You may not always think of cutting-edge tech and Hyundai in the same breath. The Sonata aims to change that perception with a healthy dose of up-to-date tech packed in.

What we love
  • Huge range of customisable features
  • Individual driver profiles a must, if you share your car
  • A system that adapts to you, not the other way around

What we don’t
  • No option to customise driver display
  • Audio doesn’t live up to the Bose reputation
  • Some of Hyundai’s other models out-tech the Sonata

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As a medium sedan from a mainstream brand, the 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line may not strike you as being at the fore when it comes to infotainment and technology. This Hyundai punches above its weight, however.

Sure, it may not have the outright glitz and glamour of the tech-infested infotainment systems you’ll find in a Benz or BMW, but honestly, Hyundai does shine on the functionality front.

As a quick overview, the Sonata fronts up with a 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen, Bluetooth, inbuilt navigation with live traffic updates, wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, and AM/FM/DAB+ radio.

The driver faces a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster augmented by a colour head-up display.

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Above that you’ll find a colour head-up display, which remains visible even with polarised glasses on. You can tweak things like the colour and size of the speed display, and view blind-spot warnings, speed-limit info, and turn-by-turn navigation prompts here.

Along for the ride are also features like a 12-speaker Bose stereo, wireless smartphone charging, three USB ports up front, and one in the rear. That sound system is pretty decent, but while Bose may have an excellent reputation in home audio, its automotive systems can be variable, and I’d love the Sonata’s to be just a bit crisper and clearer.

One infotainment feature not listed on Hyundai’s spec sheet is the ability to play full-motion video on the centre screen. Upload your content to a USB and plug it in, and you can watch your clips when the car is in park. If you put the car in drive audio continues, but the video feed is unavailable.

On the quirky side, there’s Hyundai’s Sounds of Nature function, which lets you play ambient noise to, I don’t know, help you relax maybe? I will say the Snowy Village theme, which is just creepy footsteps through the snow, is not what you want to hear after leaving a horror film late at night.

There’s also steady rain, forest sounds, and busy cafe bustle – if that’s your thing. Personally, I just stick to ’80s and ’90s digital radio stations.

Along with infotainment functions themselves, the system allows access to a number of other vehicle functions.

That infotainment screen offers a crisp high-resolution display, and is snappy to respond to inputs. Vehicle settings menus are laid out in a way that’s sensible and easy to work through.

Within, you’ll find settings for things like the hands-free smart boot; a function that allows the boot to open hands-free when you stand at the rear of the car for a few seconds. I tend to turn this one off when washing the car to prevent inadvertently opening the boot with soapy water all over it.

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Oh, and if you’re looking for the actual boot release on the car, it’s hidden in the top part of the Hyundai logo affixed to the boot lid. Just press to open.

There are settings for easy access on the driver’s seat, which can slide back when the ignition is switched off, or scoot your seat forward for you once you’re in and have closed the driver’s door. Very courteous.

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As a shorty, I found the extended position meant I ended up clumsily rearward, making it tricky to get out, but there’s also a halfway position that suited my stature.

It’s also possible to match the heated and cooled seats to the climate control, so on frosty mornings the heated seats and steering wheel will switch on automatically, or the ventilation will kick in when it’s roasting outside.

On that, after fiddling around with the seat controls I found a tiny hack – you can adjust the heating or ventilation in three steps, which means tap-tap-tapping to turn them off usually. You can also press and hold, and after a moment the seat climate will deactivate. Handy!

If you want a BMW-esque seat settings display to pop up on screen as you adjust the position, you can do that too. It’s also possible to display subtle or full-screen drive mode changes on the centre screen, and to have a repeater window for lights and wipers to pop up on the driver display.

The seats themselves are powered. The driver’s seat has 12-way adjustment, including lumbar and bolster adjustment. The passenger’s seat has more basic four-way adjustment only.

Driver’s seat memory allows the car to recall two positions, both for seat and mirrors – but again, there’s a hack for this, if you’d like to add more.

The car has the ability to add driver profiles. So, for instance, you can set up a range of all of the functions mentioned above, but if someone else uses the car, and doesn’t like those, they can store their own preferences under their own profile.

