Hyundai Australia this week confirmed that its midsize Sonata sedan is currently “on a bit of a pause” in the local market, having taken the opportunity to assess how the latest-generation car, recently launched in the United States, will fit into the Australian market.
“The old Sonata is not being made anymore – that ceased in February 2019,” said Hyundai Motor Company Australia (HMCA) general manager of product planning, Andrew Tuitahi.
“We’re looking at how to bring the new one in – how we can establish a good model lineup, good pricing, and bring something interesting to market.”
The previous-generation Sonata was sold in Australia from 2014 until this year, receiving a major facelift in 2017. It sold with a naturally-aspirated 2.4-litre petrol engine, and also with a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol which has made it a recent favourite of New South Wales and Queensland policing fleets.
Mr Tuitahi conceded that midsize passenger cars are facing significant headwinds from other parts of the automotive market, particularly SUVs. Sales of medium cars are down almost 14% in 2019. The Sonata, having shifted 667 units in 2019 thus far, has held more steadily, down just 2% over this time last year.
“It’s a touch segment, no doubt,” he said. “The pricing and competitiveness of some of the other brands’ offerings in that segment make bringing something that carries high volume very difficult, but we think we have a few options.”
The Sonata’s major rival – the new, Japanese-built Toyota Camry – accounts for almost three-fifths of this segment in Australia in a nine-strong lineup that kicks off at $27,790. By contrast, this year’s Sonata models were priced at $30,990 for the 2.4-litre atmospheric engine and $45,490 for the turbo two-litre.
Mr Tuitahi acknowledged the Sonata’s success with trade buyers, including east coast police services, and noted that renewing the badge would help to maintain those relationships.
“Having a medium sized sedan helps us in terms of some customer relationships. At the moment, Sonata is very popular with police in New South Wales and Queensland, so we’re looking now at how to satisfy their demands – but also private opportunities.”
Chasing Cars understands that HMCA have already locked in a 142kW/245Nm 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder and a 134kW/264Nm 1.6-litre turbo four to sit under the bonnet of the new Sonata.
However, the engine lineup may go further, with Mr Tuitahi letting on plans beyond the known powertrains.
“We’re looking at other types of powertrains and sports setups in future,” he said. “The turbo powertrain that is under consideration is not explicitly for the police. I think there will be other opportunities for that powertrain.
The previous-generation Sonata that has proved popular with policing fleets.
This car is likely to take the form of a Hyundai Sonata N-Line, motivated by a petrol engine with power in the vicinity of 200kW. This engine would likely be a 2.0-litre or 2.4-litre turbocharged unit.
As for whether a full-blown Sonata N was possible in the future, Mr Tuitahi and other HMCA executives would not rule it out.
“We’re having a look at all the options,” Tuitahi said.