I’ve done quite a few test drives this year, but none has had a lasting impression on me like the recent Hyundai drive event I was invited to by Car & Driver magazine. I have never driven any of the recent Hyundai models since the company revamped its image from base economy cars to “luxury” & dare I say “performance” cars. I figured the Genesis & Genesis Coupe along with the Equus would be the only notable cars from the company since they fall under the “Premium” section. I definitely made the 35 minute drive to the location thinking “Ehhh, it’s something to keep me from sitting in the house all day”. Upon arrival, the set up was something out of … a commercial. And sure enough there was the camera crew off to the side, interviewing the drivers after they’ve taken the cars out for a spin. For the sake of not wanting to be the douchebag, I mentally started to prepare my statement of the experience … you know the whole generic “Wow!! I am shocked the car drove soooooo well!!” speech.
“…I actually uttered the words “This is on par with the 2012 BMW 528i I’ve been driving around in…”
After signing in, I headed back outside where I waited for either of my cars to pull up. I found myself staring at the Sonata Turbo and started to take notice to the signature “fluidic” design of the cars body language and nodded in acceptance. My Sonata eventually rolls up and I walk towards it with judgement day demeanor, because if I got out the car with the slightest lack of interest, Hyundai would be dead in my eyes. After the whole introduction part, I climbed into car and was quite amazed as to how well dressed Hyundai has made the Sonata. Comparing it to the 2013 Altima I test drove, the Hyundai had interior styling in the bag. Ok, well how did it drive? Let’s just say I found myself grinning like a kid who just got the “go ahead” at Toys R Us. The Sonata, with an enjoyable high quality interior, had a pretty confidence inspiring drive for the market it plays in. The turbo gives the engine a nice revving note that turns the driver from a Lackey to a Gladiator.
Handling & braking were also impressive especially with a few blind turns along the course, the Sonata never made you feel like things would get out of hand. I actually uttered the words “This is on par with the 2012 BMW 528i I’ve been driving around in”, which of course put an ear to ear smile on the face of the brand ambassador who was riding with me. Before you unsubscribe from my blog, lets do a quick break down on that statement. The Hyundai is lighter, much lighter than the heavyfooted new 5-Series, so when the turbo’s kick in on both cars, which car do you think you’ll feel it in? Had the Sonata been rear wheel drive or all wheel drive, it could be a serious contender in this argument. Ok…when we eventually got back to our point of origin, I took a few minutes to marinate in what I just experienced. A Hyundai that literally was now sitting on the top of my list of favorite cars driven this year.
Ok, so now it was time to test the Veloster, the 3-door car that I had no clue as to what purposed it served until I was told it played the “compact sportscar” role. I was just ready to get back out and floor it so I can experience that turbo again. Due to the excitement built up by the Sonata, I figured the Veloster would be more thriller since it was smaller and more nimble. But to be honest, the Veloster wasn’t as engaging as the Sonata. Let’s face it, it’s the little brother, it’s packing a smaller engine, less horsepower, and isn’t the flagship car of the brand. However, it definitely was still a solid ride with amazing handling, in fact, I found myself doing the Kobe Bryant under-bite grin when I mashed the accelerator after coming out from those blind turns, very appreciative of the 1.6 liter 201 horsepower turbo.
Now I don’t know if it’s because I wasn’t expecting much from the cars I was going in to test drive, which eventually led to the mind-blowing excitement I carried with me back to the Altima I came in. But with the thrill gone, I truly find myself looking at Hyundai in a new light. I haven’t driven many compact sportscar to compare the Veloster Turbo to, but it set the bar quite high. As far as the Sonata Turbo, I understand why it is without a doubt a key player in the midsize segment, with the potential to walk the lines of a premium luxury car. But we won’t get carried away, Hyundai still has the Genesis I’m now itching to get behind the wheels of. After the driving, I went over for my interview, and luckily I didn’t have to use the generic speech I had planned, all my responses were genuine. I think my voice cracked a little as I was getting into my description of how well the cars handled.
Kudos to you Hyundai!!