There seems to be a cut-off point around about 40, at which you are either expected to have reached the hallowed levels of a senior company executive with the car allowance to match, or you simply don’t exist.
To an extent, car companies are looking after their own interests, because catching customers when they are young can win loyalty to a brand for life. And in terms of marketing, you can advertise a car to young people and older customers will buy it, but it doesn’t work the other way round.
But Hyundai is under no illusions about who is likely to buy the Hyundai – grey power is the name of the game.
Hyundai is targeting 45-year-old men in the ABC1 category. Nice to see that the people who put their cards in phone boxes aren’t the only ones targeting this market.
So what does Hyundai have for a man with a lifetime of car-buying experience behind him and a comfortable salary?
On face value, it offers a rather attractive exterior that isn’t shamed by other more well-known brands.
The Sonata has a solid, well-proportioned exterior that hints at a Mazda6 or an old-generation Toyota Camry.
Prices aren’t at the bargain-basement level you might have expected when looking at Hyundais, as they start at £16,495 for the manual and hit £17,495 for the automatic.
In the UK, there is just the one 2.4-litre petrol engine, offering 160bhp at 5,800rpm and 161lb-ft of torque at 4,250rpm. CO2 emissions are 198g/km for the manual tested here, equivalent to a 26% benefit-in-kind tax rate.
Step inside the cabin and it seems bare. The dashboard is a sea of grey plastic. Of particular note is the radio, which sits forlornly at the top of the dashboard like an aftermarket item in a cheap supermini.
Put first impressions aside, however, and the experience improves. The instrument panel is clear, if a little basic, and the standard leather seats are comfortable.
The 2.4-litre engine revs quietly and allows for relaxed cruising, although the four-cylinder unit is surprisingly sedate through the revs.
Along motorway stretches the Sonata rides minor imperfections well and even large potholes don’t transmit harshly into the cabin.
It is all very well screwed together, which suggests there will be little reason to call on Hyundai’s excellent five-year/unlimited-mileage warranty.
The steering is light, and as a result doesn’t provide enough feedback to transmit levels of grip when cornering, and the suspension doesn’t seem to like the sporty element of the drive home either.
Overall it is an excellent effort which would give the big volume players a run for their money. But therein lies the problem. At this price, the big players in fleet can play the discount game all day long and win hands down, and they have a vast slush fund to produce excellent interiors packed with equipment.
The Sonata is a decent effort and a winner if you value space and leather above all else – and you don’t mind 10,000-mile service intervals. But the volume rivals offer so much more depth and development to their product for the same money that it is hard to see a fleet manager ditching the big brands just yet.
Hyundai Sonata 2.4CDX
standard car (P11D value):
CO2 emissions (g/km): 198
BIK % of P11D in 2006: 26%
Graduated VED rate: £190
Insurance group: 12
Combined mpg: 33.2
CAP Monitor residual value: £4,675/29%
Depreciation 19.36 pence per mile x 60,000: £11,616
Maintenance 2.75 pence per mile x 60,000: £1,650
Fuel 12.93 pence per mile x 60,000: £7,758
Wholelife cost 35.04 pence per mile x 60,000: £21,024
Typical contract hire rate: £346
At a glance
We don’t like
Three rivals to consider
THE Hyundai comes in one trim level and, despite being the cheapest car on test, it is well equipped. The Sonata comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning and full leather trim as standard. The other three are similarly equipped, although leather is not standard on any of them, while the Peugeot offers a free Smartnav satellite navigation system on the 407.
THE Toyota should be the cheapest in terms of service, maintenance and repair costs over three years and 60,000 miles with a bill of just under £1,400. Despite having the joint lowest service interval of 10,000 miles, Toyota’s legendary reliability and the lowest insurance group (8) keep costs down. The Hyundai will cost £250 more over the same period, thanks to servicing every 10,000 miles and the highest insurance group (12).
THE Mazda6 has the highest combined fuel economy, with the firm claiming an average of 36.2mpg. This translates into a fuel cost over 60,000 miles of £7,116 – as long as your drivers manage to meet this figure. The Toyota is close behind on 34.9mpg for a bill of £7,380 and the Peugeot is third on 34.5mpg – equivalent to a spend of £7,470 on unleaded petrol. The Hyundai’s larger 2.4-litre engine counts against it here and it returns 33.2mpg for a fuel bill of £7,758.
WITH the lowest P11d price and a competitive residual value forecast, the Hyundai wins this section. CAP predicts the Sonata will retain 29% of its cost new after three years/60,000 miles, giving a cash lost figure of £11,617. Despite the best RV figure of 30%, the Mazda6’s higher front-end price means it will lose £11,922 over the same period. The Toyota will retain 29% and the Peugeot 28%, leaving cash lost figures of £12,022 and £12,272 respectively.
THE Mazda6 just sneaks the wholelife costs win from the Toyota. The 6 has a competitive front-end price, a strong residual value forecast and the lowest fuel costs, resulting in a total of £20,658 over three years/60,000 miles. The Toyota will cost just £138 more over the same period. The Hyundai Sonata will cost a fraction more than £21,000 over the typical fleet lifecycle and the Peugeot 407 around £400 more.
EMISSIONS AND BIK TAX RATES
OF the four cars featured, the Mazda6 falls into the lowest tax band (24%), resulting in a monthly company car tax bill of £74 for a 22% taxpayer. The Avensis and 407 both have the same P11d value and fall into the same 25% BIK tax band, giving a monthly tax bill of £77 for the same taxpayer. The Hyundai Sonata falls into the higher 26% company car tax band, although having the lowest P11d price means it costs the same as the Toyota and Peugeot at £77 a month.
AS with its stablemate the Santa Fe SUV, Hyundai is proving again with the Sonata that its products are getting a lot better. However, in this company the Sonata is eclipsed by the more mainstream Mazda6 which blends a good drive and attractive styling with the lowest running costs and the cheapest company car tax bills for your drivers.