THE new Hyundai Sonata has a trump card - a special feature that is apparent even before the ignition key is turned. It stands out, in fact, as soon as you open the brochure. It is the price. At $238,000, the saloon with a three-litre V-6 engine is less than half the price of some cars in the same class. The Hong Kong Hyundai distributor, Korean International Motors Ltd, has established a reputation for Hyundai as good value and high quality vehicles. The Sonata is more of the same - a flagship car which offers a lot of vehicle for the money. Car buyers, who previously could only afford a car with a smaller engine such as a two-litre four-cylinder saloon from one of the major manufacturers, are bound to be tempted by the big new Sonata. The only way to find an equivalent car with such a large engine from the major manufacturers for the same price is to buy second hand. And Hyundai has kept the price of the Sonata low without slashing the standard equipment list, or the loss of expensive options; everything needed to establish the Sonata as a luxury executive vehicle is supplied as standard. All Hong Kong-specification Sonatas are fitted with a four-speed, automatic gear box and an ABS anti-lock braking system, air-conditioning, power windows, central door-locking, sunroof, alloy wheels, metallic paint and a driver's side air-bag. For peace of mind, the package includes a three-year, or 60,000 kilometre, warranty which is backed up by a five-year anti-corrosion guarantee. The looks are right as well; the shape is not ground-breaking, but it is smart enough to hold its own among other executive cars. The body styling is modern and pleasing to the eye and the leather upholstered interior is very spacious and well-made. What is not available with the Sonata is the crisp and inspiring performance of a three-litre V-6 Alfa Romeo 164 engine, the near-silent running of a Lexus, or the suspension control and poise of a Jaguar. The Sonata is competent in all respects, but drivers who demand a vehicle at the very cutting edge of car design are going to have to dig deeper into their pockets and pay a lot more money for their luxury express. These sensible drivers will opt for the Sonata because it hardly matters in Hong Kong if a car can hit a top speed of 240 kilometres per hour, or runs out of breath at 200 km/h. The V-6 engine of the Sonata, rated at 146 brake-horsepower, gives away a lot of power to the class leaders, at least on paper. But planting the right foot to the carpet produces a very satisfying wallop of acceleration along with a gruff bark from the engine. Car buyers looking for a car in this class should ask themselves if they need any more than the Sonata provides. If the answer is no, then any money spent beyond the Hyundai's asking price of $238,000 is wasted.