Hyundai Motor Company's NF Sonata sedan was rated as the safest Korean car to drive, according to the government's crash testing and an assessment programme for the braking systems of locally built passenger cars.

According to the Korea Times, the Ministry of Construction and Transportation (MOCT) said the Sonata's overall safety system, including front and side airbags and the braking system, scored the highest marks in the auto safety test.

In the five-star ratings for safety tests assessing the risk of injury for drivers and passengers, the luxury sedan earned five stars, outperforming rivals such as affiliate Kia Motors' Optima Regal and GM Daewoo Auto & Technology's Magnus.

The Sonata also topped the frontal crash test with the injury rates for drivers and passengers standing at 10 and 9% respectively. In the side crash test, the Sonata was the only model that earned five stars, the report said.

The vehicle's braking system showed the best performance on both dry and wet roads, the MOCT said.

"The test is very meaningful in that we used locally developed technologies in the safety systems of the NF Sonata,"' a Hyundai official told the Korea Times. "NF Sonata and other Hyundai models are earning increasing recognition in worldwide markets. We can find the reason in the tests."

The newspaper noted that a customer satisfaction survey by JD Power and Associates in the United States showed 57.6% of Hyundai car buyers were satisfied with their purchase and intended to buy another in the future. The rate has been steadily rising over recent years, reflecting a growing number of US customers satisfied with improvement in the quality of the Korean cars.

Hyundai Motor said it sold a total of 1.55 million units overseas this year, up 30% from last year, the Korea Times added.