Hyundai Sonata

One of my favourite TV programmes is Channel 4's Faking It. In this, an ordinary member of the public - who has no particular talent in a chosen field - is put into intense training over a couple of months to try to pass themself off in a specialised role such as chef or racing driver, bodyguard or showjumper. The object is to convince a panel of professionals that he or she is an expert - but really they are merely fakes.

  • Executive looks, leather seats, spacious interior, alloy wheels, cruise control, comfortable driving position, adjustable armrest
  • Fiddly and confusing stereo, automatic gearbox, fuel economy, large panel gaps, sluggish acceleration, indicator stalk on right side of steering wheel

One of my favourite TV programmes is Channel 4's Faking It. In this, an ordinary member of the public - who has no particular talent in a chosen field - is put into intense training over a couple of months to try to pass themself off in a specialised role such as chef or racing driver, bodyguard or showjumper. The object is to convince a panel of professionals that he or she is an expert - but really they are merely fakes.

When Auto Express's long-term Hyundai Sonata arrived, it resembled a compact executive model. However, at only £17,495, I couldn't help wondering whether the Korean motor was also trying to 'fake it'. So, can OU05 APF pull it off?

At first glance, the Sonata certainly looks the part. With its front end echoing an Audi A4's and the rear resembling the new Lexus IS, remove the badging and the Hyundai could fake it in the execs' company car park. There's also plenty of space in the cabin and superb rear legroom, while the grey leather seats give an expensive feel.

A compact executive's aim is to deliver a relaxing sense of luxury and refinement. Yet if my daily experience of the Sonata is anything to go by, a high-flier would arrive at an appointment somewhat stressed and far from ready to close the deal.

This is due to the car's woeful entertainment system, which seems to have perplexed everyone who has driven the Hyundai. The first time I tried to turn on the radio, I was surprised to find that there are no dash-mounted controls for the audio system whatsoever! I couldn't believe that the only way to operate the stereo and satellite-navigation set-up is via a small, fiddly remote control.

This is very irritating and not particularly safe, as you actually have to point the remote directly at the display screen. Admittedly, the volume can be set so that it adjusts to the car's speed, but it's frustrating that when I want to change radio stations or skip a CD track, I really should pull over. The unit is also often slow to react or doesn't respond at all, and the radio signal cuts out intermittently. There isn't even a main button to turn off the system manually. Amazingly, Hyundai has actually left space for stereo controls on the steering wheel - hope- fully plans are afoot to remedy the situation.

So our Korean long-termer may fake the look of an exec motor, but it stops there. I think the best way for me to commute in true executive style is to fake it as Auto Express's editor in chief David Johns, and drive home in his long-term Audi A6!

Second opinion

Gary is right about the audio system - and things aren't great under the bonnet, either. The 2.4-litre petrol engine is at best an adequate performer, but it's let down by a four-speed automatic gearbox that feels ancient. Most cars have five ratios now, some have six - and Mercedes has its 7G-Tronic set-up. Hyundai's unit is never sure what gear to be in, and the car simply isn't relaxing to drive. At £17,500 (including an extra £1,000 for the box), it's not good value.Richard Yarrow, associate editor

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