As more and more buyers continue to desert the humble sedan in favour of the crossover, carmakers have been left with a difficult choice to make – to ditch the three-box body style, or to soldier on and make it more attractive to customers. Ford and General Motors have gone ahead with the former, but with sales accounting for almost a sixth of the Hyundai’s total haul, the Sonata remains an integral part of the portfolio.

The eighth-generation model will be unveiled at the New York International Auto Show (NYIAS) in April as one of 13 new vehicles coming to the Hyundai, Kia and Genesis brands this year, and it will sport a more progressive design that will aim to match the impact of the stunning sixth-gen Sonata.

That’s according to head of the Hyundai Global Design Center SangYup Lee, in an interview with Motor Trend. “The new Sonata is quite challenging for us obviously just because we all know that market is shrinking and taken over by SUVs,” he said.

The new Hyundai Sonata will hark back to the sixth generation’s pioneering four-door coupé look

Lee was formerly a designer at General Motors and Bentley, most famous for designing the reborn Chevrolet Camaro that ended up becoming Bumblebee in the first Transformers movie. In fact, it was while designing the Camaro and the Corvette that he first saw the swooping Fluidic Sculpture design of the sixth-gen YF.

“I was looking at it, and I was like, ‘Wow. That is something else. And it’s going to be a hit with this market,'” he said. “As soon as I saw it, I sensed it, and second thing is, ‘why didn’t I think of that?'”

That’s the kind of impact that Hyundai is looking to top with the new Sonata, and to do that it will borrow styling cues from the Le Fil Rouge concept that debuted in Geneva last year. It will return to the YF’s four-door coupé look, which its more conservative successor, the LF, seemed to shy away from. “It’s almost like a four-door coupé style without compromising the usability inside,” Lee said.

Hyundai wants to repeat the stylistic impact of the YF Sonata

Despite being tipped to incorporate a few of Hyundai’s current design cues, such as the Cascading Grille, Lee said that the new Sonata’s front fascia will not be recognisably a Hyundai – the South Korean designer wants people to like it before taking a second look and identifying the brand.

It appears the company is moving away from a one-size-fits-all corporate identity, instead giving each car a different character while maintaining a single unifying theme. The analogy given is this – rather than having a “Russian doll” look that some German carmakers can be accused of having, the goal is to have cars that act as chess pieces, each looking and behaving different but serving a clear role when put together.

In other news, Lee confirmed that the Genesis GV80 SUV will arrive this year, and that the luxury offshoot is still working on the production version of the gorgeous Essentia sports car concept, which he said will be even better than the show car.

GALLERY: 2020 Hyundai Sonata spyshots


GALLERY: Hyundai Le Fil Rouge concept