Hyundai's executive sedan gets cosmetic, equipment and suspension upgrades to help it emerge from the sidelines
Tune-up for Sonata The Sonata's recalibrated suspension results in a more settled ride quality. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Besides space and respectability, the main draw of a big sedan must be ride comfort. On that count, Hyundai's revised Sonata is up there with the best.

At the wheel, the car offers a well-tuned compromise between the feathery progress of models like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord and the substantially sprung chassis of something like the Mazda 6.

It offers comfort, but not at any great expense to dynamism. The car is refined in terms of noise, vibration and harshness, although no more than what its rivals offer.

Still, the feeling the car evokes most strongly while coasting along at highway speeds is an uneventful peacefulness which stops well short of boredom.

And that is not a bad thing at all. It makes the Sonata slightly more distinctive than before the facelift.

To accomplish this, Hyundai took small steps. It stiffened the steering rack column by 12 per cent and recalibrated the steering for a more positive and precise response.

The suspension was also recalibrated for a mix of firmness and yield, and to keep unwanted frequencies at bay.

The result is a more settled ride quality across a wide speed range and a tad more composure when the car is pushed.

With a 2-litre normally aspirated engine, the Sonata is not particularly athletic. Yet, it dishes out enough shove to maintain a degree of calm in most situations.

Quick getaways, however, will elicit fairly high revs (4,000rpm or more). While the engine betrays hardly any vibration when extended, it does not sound great.

With a coarse and raspy resonance that is flat and soulless, it actually discourages sporty driving. Which is a pity, since the chassis has been improved to take on more verve.

Clearly, the Sonata needs a turbocharged power plant and, perhaps, a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. And also an exhaust tuning to make it sound better. Perhaps all this will happen when the car is up for a full model change around 2020.

Meanwhile, the facelift has other tweaks which help to liven things up.

Wireless phone charging, ventilated front seats, LED headlamps with cornering lights, blindspot detection and rear cross-traffic alert are some of the standard issue goodies.

Visually, the car's prominent chrome grille stands out, as do the foglamp and daytime-running LED clusters flanking it at the bottom section. Inside, a new three-spoke steering wheel and "piano key" controls give the cockpit a classier feel.

Individually, these changes are relatively minor. But together, they give the sedan a stronger platform to compete with its rivals.

Even so, it has to jostle with newer and better appointed cars from brands like Peugeot and Renault, which are not necessarily sedans, but are in the same price segment. Still, having a facelift is better than not having one at all.