Hyundai celebrates 30 years of Sonata, more than 7.3 million units sold

Much of its rise to stardom might have happened only in the last decade or so but many of Hyundai’s nameplates have been around for much longer. One such nameplate is the Sonata that’s now celebrating its thirtieth anniversary. Since making its debut in South Korea in 1985, the Sonata has played a pivotal role in establishing Hyundai’s presence globally in the highly-competitive midsize segment. That's no mean feat given that biggies like Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Maxima and Ford Fusion slug it out in the same space.

The Sonata, together with the Elantra that has already etched its name in the list of all-time best-selling automobiles with sales over 10 million units, best represent the remarkable evolution and growth of ‘Brand Hyundai’. With over 7.3 million units sold across seven generations, Sonata has been through the thick and thin and survived.

The first-generation Sonata was a rear wheel drive sedan and one of the first cars designed completely in-house by Hyundai. It was also the first single model line in Korea to cross one million units in sales. With the debut of the second-generation model five years later in 1988, the Sonata changed track to become a front wheel driven car. It also ditched the ruler-designed boxy design of its predecessor for a more organic and angular design. 1993 saw the launch of the third-generation Sonata incorporating several advanced features of its time like automatic side motors and Antilock Braking System at a price point much lesser than it's rivals.

The fourth-generation Sonata was a coming-of-age model for Hyundai in many aspects. Debuting in 1998 much before Hyundai came to be known as a top-quality automaker, this iteration of the Sonata surprised critics and customers with much-improved quality, fit and finish that was on par with rivals. For the first time, the car also had an engine developed in-house and Hyundai's Intelligent Vehicle Electronic Control (HIVEC) transmission. This generation of the Sonata is also remembered for a facelift that courted controversy for its Mercedes-inspired front and Jaguar-inspired rear.Come 2004, the fifth-generation model consolidated Sonata's position further and, with its strong European influence, started to be mentioned in the same breath as its rivals from Toyota and Honda.

The year 2009 saw the launch of the most-stylish and the most-successful Sonata ever. Sporting Hyundai's 'Fluidic Sculpture' design language, the sixth-generation Sonata YF was a hot property in the mid-size segment the world over. The swoopy design with cuts, curves and creases all along stood out from the rest of the mundane-looking crowd churned out by rivals and sales soared. For the first time, a Hybrid variant was added to the Sonata lineup in 2010. The seventh-generation model that's on sale currently made its debut in 2014 wearing a toned-down version of 'Fluidic Sculpture' that looked sharper. Powertrain options expanded to include naturally-aspirated, turbocharged, hybrid and plug-in hybrid options.

So, how long is it going to take for the Sonata to cross the 10 million sales mark and get into the big league? Not very long, we bet!

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