The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pedal pusher

It has been a long time coming and finally, Hyundai has launched the all-new fifth generation Sonata in India. The new car has been christened the Embera ' a name derived from a Central American warrior tribe famed for its aggressiveness. What has come to India though, had already been launched a few months ago in North America, which is one of Hyundai's bigger if not the biggest, markets. In fact, along with the press kit at the launch, Hyundai also handed out a leaflet bearing glowing testimonials from several North American organisations and publications.

All said and done though, this is an all-new Sonata. So not only does it look different from the Sonata Indians have come to love (or hate, depending on your taste), it is different dimensionally as well as mechanically. It is certainly aimed at winning over European buyers, which is why it looks so much like a contemporary European car. Audi is the very first marque that springs to mind and taking a look at the car will reveal why. But compare the new look with that of the earlier model and the feeling one gets is that the Embera has embraced modernity by eschewing the distinctiveness of its predecessor.

Compared to the older Sonata EF, the Embera is quite different in terms of dimension. In fact, at a length and width of 4800mm and 1832mm respectively and a height of 1475mm, the new launch is 53mm longer, 12 mm wider and 53mm higher than the current Sonata. The wheelbase is 2730mm, which makes it 30mm longer. The track at front is 35mm wider and at the rear, it is 30mm wider. International spec cars have had the ground clearance increased to 165mm from 160mm but India-spec cars have a ground clearance of 170mm ' standing testimony to the 'excellent' roads we have in India!

Besides its spanking new look and larger dimensions, the Embera has a different engine as well. It's not the 2.0litre unit and nor is it the 2.7litre V6. The new engine is a 2.4litre DOHC VTVT (Variable Timing Valve Train) unit. For the more technically-minded, a long-stroke engine powers the Embera. The bore is 88mm and the stroke length is 97mm. This results in a max torque of 23.6kgm at 5,800rpm and a power output of about 162bhp at 4250rpm. The Embera will be available with a choice of two gearboxes, a five-speed manual and the H-Matic, which is the Tiptronic-style autobox that came in with the 2.7 V6. There is no CRDi option as yet but Hyundai maintains that should such a unit become available globally, then it will most definitely be offered on the Indian car. The Embera rides on 215-60/R15 tyres and alloy wheels and the suspension is independent all-round.

The pricing of the two variants is quite interesting. Obviously higher than the previous entry-level Sonata, the ex-showroom (New Delhi) pricing is Rs13.69 lakh for the manual transmission variant and Rs 14.59 lakh for the H-Matic variant. That puts the Embera squarely up against the likes of the Ford Mondeo and others in the lower D segment.

To compete with these big-time players, the Embera comes equipped with plenty of pretty features. At this price point, add-ons like chrome waistline moulding and body-coloured door mirrors and bumpers are a given as is tinted glass. Aesthetically speaking, the projection lamp headlights are quite striking and at the rear, the two exhaust pipes on either side hint of a more powerful machine powered by a V6 or even a V8. It's an all-aluminium, inline-four of course.

Inside, map-reading lights betray who the car is actually aimed at in the European context ' a driving couple. Never mind that here in India, a chauffeur, expected to know his roads without having to resort to maps, will more often than not drive the Embera. Both variants have automatic AC units with a duct aimed at keeping rear passengers from getting hot under the collar. The driver's seat is powered and also has lumbar support. The four-spoke steering wheel is tilt-adjustable. The two-DIN CD cum cassette head unit and a six-CD changer is ideal for long drives and traffic jams. Along with ABS brakes (ventilated disc at front and solid disc at the rear), passengers in front are kept safe in the event of a crash by side impact bars and air bags. Unlike the American version, the Embera doesn't feature curtain airbags, leaving the side of the head vulnerable to impact.

The Embera is available in six different colours ' Crystal Silver, Deep Pearl Blue, Grace Beige and Charming Grey in addition to the standard Noble White and Ebony Black. Unfortunately fans are not spoilt for choice when it comes to the interiors with just two upholstery options ' beige leather or beige fabric.

Easy listening

Koel Mullick,

I’m rather moody by nature, so the music I listen to when driving my Honda City all depends upon my frame of mind. That said however, more often than not I love listening to soft, melodious music. Lionel Richie, Elton John and Whitney Houston are my all-time favourites when it comes to Westen music. Songs like Hello, I will always love you and Candle in the Wind are true classics. Another singer who I like a lot is Enrique Iglesias and his song, Hero is really soulful.

While sometimes Western music is awesome, other times are all about Indian melodies. I love most of the songs sung by Kishore, Lata and Asha.

If you were to peek inside my car, you’d find CDs of all my movies and several other cassettes. From among my films, I especially love singing along to all the Shudu Tumi songs and the tracks from my new film Juddho. There’s even this one song from Bandhan, sung by Raghav Chattopadhyay that I just love listening to when on a long drive.

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