A crash course on the LF Sonata
But crash center workers had a busy day yesterday showcasing the small overlap test of Hyundai’s new Sonata. In the test, adopted by the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in 2012, 25 percent of a vehicle’s front end on the driver’s side strikes 5-foot-tall rigid barrier at 64 kilometers (40 miles) per hour.
The test happens in seconds, with parts flying and vehicle getting wrecked. But the aftermath reveals the work of Hyundai researchers who have been developing Korea’s best-selling midsize sedan. More than 7 million Sonatas have been sold worldwide since it debuted in 1985, and Hyundai aims for the seventh-generation version to carry on that legacy.
According to Hyundai researchers, more than 100 small overlap tests were performed on the new Sonata, developed under the name “LF,” and that is enough to earn a “good” rating from IIHS. The previous YF Sonata had a “marginal” grade.
The Korean automaker is placing high hopes on the LF Sonata, which is the first full makeover of its popular midsize sedan in five years. This was the first time the company has invited members of the media to witness a crash test, which can be interpreted as a sign of the automakers confidence in the car. The LF is expected to compete with premium German vehicles like Volkswagen’s Passat.
The automaker hopes for a rebound after a year where the quality of its products has frequently been called into question.
Hyundai has had to make several recalls in major markets, including the United States and China. Last April, the automaker made its biggest recall in the United States by pulling 1.8 million vehicles off the street due to faulty brakes and air bags.
According to the company, the use of advanced high-strength steel (AHSS) with a tensile strength of more than 60 kilograms per square millimeter has increased to 51 percent of the new Sonata’s structure, enhancing frame strength by 41 percent.
The percentage of AHSS is the same as in the new Genesis which the company unveiled last year to compete with German premium sedans. The previous YF Sonata only used 21 percent of AHSS in its body.
“There was criticism that there are different features in domestic and export models,” said Hwang Chung-yul, vice president of Hyundai’s Mid-Large vehicle PM Center, yesterday. “That’s because regulations were different between Korea and the United States, but for the new Sonata, the safety standards for domestic cars are the same as for exports.”
The use of AHSS and other measures did increase the weight of the LF Sonata by 45 kilograms (99 pounds) to 1,460 kilograms, according to Hyundai. However, the company said the fuel efficiency of the 2.0-liter model increased about 6 percent to 12.6 kilometers per liter (29.6 miles per gallon).
“Fuel efficiency isn’t all about weight,” said Hwang. “We could consider using aluminum parts to reduce weight, but that’s going to increase the price of the car, and for consumers, price is an important factor.”
Hyundai attributed the better fuel efficiency to the enhanced aerodynamics of the LF under the company’s Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design philosophy that was also used for the new Genesis.
Like the Genesis, the LF Sonata has a hexagonal grille and clean driver-oriented interior design.
Although specifications for the LF Sonata were not revealed, Hyundai said the car is the biggest of the series and has the largest cabin space in its segment. Hyundai has added a 2.4-liter gasoline engine for the LF Sonata targeting consumers looking for more driving fun.
“We developed the seventh-generation Sonata with the thought of rewriting the history of the Korean midsize sedan,” said Park Jeong-gil, executive vice president of the Engineering Design Division.
BY JOO KYUNG-DON [email@example.com]