2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line review – Australian launch (video)

If there is one car that can save the extinction of the humble family sedan in Australia, it would be this. Hyundai Australia have been oh-so-kind to release the 2021 Sonata to Australian shores for one last chance, despite the relentless consumer demand for SUVs. You should assess whether you really need one of those towering, bulky SUVs and look at, what we are confident to call, this flagship sedan.

The Hyundai Sonata has taken a two-year break in Aus – hopefully to make you forget everything you know about the once boring nameplate. Because now it has been completely reinvented into a sophisticated, sexy, and unsuspectingly fast and sporty sedan.

We are set to receive only the best variant, the N Line. It comes with Hyundai’s brand new Smartstream 2.5-litre, turbo four-cylinder petrol engine that dominates with 213kW and 422Nm, sent to the front wheels. It is paired with the same eight-speed dual-clutch push button auto seen in the incoming i30 N hot hatch.

Prices begin at $50,900 (plus on-road costs). Although the official media launch program was held in Bathurst in March this year, sales are only just officially commencing now due to some production delays. Hyundai loaned us another example in the past few weeks, hence why there are two different coloured vehicles featured here. This also allowed us to do the full 0-100km/h and engine sound video for you.

Brett Davis contributed to this review

Dynamic Display Ad(Long Version)

2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line – THE SPECS

Engine: 2.5-litre turbo four-cylinder
Output: 213kW@5800rpm / 422Nm@1650-4000rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
Drive type: Front-wheel drive
Wheels: F & R: 19×8.0, 245/40
ANCAP: Not tested
Tare weight: 1623kg
Power-to-weight: 7.61:1 (kg:kW)
Official fuel economy: 8.1L/100km
Economy during test: 8.3L/100km
Fuel capacity/Type: 60L/91 RON

Power efficiency: 26.29kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 3.23 seconds*
0-100km/h: 5.93 seconds*
60-110km/h: 3.58 seconds*
1/4 mile: 14.12 seconds at 169.1km/h*
Max acceleration: 0.903g
100-0km/h braking: 2.90 seconds at 36.57 metres*
Max deceleration: -1.218g
Decibel at idle: 45*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 84*
Priced from: $50,900

* Figures as tested by PerformanceDrive on the day. Factory claims may be different

2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line – THE PACKAGE

Wowser! That is the best way to describe our reaction to the design of the new Sonata. It grabs your attention with so many new design elements from Hyundai that you could easily mistake for a luxury European sedan, costing double the price. There are striking ribboned LED daytime running lights that integrate into the ribs of the bonnet. They look sensational at nighttime. Glossy black apron areas and the centre grille contrast brilliantly against the body paint. Likewise, the all-round glossy black skirting and side mirrors.

The side aspect is nothing short of elegance, thanks to a perfectly proportioned front, centre and rear that dynamically swoop into each other. No three-box sedan shapes here. At the rear, it struts the shape of a sporty coupe with its gradual slope from the roofline to the boot end. And you can’t miss the prominent LED taillights that trace along the full width of the car and accentuate the sharp boot angles. Hyundai, give the designers a raise.

Getting inside continues the wow-factor. The cabin poses the freshest design in this market segment today. It is clean yet stylish, and super-easy to navigate. Buttons and materials certainly feel premium to touch. Especially the N Line embossed seats. They are covered in a mix of leather and plush microsuede, and the fronts are cooled and heated. Dash materials are a matt grey that contrast brilliantly with glossy black areas. Though, that gloss black tends to show fingerprints and dust very easily. There are also graphite metal-look door handles and trimmings that look first class. We love how the air vents have been made flush with the dash with no surrounds.

Comfort levels are up there with the luxury brands when driving. It’s easy to find a perfect position in the driver’s seat, with 12-way power adjustment. The side bolstering width can even be adjusted. And it displays which adjustment you are changing in the centre screen as you press each button. What also helps with comfort levels is the amount of room all passengers have in all dimensions. There is ample legroom in the back when an adult is in the front, and it doesn’t feel claustrophobic like some luxury brands with their high-rising centre consoles. Generous amounts of storage holes have been made available in the centre area, but the doors do not fit bottles in the designated holders.

The boot itself is huge in the Sonata. Measuring in at 510 litres, it has lots of depth. But just short of the Toyota Camry’s 524-litre capacity. The drawback is in its restricted opening area. Because of the sporty swooping boot design, the boot lid is not very long. This limits its ability to fit in bulky cargo. If the rear window lifted with the boot, as like a coupe, it would alleviate this issue.

Being a premium-spec N Line means that nothing has been omitted from the feature list. You get autonomous emergency braking with forward collision and junction turning warning, rear cross-traffic alert, active lane departure warning, blind-spot sensors, follow on assist, adaptive cruise control, a superb 12-speaker Bose sound system, a high resolution 10.25-inch touch-screen with sat-nav, split screen, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and 360-degree cameras.

