Thursday, March 26, 2015

2016 Hyundai Tucson Shows Two Different Hybrid Concepts In Geneva

The new 2016 Hyundai Tucson will arrive later this year, but not all of its variants will be offered in the U.S.
At the Geneva Motor Show earlier this month, Hyundai showed off two hybrid models we likely won't see: a 48-volt mild hybrid and a plug-in hybrid, both of them fitted with diesel engines.

Hyundai has an aggressive program of rolling out green powertrain technologies, with next-generation hybrid and its first plug-in hybrid models of both the latest Hyundai Sonata.

That car's sibling under the skin, the Kia Optima, will also offer the same pair of hybrids.

Thus far, Hyundai's said nothing about hybrid crossover utility vehicles or SUVs. Indeed, hybrids are far scarcer among compact SUVs.

Today, in fact, the Lexus NX 200h is the sole entry in that segment.

But the Hyundai Tucson 48V Hybrid shown in Geneva may point the way toward a lower-cost system that could be rolled out in other Hyundai and Kia products.

It's an evolution of the maker's previous starter-generator hybrid system, but adds a 48-volt lithium-ion battery, along with an inverter and a low-voltage DC-DC converter.

The generator, which replaces a conventional starter motor, charges the battery and can add supplemental torque to the engine's output as well as restarting the engine from a stop.

It is used with a 134-horsepower 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine paired to a six-speed manual gearbox.

Total output of the engine and motor together is 110 kW (roughly 150 hp).

The entire package is said to weigh just 44 pounds (20 kg) and cost just a quarter of the total of a full-hybrid system.

It's broadly similar to systems offered by General Motors, known as Belt-Alternator-Starter (BAS) in their first generation and now eAssist in their latest incarnation, though sales of eAssist-equipped vehicles have been underwhelming.

The second hybrid at Geneva was a Tucson Plug-In Hybrid, which uses an electric motor to power the rear axle and a conventional diesel engine and transmission up front.

This "through-the-road hybrid" system is very likely similar to the the one shown on the Kia Soul Trail'ster Concept at the Chicago Auto Show last month.

In its European version, the new Hyundai Tucson uses a 1.7-liter turbodiesel and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

The Plug-In Hybrid adds a 10.7-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack and an 85-kW motor on the rear axle.

Thta gives it a stated electric range of more than 30 miles (50 km) on the gentle European test cycle.

The car can operate in electric-only, diesel-only, or combined modes, with a total combined output of the engine and motor at 135 kW (180 hp) and a substantial 350 lb-ft of torque.

Hyundai notes that those figures "could be increased significantly" in future generations of the system.

While Hyundai and Kia are reportedly assessing whether to offer a diesel engine option in some of their future products, the combination of diesel and hybrid remains unlikely for North America.

Thus far no maker has plans to sell a vehicle with both those systems--each of which adds substantial cost to the vehicle--given the low penetration of each technology thus far into the passenger-car market.

It's more likely, however, that the through-the-road plug-in hybrid system will be used to add all-wheel drive to selected Hyundai and Kia models, paired with a gasoline engine.

Details on the U.S. version of the 2016 Hyundai Tucson will be released at the New York Auto Show that kicks off two weeks from now.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Review: 2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport

Before Hyundai became an established and respected automaker, the Korean company had to try various ways of attracting attention to its ever-improving products. In the case of the 2006-2010 Sonata midsize sedan, Hyundai went for a price advantage: This highly competitive family car cost thousands of dollars less than comparably equipped competitors. In some years, discounts brought it to the same price as some cars that were a size smaller.


But that Sonata was plainly styled, even by the standards of midsize sedans. And while it did most things pretty well, there wasn't much to get excited about. So in its 2011 redesign, Hyundai picked another way to get noticed: edgy styling with a creased body and a sharply sloping coupe-like roofline, along with a pair of unusually powerful and fuel-efficient four-cylinder engines. In addition to generating big sales figures for Hyundai, the new Sonata also helped usher in today's era of midsize sedans with similar shapes and that also eschew V6 engines for turbocharged four-cylinders.

The latest generation of Sonata, though, has more of the flavor of the 2006 car than the 2011. Introduced for the 2015 model year, the redesigned Sonata is more conservatively styled than before – Hyundai says the car has “matured.” And rather than once more attempting to redefine the class, it's settled back into being similar to the establishment at a lower price.

That's not necessarily a criticism. This reviewer was a fan of the 2006-2010 Sonata; a 2009 model won that year's comparison of midsize sedans on the strength of its value, comfort, refinement, and interior volume. Similarly, if you're looking for a pleasant, comfortable, affordable family sedan, you should have the new 2015 Sonata on your shopping list. The redesign improved the car's ride, interior space, visibility, safety ratings, and feature availability. But acceleration and fuel economy no longer stand out, a sometimes sporty vibe is largely eliminated, and the car blends in more easily with the crowd – overall, quite simply, it's become more dull.

