- Punchy 2.5T engine makes Sonata quick
- Roomy and practical like a family car should be
- Great to drive, unlike most SUVs
- Not cheap to buy
- Engine sound needs beefing up
- Interior quality not amazing
These days, selling sedans is tough business. Thanks to the continual rise of SUVs and utes, the term ‘family car’ has transferred from traditional sedans to a whole variety of products. Yet despite this, some car makers still sell sedans in Australia and to reasonable success – the Toyota Camry sold 1,369 units in May 2021 alone. So, sedans are still around and ready for business, so should they earn yours? Enter the 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line.
Unlike previous generation Sonatas, Hyundai is offering the new car in just one spec: the $50,990 N Line, which is priced a full $20,000 more than the previous model’s entry point. This time around, the Sonata is a lot more slinky-styled and aggressive – it certainly offers some fresh air in the mid-size segment. Of course, the Sonata N Line is fully equipped for the money – but is it worth over $55,000 drive away? Let’s find out.
Price & Equipment: 7/10
Standard kit for the 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line includes 19-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, Nappa leather/suede sports seats with 12-way driver and 4-way passenger electric adjustment, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, a 10.25-inch touchscreen with inbuilt nav with live traffic, wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, digital radio, wireless phone charging, a heads-up display, as 12-speaker Bose sound system, LED lighting, auto lights and wipers and even a power rear sunshade and manual rear window shades. Hyundai Australia have clearly thrown all they could at their sedan offering.
Active safety equipment is strong with auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian, cyclist and intersection assist, lane keep assist with lane follow assist, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert (both with active braking), a blind spot camera, driver attention monitoring, auto high beam, a 360-degree parking camera and safe exist assist, which prevents the doors from being opened when a moving object is detected. The Sonata has a total of nine airbags which should allow the car to perform well come crash testing. ANCAP is yet to test the 2021 Sonata, but be sure to expect a 5-star rating.
Just four colours are available for the 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line: ‘White Cream’ is the only no cost option while ‘Midnight Black’, ‘Flame Red’ and the ‘Hampton Grey’ of our test car are $595 extra.
Just one competitor to the Sonata N Line exists: the Skoda Octavia RS, which is priced from $51,490 drive away. In its standard form, the Octavia RS mostly matches the Sonata’s equipment – the Sonata features heated and electrically adjustable front seats, a premium sound system, a heads-up display, a panoramic roof (which is only available on the Octavia wagon) and heated rear seats, while the Octavia RS features wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Matrix headlights and 10 airbags, including a front centre unit between the driver and passenger.
Performance & Economy: 9/10
Under the bonnet of the 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line is a new 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that’s also used in the Genesis G80 and GV80 in Australia. It produces a strong 213kW (@ 5,800rpm) of power and 422Nm (@1,650-4,000rpm) of torque through an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. All Sonatas are front-wheel drive.
The engine itself is great – it’s punchy, got great mid-range punch and even at the top of the rev range, it’s still quite strong. Hyundai claims a 0-100km/h sprint time of well under 6.0-seconds, which is remarkably quick for a big, front-drive sedan that doesn’t feature a limited-slip differential. Like the Octavia RS, the Sonata features launch control and something called ‘N Power Shift’ which keeps the throttle pinned even when upshifting. There are also four different driving modes that alter the car’s character depending on where you’re driving.
The only available transmission on the Sonata N Line is an eight-speed dual-clutch auto, which features push buttons that take a while to get used to – we think a more traditional gear lever would better suit a performance car such as the Sonata. The transmission itself is due in the i30 N within months, and it’s a mostly good unit with crisp shifting and only slight hesitation at low speeds. It’s more predictable than the dual-clutch auto in the Octavia RS, though both cars are better if they’re manually shifted through the paddle shifters. To the untrained eye, most punters will perceive this gearbox as a well behaved and perfectly liveable around town. Don’t get us started on how wonderful a manual would be though…
Really, our only complaint with the Sonata N Line’s drivetrain is the (lack of) noise – it’s disappointingly soft for a performance car, and the engine noise pumped in through the speakers is unnaturally annoying as well. Thankfully, it can be turned off. We’d love the exhaust system from the i30 N, which would add a healthy dose of character thanks to a fruitier noise and some crackles and pops. As it stands now though, the 2.5-litre engine’s transfer from quiet and luxurious Genesis to sporty Sonata N Line needs more work.
In terms of fuel economy, Hyundai rates the Sonata N Line at 8.1L/100km combined and in mixed driving, we achieved 9.5L/100km. Emissions are rated at 188g/km and it will run happily on 91RON fuel.
