Re-1998 Part 6 : 현대 쏘나타 V6

Ever the fan of underdogs, DTW reminds readers that in 1998 Hyundai was not the Hyundai we know today. It made cars like the Sonata. And you know what? This article does not end the way you’d expect.

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The Sonata wasn’t that bad at all though. Autocar liked it and I do too, in a way. How can you possibly justify that, I hear you ask? In the end I don’t but read on.

1998 Hyundai Sonata: source

Autocropley wrote in July 1998 that the Hyundai Sonata was “a big improvement in its predecessor, the Stellar, but faces stiff competition in the budget executive sector from Skoda and Daewoo. Smoother V6 and better steering would help.”

More than anything this car reminds me of a time when I had really fixed ideas about what a proper car looked like and should be like. In 1998 that was probably a BMW 5-series or maybe a Volvo. The unusual style of the front bumper-stroke grille unsettled me. Today I like its eccentric shape. I won’t call it a master class or monument to good taste. It’s only that like David Bowie, “my little soul has grown” and I have space for a car like this now.

What did the Sonata offer? For £19,000 the Hyundai customer got an all-new V6 with a displacement of 2.5 litres. That is the legendary 160 bhp, Delta 24V aluminium motor.

For comparison I went to a 1998 price list and found a 2.3 litre Volvo 940 cost £16,580. I was going to say what fabulous value the Hyundai is but I can’t see any reason why a person not interested in style or driving would pay more for the Hyundai. Did you know that a Volvo 940 cost only £16,580 in 1998?  That simple fact blows my whole article off-course.

Cheaper than a 1998 Hyundai Sonata: source

Other cars costing that much money were: 2.0 litre 16v Opel Vectra estate, a 1.8 litre 16v Opel Astra CDX, a 1.8 Toyota Avensis GLS, a 2.2 Toyota Picnic TD GL, a 2.9 Ssang Yong Musso S, a 2.0i Saab 9.3 two-door, a Rover 416 Si five or four door, a 2.0 16v Renault Megane coupe, a 2.0 Nissan Primera SRi…. that is a long and not exhaustive list. Were this not the dog days of summer I’d have gone all the way from N to A to find the other seven or more cars costing £4,000 less than the 1998 Hyundai Sonata V6.

This fact is not mentioned by Autocropley who said the Sonata had to beat the Skoda Octavia, the Daewoo Leganza and the Ford Mondeo. Only the Mondeo had a V6 and still cost £2000 less than the Sonata. Yes, I know, the Sonata had loads of extra features and was bigger. Still, £2000 is a lot of money to pay for a few extra centimetres and air-conditioning. More to the point, Autocar don’t mention that for £4,000 less you can get a 2-3 litre Volvo saloon.

Irrelevant become these statements culled from the ‘Crop: “four-speed auto”; “more space, more safety”; “less noise, vibration and harshness”; “double-wishbone front and multi-link rear” (did you know that? That sounds good); “electronic traction control”; “spacious”; “impressively quiet place to be”.

The real story here is that in 1998 Volvo priced the Volvo 940 as low as a medium-sized hatchback or a three door Saab 9-3. £4,000 less than the Sonata V6, and only £2,000 more than the 2.0 Sonata GLS.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

16 thoughts on “Re-1998 Part 6 : 현대 쏘나타 V6”

  1. The only memory I have of this car is my participation in a customer clinic for it.
    I do not know how they got my address and even less do I know how they came to think that an Alfa 166 owner was the right person to ask for his opinion on the Sonata.
    It was the only clinic I ever went to and it was a weird but interesting experience.

  2. The 940 was quite old by 1998 so I guess they had to have great offers, (classic) to keep the numbers up.

    By the way, interesting about the customer clinics. Always wondered about that. What exactly is it? Who gets invited? When in the process is the clinic?

    1. I thought the same about the Volvo’s age…

      I’d really be interested to hear more about the clinic, too – if you’re allowed to talk about it. I’ve only ever participated in one such an event, not for cars but for a beer bottle label. This time, they didn’t get my address at all, but they just asked random beer drinkers in a pub.

      About the Sonata, this was always one of the most horrible cars for me to look at. Other Korean cars of that time weren’t much better: overwrought, over-decorated, and still this didn’t help to distract from their poor, boring proportions. Hyundai wasn’t very successful in this class in Switzerland, but the Lantra of the same mold was not without impact. I remember ads where is said something like “Estate for below 20,000 CHF”, money which normally just got you a basic hatchback at that time.

    2. As i said, I don’t know how or from where they got my address and what the selection criteria were.
      I got a polite letter inviting me to look at a new car in an industrial area at a building I’d never noticed before.
      At a registration desk I showed this letter and the paperwork for my car. There were ten or fifteen other persons, mostly driving Opels or Nissans and the like. How Hyundai or their marketing agency came to the conclusion that an Alfa 166 owner would fit their hunting scheme is beyond my recognition but I thought that as Alfa’s marketing manager I’d be seriously worried by the fact that they saw their product as a competitor to the Alfa.

      We were guided to a purpose built and completely featureless room (after that evening, I could tell when there were clinics held by the parked cars outside).
      Up to then we did not know what car we were to see nor were we told until the very end of the evening.
      There was an Audi A6, Peugeot 607, Honda Legend, Renault Safrane and Hyundai Sonata, all painted silver with their manufacturer logos and model designations covered by black sticky tape.
      We were directed to a certain car, got five minutes to poke around and after the ring of a bell were asked to proceed to the next vehicle.
      When everyone had seen all cars, we were interviewed individually.
      We were asked how we liked the seat covers and other trim items but most importantly we were asked whether we thought that car A was worth more then car B and at which price we would consider car C over car B. We had to name particularly pleasing details on the cars, which put me into serious trouble with the Sonata. In the end, I stated the tyres as its most pleasing detail.