In short, Hyundai no longer seems to feel it needs to break the mold to get attention. Unless you crave a more interesting automobile, you'd do yourself a disservice not to give the 2015 Sonata some of that attention if you're shopping for a midsize sedan.

To look at

As described earlier, the 2011 Sonata broke new ground stylistically for a mainstream family sedan, and many key competitors quickly followed its example. For 2015, the new Sonata has Hyundai's more upright front end, with styling cues borrowed from the premium Genesis sedan. It also adds trendy LED running lights.

But the rest of the car's shape has stayed pretty much the same – with the roofline curving its way down to meet the trunk – and no longer stands out from the pack of today's midsize sedans. Hyundai has pushed the roof back farther, resulting in a shorter trunklid. It also rounded off the sharp edges of the old model's windows, taillights and body creases.

Interior styling has also become less distinctive. “Hyundai's core interior design principles are safety, intuitiveness and simplicity,” according to the company's press release on the 2015 Sonata. This was not necessarily evident in the last model, which sacrificed functionality for unique design elements like a man-shaped climate control button. But everything is utterly conventional in the new model, which does indeed live up to Hyundai's user-friendly promise.

The tested car, a midlevel Sport with a sticker price of $25,810, has a small but simple touchscreen flanked by large, clear buttons and knobs. Below are more buttons and knobs for the tested car's automatic climate control, nicely arrayed around the display screen. Higher-end Sonatas with a larger and more complex infotainment system add features without sacrificing user-friendliness – an accomplishment that's less common than it should be. Redesigned steering wheel controls also cluster the buttons within easier reach of the driver's thumbs.

One design issue is that the instrument panel angles backward away from the seats as it goes upward, which means some drivers might have to lean forward a bit to reach some controls, which is annoying. Another ergonomic niggle in the tested Sonata is that turning off the stereo also darkens the touchscreen, leaving an unsightly dark space front and center. Other cars with similar screens have a clock or other default display while the screen is off; the Sonata has a separate digital clock lower on the dashboard.

The Sonata Sport's interior is dressed up a little with false aluminum and carbon fiber accents, but they don't add much diversity in color to the tested car's gray cabin. The Sonata Limited has copious false wood in parts, an alternative that adds visual interest but may register as cheesy for some buyers. The cabin is mostly well-assembled, but the hard rubbery armrests on the doors and center console don't scream luxury.

To be in

The 2015 Sonata looks like it has sporty aggressively bolstered front seats, but the actual feel is more ordinary – room and comfort yield no complaints, but there's nothing special up front. A newly available height adjuster for the passenger seat is a welcome feature; one passenger complained the seat was far too low during a test of the previous model.

In the back, though, the Sonata returns to a pre-2011 virtue of excellent rear seat space. There's more legroom and headroom than before, even for a center-rear passenger. The spec sheet shows only a modest improvement, but the difference is striking when you're actually in the car. Credit the revised roof and stretched dimensions; the former also improved rear visibility in the 2015 model.

The Sonata's trunk shrank slightly in the redesign, but it's still one of the roomiest in its class with 16.3 cubic feet of space. A feature that Hyundai is adding across various models is an automatic trunk release that's activated when you stand next to the trunk with the proximity key for several seconds; it's handy if your hands are full, but annoying if you just happen to stand next to your car.

As noted earlier, the Sonata is more useful than plush or fancy. The cabin is spacious but the seats themselves don't stand out for their shape and padding, and the user-friendly economics aren't part of a luxurious dashboard. The interior doesn't feel junky, but it doesn't stand out either as high-end or as particularly sturdy and well-built; the ambiance is decidedly average. Also, scratchy stitching on the leather-wrapped steering wheel was an odd choice for a high-contact surface.

To drive

Hyundai has striven for years to make the Sonata at least somewhat fun to drive. The previous model made perhaps the most progress; the steering felt unnatural at times, but it was responsive, and handling and acceleration impressed.

The 2015 model adds a new “sport” mode (joining the existing “normal” and “eco”) that keeps the engine revving in lower gears rather than upshifting as early, and increases the steering weight. But these measures feel artificial; the Sonata is at its best in more sedate driving. Push the car hard and the steering refuses to tell you what the car is up to, regardless of the steering wheight. And there's no getting around the fact that the car's 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine boasted 200 horsepower back in 2011 – a best-in-class spec – compared to 185 hp today.

Sedate driving has improved in the redesign, at least, with a smoother ride and reduced noise levels. Neither is best in the class yet, though.

