Tuesday, May 03, 2005

PREVIEW: 2006 Hyundai Sonata



By Michael Banovsky
The Hyundai Sonata, once a favourite among banger-car racers, gets a new skin and new heart for 2006. The competitive midsize segment, which sees virtually every carmaker competing for customers, is the most difficult place for a new car to shine. The new Sonata will have to be in-tune with customers’ needs in order to compete with the class-leading Mazda6 and the ├╝ber popular Toyota Camry.


Over Delivering

The Sonata leaps onto the scene with a base price tag of $21,900 – $495 cheaper than the current model. The base Sonata GL features a new 162 horsepower, 2.4L 4-cylinder engine mated to a five-speed manual transmission. Four-wheel disc brakes, 16-inch steel wheels, six airbags, keyless entry with security alarm, air conditioning, power windows, power locks, heated power mirrors, AM/FM/CD/MP3 player, tilt steering column, and a leather-wrapped gear shift knob. Whew…

Sixteen-inch aluminum wheels, ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), power sunroof, and a four speed automatic are options on the GL.



For $25,000, you can drive home the Sonata GL V6 with all of the above features and some upgrades, most notably in the all-new 3.3L V6 engine. The new mill pumps out a solid 235 horsepower through a Shiftronic automatic transmission. Peak power is at 5,800 rpm, and features an all-aluminum construction, Continuously Variable Valve Timing (CVVT), and a Variable Intake System (VIS). Other features on the GL V6 include standard front fog lights, steering-wheel mounted audio controls, telescoping steering wheel, solar glass, ABS with EBD, and 16-inch alloy wheels.

The top-of-the-line Sonata won’t get you any more props on the drag strip, but will look cooler on opera night. For $26,600, the GLS V6 features (like a pizza ad) everything above… plus “premium amenities” like heated leather seats, eight-way power driver’s seat, 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with 50-series Michelin tires, sliding centre armrest, power glass sunroof, and chrome-accented exterior door handles.

Just in case customers have ink left in their pens to tick off more options, they will be pleased to find boxes for Electronic Stability Control (ESC), trip computer, adjustable pedals, auto climate control, and an electrochromatic auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink on the GLS V6 options form.



Technical Improvements

Hyundai is touting the handling, interior noise levels, and safety to be at the top of the mid-sized class. They’ve started with an advanced, four-wheel independent suspension with increased stiffness and improved geometry over the old model. The front suspension features double wishbones with coil springs, gas-filled hydraulic shocks and an anti-roll bar. The upper and lower A-arms have an L-shaped lower arm design that, according to Hyundai, reduces vibration while increasing handling precision.

The rear uses a five-link suspension with a trailing, two longitudinal links, and an upper A-arm to help “distribute load impact and vibrations in order to provide enhanced riding comfort,” Hyundai says.

Hyundai paid special attention to Noise, Vibration, and Harshness (NVH) levels for the new Sonata, claiming that it “delivers class-leading cabin quietness and significantly reduced levels of wind noise.” To start, the sub-frame and body panels have been strengthened in order to isolate engine and road noise.



The Sonata also has thicker side glass, a flat underbody and improvements to the ventilation system and engine cooling fan. According to Hyundai, “when compared against key competitors [Toyota] Camry and [Honda] Accord, the 2006 Sonata boasts class-leading lows in NVH. The new Sonata is quieter at idle, quieter at 100 kilometers per hour, quieter at wide-open throttle and has significantly less wind noise than both major competitors at 120 km/h.” (Just who would drive above the national speed limit to test the NVH is beyond us…)

Just in case owners happen to overcook their favourite decreasing-radius hairpin, the Sonata features dual front airbags, front seat-mounted side airbags, and side curtain airbags for both front and rear passengers. In addition, the front seats provide active head restraints for protection against whiplash.

To ensure you don’t have to use the active safety features, the new Sonata is available with large 4-wheel disc brakes with EBD, ESC, and traction control.



Styling?

Not that anyone will notice you’re driving Hyundai’s newest tune. The exterior styling, while all-new and much better than the outgoing model, is still too bland compared to the Mazda6 or Nissan Altima. Thankfully, Hyundai have endowed the Sonata with a bit of ‘bling’ – i.e. dual chrome exhaust tips on the V6 models.

The interior is larger than before, and actually places the Sonata in the U.S. government’s “Large Car” category thanks to a generous 3,398L of space. An all-new dashboard with a black bezel and LED lighting plus larger gauges with “sharp red pointers” round out the package. Hyundai claims the use of higher-grade materials and expanded spaciousness “creates an ambience of modernity and assurance.”



Expecting Success

“The dramatically new 2006 Sonata is a milestone vehicle for Hyundai in Canada,” said Stephen F. Kelleher, President and C.E.O. of Hyundai Auto Canada. “A Hyundai like you have never seen before, the new Sonata offers contemporary style, class-above roominess, segment-leading safety features and, in the Hyundai tradition, outstanding value. It has been developed specifically with North American consumers in mind, and it is the first Hyundai built in the United States at our new plant in Montgomery, AL. The new Sonata is a refined midsize family sedan that focuses on sleek and ergonomic design, enhanced safety and advanced technologies.”

And, if you can’t wait to get your hands on the latest Korean sedan, the new Sonata will go on sale at dealerships later this spring.

We’ll reserve judgment until our test drive.

NEWS: Toyota Canada Sets Record April And Year-To-Date Sales

Special to Inside Track
TORONTO, ON – Toyota Canada Inc. (TCI) today announced record sales for the month of April. With record-setting performance from both the Toyota and Lexus brands, TCI is also running at a record year-to-date (YTD) pace.


Highlights include:
- Record TCI April sales of 18,700 units, up 12.0 per cent over last April, leading to record high YTD sales of 51,812 are up 3.9 per cent.
- Record April Toyota brand sales of 17,753 units, up 12.3 per cent.
- Best month ever for Lexus, with a total of 947 units up by 6.8 per cent.

NEWS: Nissan Canada Posts Best-Ever April Sales

Special to Inside Track
MISSISSAUGA, ON – Nissan Canada Inc. recorded its best April ever, with 7,076 vehicles sold. This marks a 17 per cent increase over the previous April when 6,044 vehicles sold.


The Nissan division records its best ever April with 6,260 vehicles sold, up 18.5 per cent from the previous April. Contributing to this success is the increase in truck and SUV sales including, Frontier, Xterra and X-Trail.

Infiniti Sales up 6.8 per cent in April with 816 units sold versus the previous April when 764 units sold.

NEWS: Toyota Canada Offers 2005 Corolla Special Edition

Special to Inside Track
TORONTO, ON – Toyota Canada Inc. announced that a new Special Edition of the best-selling Corolla compact sedan will go on sale this May.


The 2005 Corolla Special Edition brings an extra level of customer-pleasing value to the Canadian-made Corolla lineup with a model that, with a starting Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $18,755, is priced less than similarly-equipped offerings in the segment.

The Corolla Special Edition was designed and built specifically for the Canadian market at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc. (TMMC), in Cambridge, ON.

The new Special Edition is based on the Corolla CE trim level and option package. Available with manual or automatic transmission, Special Editions are equipped with:

- Power sunroof
- Unique 15-inch alloy wheels and wheel locks
- Distinctive Special Edition decals