. <

Comparison Test: Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima and Nissan Teana – Left turn off executive alley

POSTED BY Dinesh Appavu ON 05 February 2015

Executive supremacy is up for grabs in this ‘best of the rest’ shootout

DSC_1153

It is an interesting time in the executive car segment these days as the Japanese stranglehold on it slowly but surely is slipping while the Korean carmakers, credit to them, are not waiting for the segment to fall into their laps.

Instead, they are out there filling their D-segment sedans with class-leading features and crafting them with build quality that leaves the Japanese wanting.

A JD Power Initial Quality Survey in 2014 reported that Kia’s build quality is at par if not better than not only the Japanese but also the Germans. Just let that sink in for a moment.

DSC_1205

However, the local automotive awards and sales figures point to the Japanese still being in the lead. For the last two consecutive years, Japanese representatives have come out tops in the Executive Car category of the New Straits Times – Maybank Car of the Year Awards.

A paradigm shift in the mentality of D-segment buyers is behind this phenomenon of rising Korean popularity whilst the Japanese still sit at the top.

The older generation are undoubtedly biased towards the Japanese makes but the younger group of buyers are better informed with access to detailed information regarding the models and their priority is value-for-money, not the badge on the grille.

DSC_1223

Both the Korean representatives in the executive segment have benefitted from a refresh over the last year. The Kia Optima was bequeathed with a facelift last year while Hyundai just launched an all-new Sonata at the end of the year to recharge their efforts in the segment.

Completing the trio in our shootout this time is the Nissan Teana that enters the fray as the current Executive Car of the Year from the COTY 2014 Awards.

 

Exterior

Aesthetics are subjective. Nonetheless, it is difficult to ignore the European-inspired design that the Koreans project. Granted, the new Teana is a much handsomer car than its predecessor but the edgier, sharp lines of the Koreans slice through the curvaceous exterior of the Nissan.

Furthermore, the Optima and Sonata come with handsome wheels, 18-inches and 17-inches respectively, over the miniscule 16-inches on the Teana. Daytime-running lights are, again, available on the Koreans but the Nissan omits it.

DSC_1145

Plus, call it a personal whim but the excess chrome on the Nissan’s front facade did find favour with us. However, during our time with the trio, daily interactions with family and friends cemented the Teana as the apple of the older generation’s eye while Generation-Y was drawn to the Koreans, with the Optima narrowly having the edge.

 

Interior

Stepping inside, the styling trend continues as the new Sonata and Optima share the same page. A bold, angular centre face takes on a driver-oriented approach with a slight lean towards the person in charge.

The Teana goes down the more traditional route with a flat, minimalist design that stands out for finely balancing simplicity and class.

The new Sonata goes with a driver-oriented layout for the dash.

The new Sonata goes with a driver-oriented layout for the dash.

Hyundai made waves with the full Android head unit in the Sonata. Techno-savvy drivers will undoubtedly find endless hours of joys with all Android apps available to be downloaded into the unit. Waze, Youtube, Spotify and many more will keep you company on your journeys. It should be noted that the head unit is not mirroring your smartphone but is an actual independent Android system on its own.

The Optima and Teana both come with integrated head units that incorporate the reverse camera display and with multimedia capability, are more than sufficient for the majority of drivers’ requirements. It should be pointed out though that the unit in the Optima is touchscreen capable.

Kia has the busiest dash but manages to balance everything out with class.

Kia has the busiest dash but manages to balance everything out with class.

In terms of comfort, the Teana retains its magic carpet ride although the engineers have managed to inject some manliness into it for bends. Firmer rides were found in the Koreans, with the larger diameter wheels not helping one bit. Nonetheless, the better build quality contributed to keeping comfort levels almost on par.

The younger generation prefer a slightly firmer ride though as it improves the handling. It is not all about wafting along like a boat anymore in the segment. That flat-bottomed steering in the Optima is the icing on the cake as it lends the interior a sporty persona.

If toys tickle your fancy, the Optima will have you in stitches. A panoramic sunroof, ventilated seats, electronic parking brake and auto-hold are all present, something its competitors do not bring to the table.

IMG_9866

Nissan kept it simple with the Teana and that appeals to the older generation of buyers that prefer it that way.

 

 

Driving Impression

Nobody expects an executive car to carve corners but that has not meant that the engineers could not inject some excitement into it. Once again, the Sonata and Optima delivered a sportier ride but at the expense of comfort due to the firmer rides and larger wheels.

The Teana on the other hand could lay claim to being the ‘magic carpet’ ride of the day. Local roads threw all they could at it, but it soaked up all and sundry with little impact in the cabin.

Less horsepower and more torque over its predecessor is how Hyundai wanted it as torque aided daily drivability more.

Less horsepower and more torque over its predecessor is how Hyundai wanted it as torque aided daily drivability more.

In terms of powertrains, the Koreans both showed up with a similar engine and transmission. 2.0-litre mills with variable valve timing and lift mated to creamy six-speed automatics definitely aided in the driving part.

Power output checks in at 163hp for the Optima, 152hp for the Sonata and 134hp for the Teana. Torque figures are 196Nm, 194Nm and 190Nm respectively. The heavier punch under the Optima’s hood was certainly felt and paddle shifters in both the cousins will certainly appeal to closet driving enthusiasts that have had to embrace family needs in their choice of car.

Kia packs the biggest punch under the hood and it showed during our time with it.

Kia packs the biggest punch under the hood and it showed during our time with it.

However, the Teana and its CVT transmission might not find favour with anybody that is after anything more than a comfortable ride from point to point, but in terms of fuel consumption it had a slight edge. Official figures, and even real-world figures during our time with the cars reflected this.

It might be down on the horsepower count but its engine characteristics and CVT transmission make the Teana a pleasant drive.

It might be down on the horsepower count but its engine characteristics and CVT transmission make the Teana a pleasant drive.

 

Conclusion

The shift in buying preferences towards features, safety and ultimately, the best value-for-money prospect with less emphasis placed on the brand has seen the Korean cars climb steadily to give their Japanese counterparts a run for their money.

Taking into account these factor, the Optima narrowly has the edge for its wealth of features, futuristic appearance and overall more enjoyable driving experience.

Just in case you might be wondering how the Optima won against the Teana here when the both of them went head-to-head in the NST COTY last year with the latter winning, the simple explanation is that the Teana in contention then was the premium 2.5XV variant with more power and features.

 

Specifications of the Hyundai Sonata Elegance 2.0
Engine: 1,999cc, DOHC 16V, inline-four, variable valve timing and lift
Max power: [email protected],200rpm
Max torque: [email protected],000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Safety features: Six airbags, ABS, EBD, BA, electronic stability control, traction control, blind spot detection, hill-start assist, Isofix anchorage points, dash recorder camera
Price: RM149,845.30

 

Specifications of the Kia Optima 2.0L
Engine: 1,999cc, DOHC 16V, inline-four, variable valve timing and lift
Max power: [email protected],500rpm
Max torque: [email protected],800rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Safety features: Six airbags, ABS, EBD, BA, electronic stability control, traction control, hill-start assist, Isofix anchorage points
Price: RM149,888.00

 

Specifications of the Nissan Teana 2.0XL
Engine: 1,997cc, DOHC 16V, inline-four, variable valve timing
Max power: [email protected],600rpm
Max torque: [email protected],400rpm
Transmission: Xtronic CVT
Safety features: Six airbags, ABS, EBD, BA, electronic stability control, traction control, hill-start assist, Isofix anchorage points, active understeer control
Price: RM149,800.00

 

Group Shots

 

Hyundai Sonata

 

Kia Optima

 

Nissan Teana