It appears Hyundai has reconsidered developing a performance Sonata variant – as a heavily disguised Sonata wearing recognisable N design cues has been spied testing in Korea.
Photos by Korean Car Blog of the prototype show red side skirts, red brake calipers, and two single exhaust tips on either side of the car, suggesting this is may in fact be an N variant.
According to the news outlet, in 2019 head of N at Hyundai Motor Group, Albert Biermann said the Sonata and Tuscon N-Line models were not ready for the full N treatment.
In the same year, a spokesperson from Hyundai told Korean Car Blog, “I don’t see it happening in the future; that’s not our intention with the Sonata”.
In 2022, Korean outlet Chosun, reported a source inside Hyundai claiming the company at the time wasn’t working on a next-generation Sonata.
Sources told Chosun that it’s an open secret in the company that the Sonata will be discontinued as Hyundai makes room on its production lines for its electric vehicles.
Chosun reported that the brand hadn’t ruled out an electric Sonata, but said it isn’t a priority.
“We can’t rule out an electric Sonata, but we’re prioritising the development of a compact electric car rather than a less popular midsize vehicle,” said the insider.
The facelifted Sonata debuted earlier this year, only a couple years after a new generation was released.
Its front facia is made up of an LED light bar Hyundai calls the ‘Seamless Horizon Lamp’, and features dual separated headlight clusters on either side of the front bumper.
At the rear, Hyundai has repeated the full-width light bar which it claims emphasises Sonata’s “high-tech image”.
Inside, the Sonata’s cockpit features dual 12.3-inch displays in a curved housing – which is a first for the brand.
A development of the digitised HVAC controls retains rotary dials for adjusting the temperature, though other functions move to a Genesis-style touch panel display which Hyundai says “boosts the high-tech vibe”.
Hyundai offers only one variant locally which is the flagship N Line, powered by a 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine – power outputs are yet to be confirmed but expected to stay the same. Korean outlet Auto Post reported last year Hyundai will carryover mechanicals.
The 2023 Sonata N-Line is powered by a 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine which produces 213kW of power and 422Nm of torque.
It’s likely the Sonata N would feature some form of increased outputs based on Hyundai’s current N Line and N range outputs.
It’s worth noting the Sonata N Line is currently the most powerful internal-combustion vehicle carrying an N badge within Hyundai’s range.
Currently the brand offer three models with an N badge in Australia.
While a next-generation Kona N is yet to be confirmed, the outgoing model offers a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 206kW and 392Nm.
The smallest performance model in Hyundai’s line up, the i20 N, is powered by a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine which produces 150kW and 275Nm.
The entire i30 N range currently offers a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 206kW and 392Nm.
Hyundai is currently testing its updated i30 N hot hatch, but the brand is yet to confirm if there will be any powertrain changes.
The Sonata first debuted in 1985, which earns it the crown for the brand’s lowest running name plate. A front-wheel drive powertrain later arrived in 1989.
Hyundai has sold 9.17 million Sonatas globally since its debut. In recent years the company has struggled with the model in markets like the US, China, and its local Korean market.
Hyundai has sold 163 examples to the end of June in Australia, which is a 49.9 per cent decrease year-on-year. It’s one of the lowest selling vehicles within its segment with the Volkswagen Passat (412), Mazda 6 (891) and Skoda Octavia (740) all outselling the sedan.