It may have just arrived in Australia, but the current-generation Hyundai Sonata is reportedly set for a full redesign in 2023.
The eighth-generation Sonata first went on sale in markets like Korea and the US in 2019, which would ordinarily mean a mid-cycle update would be due around 2022.
Instead, Auto Post reports the Sonata will receive a redesign, citing an internal announcement at Hyundai.
This is expected to be purely cosmetic, with the current car’s platform and powertrain line-up reportedly carrying over unchanged, though new features like an augmented reality head-up display may be added.
The change in plans is due to sagging sales in the Korean market, which Hyundai reportedly attributes to the Sonata’s styling.
Unlike other Hyundai and Kia models, where supply is exceeding demand, Auto Post reports 1200 petrol and LPG-powered Sonatas are scheduled to be produced in August at the Asan factory in Korea, but only 506 have been requested for allocation.
The hybrid is faring somewhat better – 450 are set to be produced in August against an allocation request of 495 units.
The Korean outlet reports younger buyers in Korea are flocking to the related Kia K5, while older, more conservative buyers are turned off by the current Sonata’s curvaceous styling.
Despite declining global sales of sedans and the impending rollout of yet more electric vehicles, Hyundai reportedly wants to continue with a ninth-generation Sonata as sedans remain popular in Korea and the Sonata was, not too long ago, the nation’s best-selling car.
Hyundai can’t seem to catch a break with the Sonata.
The daring 2009 redesign – sold here as the i45 – drove the Sonata to its highest sales ever in the US, but it received mixed reviews in the more conservative South Korean market.
A conservative rebodying was introduced in 2014 to appease Korean buyers, but US sales ceased their rapid ascent. A substantial mid-cycle update was introduced in 2017 with sportier styling, before the current model was introduced in 2019.
Should the 2023 Sonata feature a redesigned exterior but carryover underpinnings and powertrains, it’ll effectively be a repeat of what happened in 2014.
Once a podium finisher in Korea, the still-fresh eighth-generation Sonata fell to sixth place in 2020. It’s also being consistently outsold by its Kia platform-mate, the Optima-replacing K5, plus its larger, plusher Grandeur sibling.
It can’t rely on US sales, either, as the entire mid-sized sedan segment there is on a downward trajectory.
Buick, Ford, Mazda and Volkswagen have all recently withdrawn from the segment in the US, while Sonata sales fell below 100,000 units in 2019 for the first time since 2003.
It remains to be seen how the upcoming, all-electric Ioniq 6 will be received in Korea, as it’s expected to wear even more dramatic, curvaceous styling, inspired by the Prophecy concept car (above).
Set to launch in 2022, it’ll be built in the same Asan factory as the Sonata but use Hyundai’s new, ground-up E-GMP all-electric architecture that also underpins the Ioniq 5 and upcoming Ioniq 7 large SUV.
It’s expected to be sized similarly to the Sonata, though its skateboard construction could mean a more spacious interior.
Originally scheduled for a local launch in late 2019, the Sonata was set to offer base 2.5-litre naturally-aspirated petrol and 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engines.
Instead, it arrived mid-way through 2021 in a single, highly specified N Line model packing a turbocharged 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine.
Despite this, Hyundai sold 137 examples in July, narrowly behind the much larger Mazda 6 sedan and wagon range (156).