powered the Classique and the GLE models.
In 2001, the car was given a facelift which introduced a new bonnet, grille, and headlights among other exterior features. The interior also received an update, with a new dashboard and restyled seats.
The facelift also included an engine upgrade to a 2.7 L Delta V6, generating 132 kW and 245 Nm.
The car used to have a problem with its safety ratings, so the facelift also made the vehicle much stronger. Among other improved safety features are a hardened body shell and thicker front brake discs.
Fifth Generation (2004-2009)
The fifth-generation Hyundai Sonata was built on a brand new platform from what was called 'project NF'. Because of this, in some markets, the car was sometimes known as the Hyundai NF or NF Sonata. This time around, the car was slightly longer, taller, and broader overall.
The fifth-generation was when Hyundai first used its all-aluminium l4 petrol engine called the 'Theta'. The 2.4-litre Theta inline-4 had an output of 118 kW of power and 219 Nm of torque.
A 3.3-litre Lambda V6 petrol engine with a rated output of 173 kW and 304 Nm of torque replaced the previous V6 dynamo and available for a base and Elite models.
Transmission-wise, the car now came with more options. There was the 4/5-speed sequential automatic transmission and the 5/6-speed manual gearbox.
Some features seen in the fifth-generation Sonata were the ABS, stability control, and six airbags on the front and sides.
It was during this generation that the diesel version of the Sonata was made available in Australia. This version came with Hyundai’s 2.0-litre CRDi diesel engine producing 110 kW of power and 305 Nm of torque. It paired with either 4-speed automatic transmission or 6-speed manual.
Sixth Generation (2009-2014)
The sixth-generation of the Hyundai Sonata was sold in the Australian and other markets as the Hyundai i45. Find out more about this generation here.
Seventh Generation (2014-2020)
After taking a few risks with the design of the sixth-generation Sonata, Hyundai decided to play it safe with the seventh. This generation saw an update to Hyundai's Fluidic Sculpture design philosophy to reflect this change to more conservative design concepts.
At this point, in the Australian and New Zealand markets specifically, Hyundai stopped calling the car the i45 as it did back during the sixth generation. This time around, the car was again known as the Hyundai Sonata.
This generation offered up a more extensive range of engines, such as the 2.0-litre Theta inline-4 turbocharged petrol engine with an output of 180 kW of power and 350 Nm of torque for the Elite and premium models. The Active (base) model is powered by the 2.4-litre Theta inline-4 engine with an output of 138 kW of power and 241 Nm of torque.
Being a more recent model, the seventh generation Sonata had more up-to-date features that most buyers would expect. It includes LED lighting on the exterior, a dashboard with a display supporting Apple AirPlay and Android Auto, and more!
During this period, Hyundai also released a plug-in hybrid version of this car. This version of the vehicle can go up to 45 km in a single charge.
Eighth Generation (2020 onwards)
After being more conservative with its designs during the seventh-generation, the latest Hyundai Sonata generation is back to taking a few risks. The newest version is based on the third-generation architecture from Hyundai. It now follows a new design concept called "Sensuous Sportiness".
Some edgier design features this time around include a fastback-like shape, driving lights all the way up the car's hood, and full-width C-shaped taillights. The interior wasn't left behind in this new design either. The latest Sonata includes an optional 10.3-inch screen right at the centre.
At the higher-end, the car carries a 2.5-litre engine with an output of 143 kW of power and 245 Nm of torque.
The standard features of this newest Sonata are quite impressive. All versions of the car come equipped with plenty of high-tech features like driver-assist technologies, LED lighting on the front and rear-end, and many other great ones usually found on luxury vehicles. This time around, the Sonata features for the first time the NFC Digital Key and Remote Smart Parking Assist (RSPA).