Hyundai Sonata Overview
The Hyundai Sonata is a comfortable and likable midsize sedan that proves Hyundai can build cars that are not just easy on the pocketbook, but easy to live with as well. Like most vehicles in the midsize sedan class, the Sonata offers front-wheel drive, numerous safety features and a choice of trim levels that include sporty and plush variants. Setting the Sonata apart, however, is Hyundai's lower pricing and outstanding warranty coverage. For the most part, the Sonata has kept getting better. The all-new model, in particular, is a fully competitive choice for a family sedan. In addition to the strong value proposition, it adds a few things previously not seen in this conservative nameplate -- namely, daring styling and sporty driving dynamics.
Redesigned for 2011, the Hyundai Sonata is now classified as a full-size family sedan by the EPA, though it still competes in the midsize segment. The Sonata is available in GLS, SE and Limited trim levels. Even the base car comes well equipped, while the SE features sporty suspension tuning and the Limited pampers its passengers with Hyundai Sonata Accessories such as heated front and rear seats. There are also a couple of option packages that allow one to add a navigation system, a sunroof and an upgraded audio system. The standard engine on every Sonata trim level is a 2.4-liter direct-injected inline four-cylinder good for 198 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the GLS, while the other trims get a six-speed automatic as standard (it's optional on the GLS).
In reviews we've found that the Sonata provides spirited acceleration as well as responsive handling and a slightly firm but still comfortable ride. Fuel mileage is impressive as well, with 30 mpg being a realistic number for conservative drivers in mixed conditions. Our only dynamic gripe concerns the electric power steering, which feels too light and artificial at slower speeds, though it does weight up nicely when the car is put through its paces on a winding road. Whether serving family car or commuter car duty, the Hyundai Sonata is a nice place to be thanks to its spacious cabin, comfortable seating, solid build quality and quiet highway ride. Overall, we're quite impressed, and we think family sedan shoppers should take a close look at the latest Sonata.
The previous, fourth-generation Hyundai Sonata was produced from 2006-'10 and is really the only version worth considering as a used Sonata. Initially, three trim levels were offered: GL, GLS and LX. The sophomore year saw a shuffling of the trim levels to the current format. Most notably, the sporty SE version debuted, wearing 17-inch alloy wheels and foglights. Originally, the 2.4-liter four-cylinder produced 162 hp and was standard on the GL and GLS trims. A five-speed manual was standard (GL only for 2006) and a four-speed automatic was optional with this engine. Optional on the GLS and standard on the LX, SE and Limited was a 235-hp version of the 3.3-liter V6, matched to a five-speed automatic transmission. For 2008, the four-cylinder became standard on all trim levels and the V6 became optional.
The biggest changes occurred in 2009 when engine outputs were increased (to 175 hp for the inline-4 and to 249 hp for the V6) and the interior was spiffed up with a new dash and higher-quality materials. There were also two notable additions to the features lists -- a standard auxiliary audio jack and an optional touchscreen navigation system. Prior to that, the cabin had respectable build and materials quality along with a precise feel to the controls. But it wasn't nearly as top-notch and had odd placement of the audio and climate controls -- the former was placed too high and the latter too low. Beyond that, the spacious cabin remained unchanged, and although the exterior had a few nips here and tucks there, you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference between Sonatas of this generation.
At the time, we found that the fourth-generation Hyundai Sonata prioritized ride comfort over precise handling. It smothered bumps well and delivered a luscious highway ride, but with its significant body roll and vague steering, it wasn't particularly fun to drive. Power from the efficient four-cylinder engine was competitive, and although the V6 wasn't quite as potent as those in rival sedans, it still got the job done while returning good fuel economy. Inside, soft, high-quality plastics were plentiful, and the overall design was eye-pleasing. Pre-2006 Sonatas remain a risky used-car proposition even though depreciation means they can be found at a bargain-basement price.