Review: The all-new Sonata
Feature Article- Fri., Feb. 4, 2011
You’ve heard people say the following for years: “All today’s new cars look alike!” There’s certainly a grain of truth in this complaint, but there are also valid reasons why this is so. One is the fact that the wind tunnel demands a certain shape for the best aerodynamic efficiency, which helps reduce both fuel consumption and aids in crosswind and high-speed stability. Another reason is that one manufacturer sees an attractive design from a competitor (or even a car from another class altogether), and decides to do their own interpretation of it. I mention this because this week’s auto is, in my opinion, a really handsome design, and it resembles another attractive sedan that has been out for a few years.
The car we’re driving is the all-new Hyundai Sonata, and its fastback styling reminds me of the wonderfully evocative Mercedes-Benz CLS. I have no idea if this was intentional or not, but I do think Hyundai has produced a beautiful sedan that looks like a midsize, but, according to the EPA, it has enough interior room to be considered a large car.
The new front-drive Sonata comes with a 2.4-liter Inline Four with 198 horsepower, and while a V6 option would be nice, this is a very good (and economical) engine. You get six speeds in your transmission; either a manual or Shiftronic automatic, depending on model. We sampled the Limited trim level with the automatic, and the first things we noticed from this drivetrain was a wonderfully quiet, smooth idle and brisk acceleration. The Four does get a tad noisy under full throttle, but in concert with the very refined automatic, is a really smart choice for this car, as we got 29 MPG in a week of mixed driving (including some driving in the endless arctic landscape we’re getting so much of). Brakes are excellent, and the Sonata has a full compliment of the latest in air bag and Stability Control technology. Steering is a bit on the light side, but overall handling is quite sound and the ride quality is a satisfying mix of good bump compliance and control over rough pavement. The Sonata matches well with anything in the midsize/large class, in terms of suppression of road noise, and is a very comfortable long-haul companion.
Even though the Sonata’s stylish coupe-style roofline would imply cramped accommodations, such is not the case. The front buckets are both supportive and very comfortable, and the instrumentation and controls are clear, attractive and logical. The rear seat offers up great room and lumbar support, with a nearly flat floor and an excellent fold-down armrest. The seatbacks fold forward in 60/40 increments to increase the trunk’s already generous 16.4-cubic-foot capacity.
With excellent materials and workmanship throughout the car, the Sonata has a feeling of quality to accompany all its other impressive attributes. The 2011 Hyundai Sonata Limited is EPA rated 22 MPG city/35 highway and has a base price of $25,295. With options including the Limited Navigation package, our MSRP came to $28,250. hyundaiusa.com