The latest generation of the Hyundai Sonata sedan has arrived just 30 months or so after the previous one as a luxury challenger to the three main German brands – and Honda’s Accord.There's only one model but it isn’t, however, a whole new car – in fact far from it. There are minor design tweaks to the headlights and front fog lights, grille, tail lights (see image gallery) and engine – still a 2.4-litre (2359cc) four-cylinder but now with direct fuel-injection instead of the Theta II multipoint-feed unit of the previous model. Image galleryThere are no new body panels, I was told, mainly because of the expense of redesign and re-toolling.13% POWER BOOSTIt’s also still front-wheel drive and still rides on distinctive multi-spoked alloy rims, the biggest in their class at 18” – and with a full-size spare wheel.The main difference is a 13% power boost from 131kW/228Nm to 148kW/250Nm, lower fuel consumption and a cleaner exhaust. The previous car promised 8.2 litres/100km (in a perfect world) and indeed the multi-meter on the new car I drove returned 8.8/100 after an enthusiastic trip around the Western Cape, including the Bain’s Kloof and Franschhoek passes.So the new Sonata is more powerful in kW than the BMW 320i, Audi A4 1.8T and Mercedes C200, though all three have more torque than the Korean car (270, 320 and 270Nm respectively). The brand has come a long way since its introduction to South Africa 14 years ago.Image galleryThe same six-speed auto box as the earlier car remains; it’s sometimes a little keen to down-change and when it does it alerts the driver to the auto swop with some excessive engine noise but, cruising at 120km/h, turns over at only 2200rpm.Apart from the vocal low-gears, the ride is quiet; some wind noise from the redesigned external mirrors but road noise is almost absent and gear-changes almost imperceptible.It’s Hyundai’s answer to the Mercedes C-Class, BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Honda Accord, but bigger than them all in all three dimensions and way better-equipped in terms of standard comfort equipment than any of the four.Standard are a seven-speaker audio system with CD front-loader and USB/iPod/AUX connections, auto aircon (front and rear), Bluetooth cellphone preparation, cruise control, power mirrors and windows, front and rear parking radar, auto wipers, a windscreen auto demist function and a three-section power glass sunroof.SIX AIR BAGSAlso standard are heatable and power-adjustable front seats - the driver's retracting automatically when the adjacent door is opened - xenon headlights, leather upholstery, split rear seats with a comprehensive storage unit between them and a multifunction steering wheel that takes care of audio controls, cruise, phone and gearshifts from a pair of paddles.Crash prevention/protection is covered by anti-lock brakes, stability control and six air bags and the car has a five-star EuroNCAP rating.It’s priced, all in, at R379 900 but, as marketing director Stanley Anderson pointed out, comes with standard equipment – one of the main items being the three-piece electric sunroof – that, if all were specified, would add R59 800 to the competing BMW 3 Series, R71 530 to the Audi A4 and R45 850 to the Mercedes C200.“All in all, good solid value,” he added. “The Sonata was already a very elegant, well-designed sedan that was the choice of many buyers who were looking for a modern premium motoring package at a very competitive price.“The new engine and subtle changes to its exterior looks, coupled with the changes on the extensive list of specifications, has enhanced this excellent offer of Hyundai in South Africa even more.“It is important to note that this new Sonata is not a facelift – the designers merely added some very sensible ‘product enhancements’ to the exterior and the cabin.”GENESIS ON THE WAYThe Sonata is 4.82m long, 1.835m wide, 1.47m high, has a 2.795m wheelbase and the biggest fuel tank in its class at 70 litres that should give a cruise range of around 750km.The Sonata will be delivered with a five-year or 150 000km factory warranty, five-year or 90 000 service plan and five years or 150 000km of free roadside assistance.Still to come from Hyundai, we were told at the launch, is the long-awaited Genesis, a halo car for the brand with a choice of 3.3, 3.8 or five-litre engine, “a next step” for Hyundai and expected in 2014, I was told by Anderson, to compete against Audi’s A6 and BMW’s 5 Series.The Genesis was Car of the Year in the US.Hyundai is also going into the World Rally championship with its i20 and a 1.6 GTI turbo engine, all under development at a plant near Frankfurt, Germany.It will appear in the 2014 rally season to further its development for full competition in 2015, joining VW as a championship newcomer, and Hyundai has promised that developments for the rally cars will find their way into standard production models.