Hyundai focuses on design with new Sonata

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Hyundai focuses on design with new Sonata

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Hyundai Motor Executive Vice President Lee Kwang-guk, left, poses with the new eighth-generation Sonata at Kintex in Goyang, Gyeonggi, Thursday. [HYUNDAI MOTOR]

Hyundai Motor’s new eighth-generation Sonata is aiming to recapture consumers with an all-new design and updated technology in a market recently dominated by sport-utility vehicles (SUV).

Hyundai Motor started to roll out its newly redesigned Sonata sedan for sale Thursday, targeting domestic sales of 70,000 units this year. The new model has already picked up more than 12,000 pre-orders since March 11.

“By selling over 70,000 units, excluding taxis, in the domestic market, the Sonata will become the bestselling mid-sized sedan,” said Lee Kwang-guk, Hyundai Motor’s executive vice president, at a launch event on Thursday at Kintex in Goyang, Gyeonggi. “In a recent market trend led by SUVs, the [Sonata] will revive the relatively slowing sedan market.

“By applying various new technologies fit for a digital mobile environment, the [Sonata] has evolved from a car into a smart-mobility device.”

Sonata sales have declined in recent years as consumer preference has turned toward larger vehicles. First introduced in 1985 and once touted as the automaker’s best seller, the Sonata sold just over 65,000 units in Korea last year, giving way to the automaker’s other offerings in the same year, such as the Santa Fe SUV and the larger-sized Grandeur sedan, which both sold over 100,000 units.

Hyundai emphasized a complete renewal throughout the presentation, featuring a sneaker-wearing design chief and a demonstration by researchers to showcase the new tech that attempts to breathe new life into the model’s tired old image.

The Sonata’s design takes after the automaker’s Le Fil Rouge concept model showcased last year at the Geneva Motor Show. The company said it created a more sporty and aesthetic look by reducing the overhang, increasing the wheelbase and introducing a cascading grille and hidden headlamps that look like chrome when turned off.

Dubbing the vehicle a “smart-mobility device,” the automaker also introduced a string of new technologies.

Sonata owners will have access to a digital key on their smartphones that they can use to open the vehicle’s door using near-field communication technology.

The vehicle will also adjust seating and mirror positions based on the profile set by the smart-key user. Car owners are able to share their smart keys with up to three other users.

Hyundai also collaborated with Kakao to equip the vehicle with a voice-recognition assistant able to change climate control and provide basic environment information to the user such as the weather.

The Sonata has a monitor dashboard that displays blind spots through a camera when switching lanes. It also features remote smart parking assist, in which drivers can remotely move the vehicle forward or backward using the vehicle key for tight parking spots.

The new generation Sonata is currently offered on the domestic market only as a 2.0-liter gasoline or 2.0-liter liquefied petroleum gas injection engine models. Hyundai is planning to release a 1.6-liter turbo gasoline and 2.0-liter hybrid engine models in the second half of this year.

The base 2.0-liter gasoline model starts at 23.46 million won ($20,800) and climbs to 32.89 million won for the highest trim.

This time, Hyundai will not offer a taxi version of the Sonata in an effort to revamp its generic image.

The automaker said it plans to sell the new model overseas sometime this year.


BY CHAE YUN-HWAN [chae.yunhwan@joongang.co.kr]

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