A crisp 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster with automatic side camera views on both sides when indicating, head-up display, electric rear sun blind, wireless phone charger, 19-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, selectable driving modes, tyre pressure monitoring and a dual pane panoramic sunroof also come standard. It’s excellent value for money.

Hyundai started the trend to offer generous warranties; and it continues. The Sonata comes with a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.

2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line – THE DRIVE

The Sonata is not just all about looks and features. Getting behind the wheel is an absolute treat, too. What makes it more appealing is that it’s unsuspectingly thrilling to drive. The new 2.5-litre turbo-petrol engine is a ripper. You can cruise around the city peacefully like a chauffeur and experience a relaxing and effortless drive. It keeps ahead of the flow of traffic without needing to rev up. Then, when you command power, it launches without hesitation, enthusiastically.

From a standstill, the traction control lets the front wheels spin a little, or there is a “Sport+” driving mode that turns the traction control off altogether. You can have lots of fun with this willing engine. Sometimes, there is too much power for the front wheels to handle and some hectic torque steer occurs. Having 213kW at hand translates to a claimed 0-100km/h time of 6.2 seconds. Using the launch control feature, our test recorded a best of 5.93 seconds with a Racelogic Vbox Sport.

The eight-speed wet-type dual-clutch auto immensely contributes to the overall driving experience. Having so many ratios means that the engine has one foot forward when you demand power. It also transitions between the gears ultra-quickly, yet smoothly. The infamous jerkiness you get from dual-clutch autos is not noticeable here. You don’t feel any gear shifting at all, and clutch take-up is very quick. It’s one of the most organised dual-clutch autos we have experienced. And you don’t have to deal with a perky start/stop feature either. The eight gear ratios also allow the engine to rev low at higher speeds – only 1600rpm at 110km/h – making it a perfect cruiser.

There is a higher-than-expected amount of road noise in the cabin; and it seems to leak in mostly from the sunroof. But we don’t mind the subtle hum from the exhaust. It’s still a very comfortable and fun place to be. There is an ‘Active Sound Design’ feature which is basically fake sounds in the cabin. But, fortunately, you can turn it off. We did.

In the way of driving dynamics, the N Line comes standard with Aussie-tuned sports suspension made up of fast response monotube dampers. The result? On corners, body roll is almost non-existent. You can zoom through roundabouts with ease. Quickly switching directions is not a problem. It can transfer its own weight from side-to-side effectively. All this does not come at a cost of a smooth ride either.

The Sonata has a robust ability to absorb holes and bumps with minimal disturbance, for a sports variant. And there’s no crashing or clunking to be heard; just an absorbed thud. Overall, there is a nice balance between an active and dynamic feel and a comfortable, refined ride.

Adding to that splendid driving experience is the steering. It has a solid weightiness to it which makes it feel secure and stable on the road. Passengers won’t feel like they are in a washing machine, though. The initial movement in the steering is not too sensitive, but a little more steering does progressively more to move the car in the nimble way you desire. Along the way, a decent amount of feedback is returned to the driver.

One pitfall with the Sonata is its high fuel consumption. Yes, you do get lots of zing for your tankful, but it’s still a little too high in such a fuel-conscious market. During our harsher testing we saw a fuel consumption average of 8.3L/100km. Its official rating is 8.1L/100km, but we doubt you’ll ever get there with such an exhilarating engine at your toes. Surprisingly though, it can run on the lowest quality 91RON petrol.

2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line – THE VIDEO

2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line – THE VERDICT

If somehow you have not picked up on our overall positive opinion yet, we think the new Hyundai Sonata N Line is one of the best mid-sized sedans you can buy right now. We have hardly any gripes to mention. All that us at PerformanceDrive can hope for is that its stunning styling, its high-performance and smooth engine and ride, and its suave interior reinvigorates the fizzing-out sedan market. It would make an excellent businessperson’s car. There is no sloppiness or excessiveness that comes with an SUV – everything feels right, and fun, and a bit cheeky.

PROS:
– Striking sedan design that shouts elegance and sophistication
– Effortless performance from engine and gearbox
– Good balance between agility and comfort
– Lots of standard features, good value

CONS:
– Boot opening area is small
– Bottle holders in the doors are not big enough
– Excessive torque steer under high acceleration

As always, if you’re thinking about buying a new car don’t forget to click here to speak with our car buying specialists.

Mark is a contributing road tester at PerformanceDrive. With the soul and background of an IT nerd, Mark especially appreciates technology advances, safety, and attention to detail. His first car was a rusty powder blue 1972 Volvo 144 sedan. When he's not road testing vehicles, his daily drive is still a Volvo only now it's able to steer and brake all by itself.