The Sonata is only available with the 2.4 liter direct-injected four cylinder. That’s right, Hyundai does not offer a V6 option but the standard four cylinder engine gets the job done by putting out 200 HP and 186 lb-ft of torque. There is a hint of injector noise from the high pressure direct injectors, but the engine is surprisingly refined. Of course there is no mistaking the hum of a four cylinder under acceleration. Hyundai specifically designed the 6-speed transmission to work with this four cylinder engine and the gear ratios are very well matched to the power curve of the engine. The upshifts and downshifts are performed in an almost seamless manner providing great power delivery. This is pretty good for a mid-sized family sedan and even better for one with just four cylinders. The Sonata has paddle shifters mounted on the sides of the steering wheel to command manual upshifts and downshifts. The paddle shifters are quite convenient for quick downshifts to scrub off some speed when passing by Officer Friendly, but other than that you won’t be using it that much with this particular powerplant.
Mid-sized family sedans are generally not high performing vehicles, after all you can’t do everything well, especially when you’re trying to optimize for interior space and fuel efficiency. Fully unladen, the Sonata feels very light on its toes, with good steering feedback without the numbness often found on cars with electric power steering. The system was well calibrated and had a slightly sporty feel. On center feel and turn in accuracy is quite good. Like all front wheel drive cars, the Sonata is set up for understeer but overall handling around large sweeping curves remains quite good. The SE’s firmer springs and more aggressive tires maintain a sporty, yet comfortable ride without being too firm. Bumps and road imperfections are well handled by the suspension tuning. The high strength steel structure does an excellent job at ensuring that the suspension does the work and keeping avoiding body flex. The brakes and tires provide excellent stopping, with a solid feeling pedal. The Sonata has standard electronic brake force distribution to automatically apply maximum braking force in panic situations. Overall, the engineers at Hyundai have done an impressive job with the chassis and suspension tuning.
The price tag starts at $19,125 for the GLS trim and tops out at $28,540 for a fully loaded Sonata Limited. The SE sits in the middle at $22,595. When you start looking at the window sticker, you will see that almost everything is standard, especially when compared to the competition. A plethora of safety features including electronic stability control and a 10 year/100,000 mile warranty heavily stack the odds in the Sonata’s favor. The notable exception is the lack of an optional V6 engine. If one were to factor that in to this equation, the Sonata SE is still a terrific value. It is only as you approach the Limited where the lack of a V6 begins to diminish the value component of the Sonata.
However, the distinct advantage of the four cylinder direct inject engine is the excellent 22 MPG city 35 MPG highway fuel economy.
|2011 Hyundai Sonata SE||2.4 L 198 hp I4||6 speed auto||23/35||$22,595|
|2010 Honda Accord EX||2.4L 177 hp I4||5 speed auto||21/31||$24,630|
|2010 Toyota Camry SE||2.4L 179 hp I4||6 speed auto||22/32||$23,365|
|2010 Nissan Altima S||2.5L 175 hp I4||CVT||23/32||$23,440|
|2010 Chevy Malibu LT||2.4L 169 hp I4||6 speed auto||22/33||$22,715|
|2010 Ford Fusion SE||2.5 L 175 hp I4||6 speed auto||22.31||$22,100|
Who should buy it?
In the intensely competitive mid-sized sedan market, anyone looking to buy should be seriously looking at the Hyundai Sonata. This space has been traditionally dominated by the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, but the Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, Chevy Malibu, and Mazda 6 are all strong contenders. Value and quality is table stakes these days and the Sonata appears to perform above average in these areas. Fuel economy and interior space considerations move the Sonata to the top of the list. Fully optioned out, the Sonata approaches a luxury sedan for thousands less although it will always have only four cylinders. In this age of rising fuel costs, more manufacturers will be relying four cylinder engines powering their mid-size sedans.
The new Sonata certainly makes a statement, both stylistically and functionally. When it comes to styling, some may prefer a more conservative approach. It is clearly not boring, but this is a mass market family sedan and the Sonata may have a little too much flavor. However, it is hard to argue whether Hyundai has delivered on value or quality; the Sonata is at the head of the pack.
|MORE EXPERT REVIEWS|
|First Impressions: 2011 Hyundai Sonata
By Alex Kramer
“With the new Sonata, Hyundai has not just a contender in the competitive mid-size sedan market, but perhaps the kind of game changer that will forever change the way we view the brand.”
|Hyundai Motors America: Cars, Coupes, Sedans, CUVs, Touring – www.hyundaiusa.com|
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