Gas mileage was a class standout for the Sonata back in 2011, but the tested 2015 hasn't made further progress since then; it's staying at a competitive but no longer amazing EPA rating of 28 miles per gallon in mixed driving (24 mpg city, 35 mpg highway). This reviewer averaged 30.4 mpg during a weeklong test. The Sonata SE, which is lighter than the tested Sport or the higher-end Limited, has higher EPA ratings: 25 mpg in the city, 37 on the highway highway, and 29 mpg overall.

Unlike a growing number of competitors, the tested Sonata uses a conventional six-speed automatic transmission and a standard naturally aspirated engine. To eke out fuel savings, many others use CVT or dual-clutch automatic transmissions, or more transmission speeds; others use small turbocharged engines. Some buyers may prefer Hyundai's decision here, however, as some of these solutions have led to clunkiness or other drawbacks in everyday use.

Plus, you can also buy a Sonata Eco model, new for the 2015 model year, that uses a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder and a dual-clutch automatic. Fuel economy improves to 28 city / 38 highway / 32 overall, but you pay an extra $900 for the extra mileage, and horsepower drops to 178.

A 2.0-liter turbo with 245 horsepower and a six-speed automatic is also available, which Hyundai treats as an alternative to a V6. Based on past experience with this engine, acceleration is strong and fuel economy stays reasonable (the EPA projects 26 mpg in mixed driving) if you aren't constantly flooring it.

To buy

The Sonata starts at $21,150 for the SE model, which is already decently equipped with 16-inch alloy wheels; power windows, locks, and mirrors; Bluetooth connectivity; and a six-speaker sound system. An $1,150 Popular Equipment Package adds a 10-way power driver's seat, the 5-inch touchscreen, a rearview camera, automatic headlights, the Hyundai Blue Link telematics system, and upgraded cabin trim.

Add another $810 for the destination charge and $120 for floormats, and that's a nicely equipped car with a sticker price of $23,250. Furthermore, pricing site Truecar.com expects you to be able to haggle some $4,000 off that MSRP, getting you south of $20,000. About $900 more gets you the Eco model with the smaller, more fuel-efficient engine.

For more features, you can step up to the tested Sonata Sport, which starts at $23,175 (plus destination). It adds the features from the SE with the Popular Equipment Package, plus heated seats and appearance items that include a unique grille and 17-inch wheels. The tested car further added a $1,700 Premium Package: leather trim on the seat bolsters, steering wheel and shifter; a proximity key; blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert; and automatic climate control. $1,750 more would buy the advanced infotainment system with GPS navigation and an 8-inch screen; this nice system is unfortunately unavailable on the SE.

The Sonata Limited starts at $26,525, including the Sport's Premium Package features along with full leather seats, heated rear seats, its own grille and 17-inch alloy wheel designs, woodgrain interior trim, an upgraded audio system, a six-way power passenger seat, and windowshades in the rear windows.

The Limited is also the cheapest trim where you can get a sunroof, though it's panoramic – it's available as part of the $3,500 Tech Package that also includes the infotainment system, cooled seats, a heated steering wheel, a memory system for the driver's seat, and a further sound-system upgrade. If you like sunroofs but don't want all these features, you might not care for the Sonata.

The $1,550 Ultimate Package adds handy safety features like a lane-departure warning and forward-collision warning, along with radar-based cruise control, rear parking sensors, and an electronic parking brake.

2.0-liter turbocharged models start at $28,575, costing roughly $2,000 more than a comparably equipped 2.4-liter Sonata according to TrueDelta.com, though the features don't line up exactly.

Overall

If you're looking for excitement or a luxury feel to your midsize family sedan, the Sonata might not be the best choice. The Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, and Mazda6 are among the leaders for driving dynamics, and are also all-around competitive with the Sonata. And if you like premium-level refinement, the Accord, Chevrolet Malibu, and newly redesigned Chrysler 200 are cars to consider. Even the Kia Optima, mechanically related to the previous-generation Sonata, can look and feel a little more premium than the Sonata at times.

The Sonata, meanwhile, will duke it out with the Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima – probably its closest competitors – as unpretentious, pleasant, spacious transportation done pretty well at a decent price. With competitive pricing, a long warranty, plenty of available features, and pleasant accommodations, the redesigned 2015 Sonata stakes a clear claim for a large piece of the midsize market.

A full comparison of the aforementioned models, along with other key competitors like the redesigned Subaru Legacy and updated Volkswagen Passat, should be published later this year and shed even more light on which of these competitive models is the best fit for which buyer.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Refreshed Hyundai Elantra

HYUNDAI-Sime Darby Motors (HSDM) recently introduced the new and refreshed Hyundai Elantra C-segment sedan for the Malaysian market. The face-lifted Elantra boasts 14 improvements and upgrades over its predecessor.

Matching it sharpened exterior design, the 2015 model year Elantra now sits 20mm longer at 4,550mm in length, with its front and rear widened slightly by 5mm and 15mm respectively for a more balanced and stable look.

