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Every debut at the New York Auto Show hopes to break through the clutter of lookalike new models. The 2015 Hyundai Sonata succeeds, unusually, with an emphasis on substance beyond style.

The seventh-generation Sonata makes a quieter, more dignified entrance than its upstart 2010 predecessor with the flashy flowing lines that made competitors like Toyota Camry and Ford Fusion seem dull by comparison. It continues on sale today as a 2014 model.

When the new Sonata reaches dealerships in July, test drivers will feel the difference. Looks? The lines are tauter, "the beltline is stretched tight," as chief designer Christopher Chapman put it. What's below the surface is of more significance.

High strength steel accounts for 51 per cent of the structure, an increase of 30 per cent. Drivers will feel the difference in road-holding, solidity, and road noise, Hyundai's presenters claimed. The stiffer structure allows suspension tuning that produces a more planted stance and steering with more feedback. A Sport model with more of the above will be introduced somewhat later.

Challenging Fusion as the segment top-seller in Canada, or Camry as best-selling car in the United States, is not the goal, said Hyundai Canada's Don Romano, president and CEO beginning May 1. "We expect an increase in numbers, yes, but increasing awareness, building Hyundai's name, means more."

Emerging from the clutter was the end game of every unveiling in the first of two press days preceding the April 18-27 show.


General Motors

1. Chevrolet Cruze

Six years into its model run, Cruze is overdue for a new look. And this isn’t it. Chevy’s trademark bowtie logo gets a new setting in an elongated grille, but otherwise it’s 2014 all over again. All the talk concerns the talk inside: OnStar 4G LTE offers a mobile WiFi hotspot, text messages are read over Bluetooth. A new new Cruze is due for 2016.


2. Ford Focus

Seen this face before? The Aston-Martin-ish grille worked wonders for the existing Fusion, looked great on the 2015 Focus hatch shown at Geneva earlier this year, and here it graces the Focus sedan, along with a new trunk and tail lamps. Rearview camera now standard. A three-cylinder engine is on offer with manual transmission. Ford claims more feel in the steering, quieter ride.


3. Kia Sedona

The big sellers among minivans are Chrysler, with 60 per cent of the Canadian market, Toyota and Honda. The new Sedona challenges them seating as many as eight, or, optionally, with first-class rear seats that feature leg rests as in the expensive part of airplanes. Kia’s signature Tiger Nose fierces up the minivan format. V-6 standard as before.


4. Mini Countryman

The really new, third-generation Mini has inspired this hardly new version of the larger, four-door Countryman. In fact all that’s brand new is an added element within the grille, LED fog and running lamps, and Jungle Green Metallic as one of three colors being introduced. Oh yes, thicker sound-deadening can be found beneath the carpets.

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

5. Nissan Murano

The Murano was a game changer in 2002. It showed the world crossovers and sport utility vehicles needn’t be square, or rectangular. The new 2015 Murano soars higher with a roof that seems to float above the body and a sculpted line along the base of the side windows. Based on last year’s Renaissance concept, the Murano was accompanied by a concept sedan, similarly fantastic, mirroring the upcoming Maxima.

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

6. Subaru Outback

Subaru says it pioneered the crossover vehicle with its first Outback introduced at the New York show 20 years ago. Now the fourth-generation’s debut on the same stage introduces crisper lines, slimmer windshield pillars and broader shoulder room. Agility is said to be improved with new torque vectoring.

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

7. Toyota Camry

What Toyota unveiled Wednesday was surprisingly different with its chiseled flanks and largely new sheet metal other than the roof. Camry has been America’s favorite car for 12 years running, but it turns out Toyota began reworking the tame appearance of the current iteration soon after its intro as a 2011 model. Result as we see it: more appealing but still mild.

REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

8. Volkswagen Golf Sportswagen 2.0 TDI 4Motion

A new Golf wagon, larger and prettier than the 2014 model that started its model cycle as a Jetta wagon, has impact. Especially keen VW drivers zero in on its 2.0 TDI 4Motion nomenclature that indicates the rare combination of diesel power and all-wheel-drive. VW states that its awaiting feedback at the show before deciding whether to proceed.

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