Key details 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line
Engine configuration Four-cylinder turbo petrol
Displacement 2.5-litre (2497cc)
Power 213kW at 5800rpm
Torque 422Nm at 1650–4000rpm
Transmission Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic
Drive type Front-wheel drive
Weight 1636kg (kerb)
Power to weight ratio 130.2kW/t
Estimated range 741km
Sales category Medium car
Key competitors Toyota Camry | Skoda Octavia | Mazda 6

Let’s say you want full screen drive mode on, speed limit displayed in the instrument cluster and auto seat climate on, you can set those preferences, along with your preferred seat positions and add them to your driver profile.

If your other half is more of a subtle drive mode notifications, no speed info, no seat climate kind of driver, they can set up those functions accordingly and set their own profile.

You can also make adjustments to things like safety system sensitivity and navigation notifications and save those too. One oddball feature, which I quite like, is the ability for the ventilation to switch to recirculate when the windscreen washer is used to keep the smell out of the cabin.

A handy side-effect of the profile system is that with different users set up, seat memory recall becomes two positions per profile. Just a neat benefit, and one that means you can store a general driving and spirited-run seat position for yourself under your profile.

While the system is comprehensively featured, there are one or two things you won’t find, and one function that I found incredibly frustrating.

The frustration came from the speed zone display – Hyundai uses embedded navigation data, not speed sign recognition. This means it can’t pick up variable speed zone or roadworks limits.

Fuel Useage Fuel Stats
Fuel cons. (combined, claim) 8.1L/100km
Fuel cons. (combined, on test) 8.9L/100km
Fuel type (minimum) 91-octane
Fuel tank size 60L

Worse, though, map data is incredibly slow to pick up speed zone changes, and the system often displays incorrect limits on roads that had their speed limits lowered years prior. That could make for a costly mistake if you’re in an unfamiliar area and put your faith in the system.

Other missing features and functions are user-customisable displays for the driver display, and a fly-around mode for the 360-degree camera. I mention these only because they’re available on other Hyundai models.

The camera system does allow you to look at the kerbside wheels when parking, with zoomed front and rear views, along with a surround-view overview, plus dynamic guidelines. That ‘pick your own angle’ view can be handy, and it’s surprising that it’s missing.

Similarly, in the Kona and Tucson you can choose from set instrument displays and link them to the drive mode as you wish. In the Sonata you get only a gaudy silver view in Normal, while Sport and Sport+ modes get a red and black sport dial display.

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Personally, I don’t love the normal view. The sport display is more my style, so I’d rather keep this active all the time.

The final missing feature that keeps the Hyundai system from tackling prestige brands is a lack of online services.

In the past Hyundai has offered Auto Link, allowing smartphone access to some of the car’s functions such as pre-conditioning the cabin and remote locking and unlocking. That system was dropped locally, although similar connectivity exists in overseas markets.

It’s perhaps not strictly needed, but without embedded remote start it’s one of those nice functions for very hot or very cold days – plus being able to check fuel levels, or just make sure you locked the car remotely, is a handy function.

If flicking through the owner’s manual is too tedious for you, you can scan a QR code on screen with your phone and flick search for more info in an online version. Perhaps not as handy as having it embedded in the screen itself, but perhaps easier to drag your phone around the vehicle with you, if you’re looking for something specific.

Ultimately, I’ve been pretty happy with the UI and useage experience of the Sonata’s tech suite – right down to little details like the easy to reach 360-camera button for easy call-up when parking, and the favourites button that I’ve set to recall CarPlay, meaning when the park sensor ghost appears, I can simply hit the star button on the infotainment display to banish it.

It does feel like even this update is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what the Sonata can do and the tech it offers. If you’d like to know more about anything about the Sonata N Line, please ask in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.

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Kez Casey

Kez Casey migrated from behind spare parts counters to writing about cars over ten years ago. Raised by a family of automotive workers, Kez grew up in workshops and panel shops before making the switch to reviews and road tests for The Motor Report, Drive and CarAdvice.

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