When it comes to Hyundai, there is no escaping the critiques. It’s either “the features are not good enough”, or the inevitable “RM 200,000 for a Hyundai?” These criticisms surrounded the 2020 Hyundai Sonata since its pending arrival in Malaysia was announced. But does the car deserve the criticism? We pit the Sonata spec-sheet to spec-sheet against rivals Honda Accord and Toyota Camry to find out.
To be fair, talk about its high price is understandable. The Sonata has a full retail price of RM 206,888, which is easily RM 10,000 more than the Toyota Camry's RM 196,888 and the Honda Accord's RM 195,900 price tag. Prices stated are pre-SST discount and exemption.
This is because the Hyundai Sonata is a fully imported (CBU) unit from Hyundai's Ulsan plant in Korea. As such, it is subject to higher taxes.
While the Camry might be CBU from Thailand, UMW Toyota is able to capitalise on the free trade agreement Malaysia has with Thailand and price the car at an agreeable price.
Meanwhile, the Honda Accord is locally assembled in Honda’s Pegoh plant, hence the much more affordable price.
If you want to talk about direct rivals, allow us to throw another car into the mix. Out of the list of most popular D-segment sedans on sale in Malaysia, the closest rival to the Sonata is actually the Mazda 6 as the car is CBU from Japan. Even after SST discount, the Mazda 6’s price is hovering at RM 204,288.
As a special introductory promo, Hyundai Sime Darby Motors (HSDM) is offering the new Sonata at RM 189,888.
Which slots it nicely above the Camry'd pre-SST price of RM 188,763 and the Accord's pre-SST price of RM 187,391.
Moving on from the controversial topic of price, let’s talk about looks. There is no denying that the Sonata is the most stylish car out of the rivals.
Sure, the Accord is still a fresh face in the market having launched in February 2020, while the Camry made its comeback in 2019 with a radically different look.
But you have to admit that both cars just don’t cut through your consciousness the way the Sonata does.
The 8th generation Sonata looks nothing like its predecessors and is the most stylish version yet.
From its newly designed Digital Pulse Cascading Grille to the sleek form, the Sonata looks very much like it flows into a stylish prominent rear end that is highlighted by the tail lamps that ran the entire width of the rear.
Hyundai has also played it smart with the design, integrating its LED headlamps with a chrome stripe that cleverly directs the human eye towards the sides of the car creating the illusion of a movement. Looks like Mazda is not the only manufacturer who plays with illusions anymore.
In terms of looks, the Camry looks very aggressive compared to the Sonata’s sophisticated tuxedo looks. Both cars also make the Accord look like the strict and serious businessman rather than a sport sedan.
Technology-wise, the Sonata doesn’t lose out either. It offers an 8-inch floating type touchscreen infotainment display with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity.
It doesn’t get wireless Apple CarPlay like the Volkswagen Passat, but it is more than what the Camry has to offer. An added plus is the wireless charging pad with fans to keep your phone cool!
The Sonata also steps up the game from the Accord and Camry with a 12.3-inch LCD instrument cluster that can be customised according to the drive mode selected. Very much like the Passat as well!
Other than that, like the Camry, the Sonata also features a head-up display to make things more convenient for the driver. The Accord sadly misses out on this feature.
Moving on to safety and this is where the Sonata loses out to its rival. Unlike its smaller Hyundai Kona sibling, the Sonata doesn’t get any ADAS features.
This makes the Sonata stick out like a sore thumb against the Camry that offers the full suite of Toyota Safety Sense and the Accord that was the first D-segment sedan to come with a full suite of Honda Sensing ADAS.
Fortunately, the Sonata still boasts 6 airbags and Blind-Spot View Monitoring system to match Honda’s LaneWatch.
The new Sonata is powered by a new Smartstream G2.5 naturally aspirated engine mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission that produces 180 PS and 232 Nm.
Based on numbers alone, the Sonata dispenses the lowest output amongst its rivals, this includes the Passat and the Mazda 6.
Honda’s 1.5-litre turbocharged engine in the Accord produces 201 PS and 260 Nm, while the Camry’s 2.5-litre naturally aspirated engine does 184 PS and 235 Nm.
Deep diving into the Sonata’s spec-sheet doesn’t make the car stand out against his rivals.
But usually with Hyundais, it isn’t the spec-sheet that makes us love the car but the overall interior experience that makes it more special than the Camry and Accord.
This is evident with the interior features such as the dual-tone interior finish, the use of more expensive materials and the unique shift-by-wire gear shift. Stay tuned for our review of the Sonata!