7 Generations Of Hyundai Sonata – Through The Years Of 1985 To 2014
When it comes to longevity, there are no Korean cars that can match the Hyundai Sonata, which is now in its seventh generation.
The Sonata was launched back in 1985, and has since gone on to become one of the best-selling sedans in Korea, with over 7 million units sold globally.
The evolution of the Sonata mid-size sedan through the years of 1985 to 2014 is a great indication of the rich history of the largest automaker in Korea.
Let’s take a look at how the Sonata evolved through the past three decades!
Hyundai Sonata history 1985 – 2018
First generation (1985-1987)
The all-new Sonata 4-door seda arrived on the scene in November 1985 and was based on the Stellar sedan (not available anymore!).
The first-generation was marketed to consumers who had cashed in during the fast economic growth of that time, with the “Car only for VIPs” slogan reflecting that.
The first owner of the car was the popular actor Shin Sung-il, who took advantage of premium features like automatic power seats and cruise control.
At that time, Hyundai Motor Company was still unable to develop many of important powertrain technologies, which meant the engine and several other car parts were supplied by Mitsubishi.
Second generation (1988-1993)
The initial Sonata offering was far from successful, leaving Hyundai to go back to the drawing board in an attempt to make the second generation more appealing globally, especially with the Excel doing so well in North America.
The new model was released in 1988 during the Seoul Olympic Games, and event that allowed Hyundai to show off their car on a global scale.
They also adopted the H in the oval frame logo at this time.
The second-generation Sonata was the first midsize sedan to adopt front-wheel drive, which proved to be a great addition for a country that sees a lot of snow in the winter months.
1991 saw the car receive an exterior refresh, with more curving lines added to the outside.
Third generation (1993-1998)
The third generation, released in 1993, was the one that helped Hyundai start to really build some momentum overseas.
The first two generations were aimed more at the local market, with the Hyundai brand not really known anywhere else. That changed when the third generation turned them into a global player.
The numbers were a sure sign of that success, with the Sonata selling 600,000 units in just 33 months. FYI, the first generation only sold 1,029 units in year one.
Back in 1996, the front and rear fascias of the car received a makeover!
With that refreshed version included, the third generation model topped the 1 million sales mark. You can still see that particular model on the road, 20 years later.
Fourth generation (1999–2005)
Known as the EF Sonata, the fourth generation was released in 1998. It came at a time when Korea was experiencing financial hardship.
This particular model was the one that showed that Hyundai was able to deliver vehicles of a high quality, allowing them to start shaking off the cheap car maker label.
J.D. Power and Consumer Report went as far as saying that the quality and reliability of the Sonata was on a par with Toyota.
Hollywood even came calling, with the car making an appearance in “Bourne Supremacy” in 2000.
A refresh arrived in 2001, as well as the “Elegance” special edition model, which was aimed at the female market in South Korea.
Fifth generation (2004–2010)
This Sonata model, known as the NF Sonata, was released in 2004 with a brand new platform.
The Mitsubishi engines were out in favor of Hyundai made Theta gasoline engines.
Since the Sonata had gone global by this point, it made sense that the company would start overseas production of the car.
As such, the Montgomery, Alabama plant went into operation.
The success of the Sonata helped Hyundai crack the top 100 global brands list.
The NF Sonata was the first model to have a diesel engine option (available in Europe!).
Sixth generation (2009-2014)
The biggest changes in the history of the Sonata came with the release of the sixth generation model.
The introduction of the “Fluidic Sculpture” design language used on the exterior of the car was one of the most important changes of that Sonata model.
The design changes proved to be divisive at home and abroad, but it didn’t stop the car from being the most successful model to date.
Hyundai used the sixth generation model as the inspiration for the Sonata Hybrid and Sonata Turbo.
Seventh generation Hyundai Sonata (2014- )
New features and advancements are at the heart of the latest Sonata.
Hyundai claims to have taken a “return to basics” with this model, focusing on four basic elements: run, turn, stop, and protect.
The appearance of the car has also changed to a simple, more conservative look, which can be attributed to the Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design language. [Source: koreatimes.co.kr]