BIG BARGAIN: Sonata Active can be had for under $30,000 drive away at present, representing excellent value family motoring
BIG BARGAIN: Sonata Active can be had for under $30,000 drive away at present, representing excellent value family motoring Mark Bramley

Hyundai Sonata Active and Premium road test

BORROWING the tagline from sister company Kia, it was the Hyundai which displayed the power to surprise.

The Holden Commodore driver glanced across at the lights briefly to assess see her opponent.

But she underestimated the "Flying H" on the bonnet.

At the green light we opened up the Sonata with its new turbo powerplant to full voice.

The old bent six was in the rear view mirror in rapid time.

Hyundai has been busily building its reputation in Australia, rising to become the nation's fourth most popular marque at last count.

And this new Sonata can only serve to bolster outdated perspectives.

With the Sonata we tested the best of both worlds, the entry level bargain Active and the top-shelf Premium. 

2015 Hyundai Sonata Active. Photo: Contributed.
ENTRY LEVEL: Active model features 2.4-litre four-cylinder with 138kW, but Premium's 2.0-litre turbo is the funster with 180kW. It can be thirsty though. Mark Bramley


The cabin is wonderfully functional, but it just doesn't set your heart aflutter.

Apart from the leather trim and larger touchscreen, there isn't much to differentiate the Elite and Premium variants.

During our experience we still managed to love the internal set-up and cabin expanse despite putting function ahead of form. And to be fair, that's probably a fair call from Hyundai.

Buyers of sedans are typically conservative and the varied shades of cabin grey and plastics won't faze phase them.

There were no complaints about the seats. On extended travels they provided ample cushioning in the right spots and proved easy to adjust. 

On the road

Two petrol powerplants are on offer, and it's the new 2.0-litre turbo which is in the spotlight.

Only available in the up-spec Elite and Premium models, the turbocharged variants generate a reasonable 180 kilowatts of power.

That certainly provides some surprising kick to this mid-size offering.

With a 0-100kmh sprint time of just over seven seconds it's not in the sports car realm but it certainly has some ability to haul when the lights turn green.

That turn of speed combined with light steering can make the Sonata a lively drive.

The turbo models have a stiffer rear sway bar and front springs, along with different dampers which encourages your inner driver.

It made us hanker for some paddle shifters on the steering wheel, especially with Sport mode selected to hold which holds the gears longer, although in the real world we suspect they would be a function rarely used.

The base model non-turbo 2.4-litre four-cylinder is more linear in its power delivery and feels slightly more lazy underfoot.

Nonetheless it's a quiet and useful transporter. 

2015 Hyundai Sonata Active. Photo: Contributed.
SURPRISE PACKAGE: Sonata's suspension has received a local tune that makes it impressive on Australian roads, and a fun steer. Mark Bramley

What do you get?

Sampling the bookends of the Sonata spectrum, We weren't disappointed with the Active's basic equipment which includes a rear view camera and rear park assist, keyless entry, steering wheel controls, cruise control, small touch-screen and 17-inch alloys.

All the fruit is found atop the Premium tree, and includes leather trim, 8-inch touchscreen with sat nav, hands-free boot opening, leather appointed seats, dual zone climate control, 18-inch wheels, front park assist, electronic park brake rather than the gammy foot-operated one, heated and ventilated seats, rain sensing wipers and a panoramic glass sunroof.

Other options

Hyundai's own i40 (from $31,990), Mazda6 (from $33,460), Subaru Liberty (from $29,990), Skoda Octavia (from $21,690) and the best-selling king of the segment, Toyota Camry (from $30,490), are all fighting for sales in this shrinking segment.

Running costs The turbo was close to its quoted figure of just above nine litres for every 100km, while we actually achieved 7.2L/100km in the base model which is less than the official average courtesy of a few highway journeys.

Hyundai has capped price servicing, where the 2.4-litre donk is cheaper for maintenance. 


Families will appreciate the sizeable boot, which is deep and wide, while on the parcel shelf are three top tether points for kids' seats. The back seats also fold 60-40, although the load-through space is impeded marginally.

Across the back pew is enough accommodation for three. Being front-wheel drive you get excellent footwell space in the rear with no transmission tunnel, along with excellent knee room - it's actually close to large car territory.

Up front you get some thoughtful storage options. There are dual cup holders (along with bottle housings in each door), a cradle for a smartphone, key slot for the push-button start and a nook in front of the shifter which houses a USB/auxiliary point and 12-volt plug.

2015 Hyundai Sonata Active. Photo: Contributed.
VAST SPACE: Sonata impresses with its rear room, making it feel more like a large rather than mid-size car

Funky factor

Pigeonholing the Sonata's role amongst the Hyundai line-up is difficult. It sits alongside the not drastically different i40, which is about to be refreshed with different engine choices - including a 1.5-litre diesel.The Sonata seems to have a bet each-way.

Conservative lines yet a turbo powerplant option packing some power. You can easily live with the base model Active - and the fiscally responsible among us will find it does the daily transporter job with aplomb.

But for those who like some extra right-foot punch with an excellent features list then it's the Premium which will win hearts of those happy to part with just over $40k. 


What matters most

What we liked: Thoughtful cabin layout, ability of the turbo to surprise and overtaking prowess.  

What we'd like to see: Some extra cabin bling for Premium model.

Servicing and warranty: Five-year unlimited kilometre warranty and lifetime capped price servicing. Servicing intervals for the turbo are six months or 10,000km, with prices alternating between $159 and $259. The 2.4-litre intervals are annual or 15,000km, priced at $259.

2015 Hyundai Sonata Active. Photo: Contributed.
SIMPLE THINGS: Active's cabin is basic, but very well laid out and with enough quality to make it look very good value. Mark Bramley

Vital statistics

Model: 2015 Hyundai Sonata Active and Premium

Details: Four-door front-wheel drive mid-size sedan.

Engines: 2.4-litre four-cylinder (Active model) generating maximum power of 138kW @ 6000rpm and peak torque of 241Nm @ 4000rpm; 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder (Premium models) 180kW @ 6000rpm and 350Nm @ 1400-4000rpm.

Transmission: Six-speed automatic.

Performance: 0-100kmh in 8.3 seconds (Active) and 7.2 (Premium).

Consumption: Active 8.3 litres/100km (combined average), Premium 9.2 litres/100km.

CO2: 194g/km (Active), 213g/km (Premium).

Bottom line plus on-roads: Active $29,990, Premium $41,990.