Ride & Handling: 8/10
Getting behind the wheel of the 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line is a mostly positive experience – and indeed, far superior to any SUV we know of. The Sonata’s chassis is excellent. It’s grippy, it’s reasonably communicative and unlike many other family cars, it’s fun.
The steering is more natural than Hyundai’s other efforts – such as the too-heavy i30 N Line hatchback – and the Sonata shows great body control, even on the worst Aussie roads. Expect some torque steer whenever you pin the throttle. Such is the price you pay for such a high-powered FWD car. Its agility and quickness in changing direction is impressive for a car that measures almost 5.0 metres long and weighs 1,636kg, which is 161kg more than the Octavia RS. Ultimately, it might not be the most engaging driver’s car in the way a hot-hatch might be, but for a large sedan, it drives remarkably well.
In regular driving, the Sonata N Line is more than comfortable for most people thanks to a suspension tune that had input from Hyundai’s Australian engineers. It soaks up bumps quite well, even despite the large 19-inch alloy wheels and lack of adaptive dampers. Road noise levels aren’t quite as positive, with a lot of drone at highway speeds, especially on Australia’s course chip bitumen surfaces. Visibility on the other hand is good and as a highway cruiser, the Sonata N Line will eat up the miles easily. Just make sure to crank the excellent sound system a bit higher.
As a grand tourer with the ability to offer a good time on a back road, the Sonata N Line impresses.
Interior & Practicality: 7/10
The interior of the 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line further proves how much better suited a sedan is to an SUV when it comes to family life, thanks to its immense practicality and huge 510-litre boot. Although it’s taken a few years to reach Australian shores – and had a sporty N Line makeover – the Sonata’s cabin is quite modern with large screens and a massive amount of standard equipment.
No longer sold in Europe, the Sonata is clearly aimed at North America where sedans still sell well. This is noticeable in how much space there is – even six-footers will be comfortable behind each other – but also in somewhat lacklustre material quality, as the hard dashboard top shows. Not a good look in a mid 50 thousand odd dollar sedan. The Nappa leather and suede upholstery is excellent though, and the leather door trim inserts are nice and soft to touch as well. The DiscoverAuto team was divided on the steering wheel – this writer quite likes it, though others in the team weren’t as positive.
Centre of the Sonata’s cabin is a large 10.25-inch touchscreen that’s also used in a variety of other Hyundai-Kia products. It’s easy to use, quick to respond and the screen quality is great as well – we particularly like the clear 360-degree parking camera. It features wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as navigation, digital radio and wireless phone charging – but not wireless smartphone mirroring, which is odd considering that the smaller 8.0-inch screen in products such as the i30 does feature it.
Storage space in the Sonata N Line is pretty good, with a large centre box and glovebox, a big centre storage tray ahead of the gearbox – only the small door bins let it down. The rear seat features a centre armrest, the same small door bins, vents, a USB port and even blinds for both the side and rear windows. Even taller adults will be able to get comfortable easily on longer journeys in the Sonata’s back seat.
The boot of the Sonata is spacious at 510-litres – it’s also got a flat floor and 60:40-split rear seats that can fold for more practicality. It would be nice if the boot had more clever storage solutions like the Octavia’s 600L boot and its various hooks, nets and even a double-sided floor.
Service & Warranty: 8/10
Like other Hyundai products in Australia, the Sonata N Line features a five-year/unlimited km warranty with a single year of roadside assistance. Five years/50,000km of servicing costs $1,750 (or $350 per service) – the short 10k service intervals are the only negative and will add up if you travel more than 10,000km per year. A pre-paid service plan is available, though Hyundai is yet to announce pricing. Servicing at a dealership extends the roadside plan by a year.
Over in Skoda land, things are more complicated. The warranty of five years/unlimited km with a year of roadside assistance is identical to Hyundai. But five years of servicing as you go costs a high $2,392 ($478 per service), though the Octavia RS features longer 15,000km intervals. Skoda offers a five-year service pack at the time of purchase too, and it’s $1,400 ($280 per service) – to us, it’s a no brainer.
The 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line DiscoverAuto Rating: 7.8/10
The 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line is an impressive mid-sizer that has breathed new life into the mid-size segment. Although it’s not cheap and there could be more engine note, it’s fun to drive, it’s very well equipped, it looks great and because it’s a Hyundai, it offers a strong aftersales program.
Although it’s not perfect, it’s important in offering another option for those wanting more spunk from their family chariot. In recent times, mid-size offerings were dwindling in our market, but with the Sonata, there is now another high-quality, fun, well equipped and practical offering. And really, how could that be bad for anyone? Sedans should still be very much on the menu for many family car buyers.