      That event obviously was held quite late in the development cycle and was probably held to define the trim options and starting price for the Sonata’s sales start.

  3. I see that the Sonata has been made since 1985, and is now in its seventh iteration. Today’s models look surprisingly like the first ones. Few versions were marketed in Europe, but most have had reasonable success in the US (now possibly as the i45). I expect it’s one of the targets of POTUS 45’s trade barriers.

    You do get a lot for the money, although in 1998 the Kappa offered it all except traction control. Haven’t dug out my original Lancia sale receipt, but I’d expect it to be a whole lot more than the Sonata.

  4. I don’t know why, but I have a recollection of the time that it was said that the V6 was a licenced version of Rover’s 2.5L V6 K-Series. This latter saw service in the 75 and latterly the 45, and their younger, lookalike, MG brothers and sisters.

    1. It seems that’s not the case. I think it’s an in-house unit. Impressive. Is the K-V6 actually any good? I can’t see why anyone would want one if they could develop their own.

    2. The Kia Sedona and Carnival used a K-V6. I even wrote about this. I can’t find it: I think it was the Top 50 cars list I did. The Sonata has a Hyundai motor.

  5. Pricing depended on where you lived. These Sonata things were priced lower than Accord or Camry or 626 here in Canada, so about $25K for the V6, when they weren’t on sale every other week. Big Volvos cost far more, middle to high thirties.

    Obviously, some Hyundai marketing person thought they could ask for more in Europe. No more to it than that.

    Kia tried to build that Rover KV6 melodrama of an engine under license. Built a new plant out in the middle of nowhere and soon gave up on it. Was reading about that on AROline this past weekend. Those folks are still basking in the reflected glow of the K- series four and V6 twenty years later, when most companies gave gone through at least two new engine designs since then. Hyundai didn’t bother with outsiders and just made their own V6, then sold it to Kia as well.

    Sonatas are made in Alabama USA, so quite Trump proof.
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyundai_Motor_Manufacturing_Alabama

    1. Are you sure? I get the impression that 45 voters motivated by MAGA actually don’t mind being harmed by the policies supposedly aimed at making them better off. That’s the power of 45: he can’t upst his base by being too Trumpy.

  6. Yes, the Volvo had been around but it was still a Volvo. There’s no way I’d pick any of the other same-priced cars over the Volvo. In saying this I realise I have a weak sense of cars’ market age. I think it is far harder now to spot a pensionable product than in, say, 1998. In 1998 I’d have called the Volvo a good, solid car, something to one side of fashion. Today the 940’s still
    a decent tank. The Hyundai only had wierdness/contra-taste on its side (I would have to have one in green
    metallic paint).

  7. That 940 must’ve been some sort of dealer special, I don’t remember the car being priced in Astra territory even at the end of its days. And even though it was an old design it was also assembled pre Toyota lean, which means the production cost was significantly high.

    But Volvo has always had the tradition of producing lines in parallell even when newer lines have been introduced. The Volvo PV544 was introduced after the Amazon, and was already then an antiquated design.

    And it sold as much as a 544 as it has sold when the 444 was pretty much the only car they had. The Amazon was introduced in 1956 as a two-tone four door upscale car, but when the 144 was introduced in 1966 they continued making the two-door poverty spec Amazon up until 1970. In 1968 Volvo had three parallel lines of station wagons, the Duett, Amazon, and 145.

    Through the 70’s and 80’s they had the poverty spec 240 L-line, slotted beneath the GL and even the DL, I don’t even know if that was exported? When the 740 was introduced in 1985 they continued with the 240-line up until 1992. In which year they again had three parallel lines of station wagons, the 240, 940, and 850.

    They continued making the 940 up until 1998, to the intriduction of the S80. It was mostly sold to fleets like the police, but also as a dealer special three year lease. In Sweden there’s a tax bracket for company leases, and Volvo has specialized in catering for that need. I think that offer of £16.5k was an extremely poverty spec and very locked in kind of fleet special deal, I guess they had a Swedish surplus of those they tried to churn off in the UK.

    1. That is a wonderful insight. This means Volvo had a remarkable factory, able to make these very different cars at the same time. It suggests a lot of human intervention.
      The 240 outlived the 740. Why? Because it was such a well-engineered car and the 740 was no lemon either.

    2. I think they saw the 940 as a direct replacement of the 740, the 940 being in essence a 740 with updated front and rear treatment. And I’d guess 740 sales tanked with the intriduction of the 940 in 1991. And yes, the 240 went on to 1993 while the 740 was discontinued in 1991. There was a small but steady trickle of sales of the 240 wagon mostly from the Italian and UK markets, and those wagons weren’t poverty specs but actually quite loaded, it was seen as an upscale car in the reversed snobbery market, who can tell about the whims of the upper classes?

      More remarkable is the career of the in house Volvo designer Jan Wilsgaard, he made his entire career at Volvo. He started fresh out of university as an apprentice and was promoted to head of design almost immediately. He’s responsible for almost all of Volvos output, from the Amazon to the 850. The only things he didn’t do was the P1800 and the Bertone coupes. But he penned the Amazon, the 140/164, the 240/260, the 740/760, the 940/960, and the 850. I think it’s quite remarkable one single mind being responsible for the main output for a single car maker for so long, that’s a career spanning from the early fifties to the early nineties.

      I wrote about it in this little article, which regards a sort of design dilemma and its different executions. It may be the best article I’ve written, because I don’t write that much, sadly enough.

      http://www.curbsideclassic.com/automotive-histories/the-rear-door-dilemma/

  8. Volvo had a 940 you could buy that was bare bones spec. It had windy up windows all round and (if I am correct) no stereo.

    Maybe that’s what £16.5k bought.

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