Last month we were invited by Hyundai to visit Korea and experience two very different new cars, the eighth generation Sonata – a midsized saloon, and the new Palisade, a big SUV considered by the company to be their flagship vehicle. We were also there to learn more about Hyundai and visit one of the company’s huge and impressive car factories, including a visit to their R&D center.
We drove the new Sonata and Palisade on modern roads that cut through the beautiful green and mountainous Korean countryside.
Engine options for Bahrain are a 2.5-liter inline-four providing 191 horsepower and a less powerful 2.0-liter four-cylinder 158 horsepower option, but we were not given the opportunity to drive the second option.
Thanks to advanced design, the Sonata looks far sportier than it actually is. I asked Hyundai’s senior designer, Englishman Simon Loasby, why they designed such a sporty looking car that didn’t quite deliver the performance its styling promised. He confirmed there’s a sportier turbocharged 2.5 liter version coming soon.
The Sonata’s interior looks just as good as its exterior. It’s roomy, luxurious, with plenty of legroom in the back even for tall adults. There are stylish looking air vents and classy looking seat stitching that you’ll usually only find on more expensive cars.
Everything is high quality with well laid out user-friendly instruments and touchscreen in a curved, driver-centric layout. There’s a wireless charging pad, a 12-volt 180-watt plug, and two USB ports.
Hyundai’s flagship SUV looks big, solid, and up-market. It’s also extremely comfortable. Again, everything on this vehicle is finished to a high standard. The Palisade is powered by a 3.8-liter V6 engine, with 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. This V6 is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Six different drive modes can change the drive experience and Hyundai claims it can tow around 5,000 pounds.
It comes in three trims. The standard trim includes forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and lane following assist. Higher trim levels have drive assist, adaptive cruise control, lane centering, speed limit adjusting, and upgraded blind-spot monitoring.
The interior is spacious and stylish. Instruments are attractive and practical. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, and there are seven USB Type-A ports, three 12-volt outlets and a 115- volt, 150-watt, three-prong outlet. The second-row seats slide forward with the touch of a button.
And get this – there’s a device that enables that sitting in the front to amplify their voice over those in the back. Ideal for parents to talk over naughty children.
We discovered that typically Korean cars are deliberately made with soft dampening so they can comfortably ride over the multitude of speed bumps in the country – something that could be useful for Bahrain’s sometimes bumpy roads.
Korea has made fantastic progress in a very short time when it comes to making high-quality motor cars. The biggest complaint until recently was their lack of styling, but this has been resolved with Hyundai investing in design technology and engaging top-class international design experts.
Korean cars today as not only mechanically and technologically equal to any other international brand, but look every bit as stylish as well. The latest Sonata and Palisade are a testament to this.