The highlights include a set of redesigned alloy wheels, as well as new LED Light Guide and Projection Headlamps primed on premium variants to give the Elantra an even more dynamic outlook.

On board, the cabin has also undergone a minor design revision, the most notable of which being the relocated air conditioning vents, as well as the upgraded instrument panel and premium variant's infotainment unit with smartphone mirror-link function.

Also revamped here is the gear knob and a Flex Steer System primed in the premium variants of the Elantra. Carried over from the previous version of the Elantra are the 1.6-litre Gamma and 1.8-litre Nu four-cylinder petrol engines primed with D-CVVT, as well as the matching six-speed automatic transmission units.

Six airbags comes as standard across the range, as well as ESC (Electronic Stability Control), ABS (Anti-lock Braking System), VSM (Vehicle Stability Management) and HAC (Hill-Start Assist Control).

Four variants are offered in total, with starting prices ranging from RM85,888 to RM114,984.40 inclusive of a five-year or 300,000km warranty.

Additionally, HSDM will offer a special three-year or 60,000km service package for purchases of the Elantra 1.8 Premium variant made from March 5 to April 5. More information can be obtained visiting any authorised HSDM showroom or by visiting its official website online.


Monday, March 23, 2015

Ride & Drive: 2015 Hyundai Genesis

When launched in 2009, Hyundai’s first generation Genesis luxury sedan earned numerous awards — as well as loyal owners flocking to the showroom.

I’m going to make a prediction now that the all-new, second generation Genesis has been released for the 2015 model year. I predict the new Genesis will earn even more awards, set sales records and earn a lot of conquest business from the other luxury manufacturers.

It’s that good.

With a base price starting at $38,000 — and available for the first time with all-wheel drive or standard rear-wheel drive — the five passenger sedan is designed to go head-to-head with the Lexus GS, Infiniti M, BMW 5-Series, Mercedes-Benz E Class and Cadillac CTS.

While that’s pretty stiff competition, after spending a week behind the wheel of the 2015 Genesis, I can say it is up for the task — and then some.

The new Genesis is sleek, elegant, luxurious and absolutely loaded with comfort and safety features. With the addition of the Genesis Intelligent Assistant App, it is also one of the most connected vehicles I’ve ever driven.

Just one example of what the app can do: Using your smartphone calendar, the app can estimate your appropriate departure time and send you reminders for any upcoming appointments that require a drive. You can even remote start the car using the app.

And that’s just the app — that doesn’t include all of the features on the car itself.

I could devote an entire column to the infotainment system, which includes integration with Apple’s Siri-powered “Eyes Free” mode that allows drivers to perform a number of in-car tasks without having to take their eyes off the road.

And I absolutely love the 17-speaker, ultra premium Lexicon Discrete Logic 7 Surround audio system with available navigation and the complete suite of SirusXM Satellite services.

Consumers have their choice of two trim levels — the Genesis 3.8L and the Genesis 5.0L.

Genesis 3.8L models are powered by a 3.8-liter V-6 engine delivering 311 horsepower and 293 lbs.-ft. torque. Requiring regular unleaded gasoline, it is available in rear- or all-wheel drive configurations.

Genesis 5.0L models are powered by a 5.0-liter V-8 engine delivering 420 horsepower and 383 lbs.-ft. torque. Only available in rear-wheel drive, premium unleaded fuel is recommended, but regular unleaded is acceptable.

Both engines are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic manual shift mode.

During my evaluation I found the performance superb. The ride and handling characteristics were exactly what you would expect from a premium luxury sedan — smooth, yet responsive and an extremely quiet cabin.

It is also loaded with safety features utilizing Hyundai’s Sensory Surround Safety system designed to cover the full spectrum of safety from driver alertness and focus to total occupant safety.

For those in the market for a luxury sedan, the 2015 Genesis is a must for the test drive list.

Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 20 years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association.

The Nuts and Bolts

MODEL:


5-seat luxury sedan   Rear-, or all-wheel drive

Trim packages: 3.8L, 5.0L

PRICE RANGE: $38,000-$53,000

ENGINE:3.8L V6 (311 hp/293 T) 5.0L V8 (420 hp/383 T)

TRANSMISSION: 8-speed auto w/Shiftronic

EPA: 18/15 mpg city, 29/23 mpg highway (3.8/5.0 RWD)

FUEL: Regular unleaded (Premium recommended for 5.0)

STABILITY CONTROL: Electronic stability control

BRAKES: ABS

LENGTH: 196.5 inches

WHEELBASE: 118.5 in.

WIDTH: 74.4 inches

HEIGHT: 58.3 inches

WEIGHT: 4138-4541 lbs.

TRACK: 64.1/65.3

(front/rear 18-inch tires)

FUEL TANK: 20.3 gallons

TIRES: 18-, or 19-inch

CARGO: 15.3 cubic feet.