2011 Hyundai Sonata Review – That's when I fell for the Leader of the Pack

Expert Reviews Hyundai

2011 Hyundai Sonata - 18 inch hyper-silver aluminum alloy wheels


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.

2011 Hyundai Sonata


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.

Class Competitors
EPA Mileage
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.

2011 Hyundai Sonata


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.

RATING 4.8 4.5 4.2 4.2 4.0 4.8 4.6/A-
2011 Hyundai Sonata First Impressions: 2011 Hyundai Sonata
Rating: 0.0 stars
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.”

2011 Hyundai Sonata Photo Gallery

2011 Hyundai Sonata

2011 Hyundai Sonata Specs

Hyundai MotorsHyundai Motors America: Cars, Coupes, Sedans, CUVs, Touring – www.hyundaiusa.com

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  • Derek says:

    Environmentally conscious Hyundai lovers should be happy with the MSRP of the Sonata Hybrid. Pricing for the Hybrid starts at under $26,000. This makes it competitive within its peer group ($2500 cheaper than the Ford Fusion Hybrid and cheaper than the Camry Hybrid that has fewer standard features).

  • Derek says:

    Biased in what way? Everyone has their personal preferences, but is that significantly skewing his review?

    BTW, the photos were take by me. Broken down buildings in the background are meant to juxtapose with the subject which is shiny and new. Plus, the lighting was better since it out of the direct sunlight.

  • hy says:

    The reviewer seems a bit bised. Not only in writting but he takes pictures in front of broken buildings. Is the place appropriate for showing a new car for a review?

  • derek says:

    You might like this economic price/power comparison since the Sonata will be offered with a 274 hp 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine.

    Hyundai Sonata $/HP is 16.55. The closest competitors are the VW CC and Buick LaCrosse at 16.13 and 16.48 respectively. The worst of the bunch are the Chevy Impala and BMW 5-series.


  • KB says:

    Researched many cars and then drove just as many if not more cars. High end, low end, coupes, convertibles, sedans and you name it. Been an Audi kind of person for many years. needed a change … Green? Performance? Luxury? Efficient? Hybrid?…

    Well just picked up a 2011 Hyundai Sonata SE. Lets just say in the short term assessment of the first week the Sonata has added up to the hype so far.

    From its aerodynamic looks, its ergonomics and comfort, it fuel efficiency and performance to its cost. The vehicle is quite impressive! Not an Audi of course but what one gets is quite the nice all around complete vehicle package.

    My profession is that of a test pilot and with that lets just say I have for the many years grown to appreciate the details and quality associated to well designed and engineered products. So I hope this tangent to test out Korean engineering will bring me the kind of satisfaction I have had for many years with the German engineered product lines.

    Hyundai, again so far impressive!

  • stephen says:

    Hyundai sonata is good car. in really I’ve driven it it is very amazing.

  • Derek says:

    @Francios – Hyundai is adding turbocharged and hybrid versions. The turbocharged 4-cylinder option will cover those who seek V6 power, but not the lower fuel economy.

    Hyundai said the turbocharged, direct-injection engine will deliver 274 horsepower and achieve city/highway fuel economy of 22/33 miles per gallon. Pricing starts at $24,145, but that does not include a $720 destination charge.

  • Derek says:

    Recall Alert: Hyundai Recalls Nearly 140,000 Sonatas for Steering Problem

    Hyundai announced that it is recalling nearly 140,000 2011 model year Sonata sedans due to a potential steering issue. According to the NHTSA, Hyundai will recall 139,500 Sonatas built between December 11, 2009 through September 10, 2010. The problem? An improperly assembled or insufficiently tightened component on the steering column. If the component gives way, the driver of a Sonata could loose steering control either partially or entirely, which could obviously result in a crash.

  • jonny says:

    Just bought a 2011 Sonata today. Take note Honda. I have been a loyal to the Honda marque for nearly 20 years. I replaced two transmissions in my Odyssey prior to the one I have now. I bought my first auto Accord a V6 EX in 2004 and cared for it beyond the recommended intervals but last night my trans went at 137K. I asked the dealer if I could get a concession from the rep and he said doubtful. So, I paid him for the diagnostic work and traded the undriveable Honda for a new Hyundai.

    Honda: You make a great engine and suspension. But if you’re going to make auto transmissions that cost a fortune to replace and don’t last, you’d better go back to making cars where the clutch is cheaper to replace or I’m not buying them anymore.

    So far I like the Hyundai just fine. The 4 cyl has more guts than the Accord and it shifts more smoothly. Honda again: direct injection. Get some!

  • stephanielarry says:

    But the latest generation of products from Hyundai is home design in California and built in BAMA.

  • fcebedo says:

    >> Funny how the author of this piece, strugling to find something negative to say, puts under Pro’s…”Gutsy 4 cyl with V6 power” then under con’s…puts down, “missing a V6 option”

    Very astute comment. However, I there is a point to be made here in that a lot of buyers will eliminate this car from consideration because it doesn’t have that item in the checklist…”must have V6″

  • Bartman says:

    We went out to look for fuel economy and styling and looked at Ford Fusion, Chevy Malibu, Camry and even peeked at the Malibu. On a mission to look at everything “out there” we stopped at the Hyundai dealer in north Edmonton. We were looking at the Tuscon when my wife looked over the Sonata and went over for a closer look.

    The test drive, the top to bottom – front to read examination I did and what a car I found. We honed in on the Limited model with navigation and at the end of the day today, we are now owners of the Sonata. For the money, the fuel economy, fit and finish, features and options, ride, quietness on the highway and the outstanding styling forced us to buy it. This is quite possibly the nicest car in the lower level luxury class and with the styling I think it jumps right up there with the best “higher end” nameplates in the market.

    I told the salesman and a number of others in the showroom that 10 years ago I would never have set foot on their lot, let alone buy a Hyundai, but here I am, now a proud owner of one. We traded our Chrysler Aspen on it and I don’t feel we took a step down in the luxury department in doing so. I loved the Aspen but it was time to say goodbye to the fuel mileage it offered but I will miss the Hemi.

    The Sonata should be giving the executives at Toyota, GM, Mazda, Ford and even Lexus nightmares because I think this will launch Hyundai into the very big leagues. If you see a someone driving around central Alberta with a smile across his face in a silver Sonata Limited that will be me. If my wife let’s me drive it (it is her car after all).

    The styling was the reviewers lowest rating? This is a showstopper in my opinion and mine is the one that counts. I paid for my vote.

  • Art Newell says:

    90% of the Gearhead reviewers are having fits trying to get over the new 4 cyl power options of the Hyundai…this company is miles ahead on this point…in a few years all cars will have to reach the mpg’s that Hyundai has already done with the 2011 Sonata…and that will mean the end of all the bigger, heavier, gas guzzling engines.
    Funny how the author of this piece, strugling to find something negative to say, puts under Pro’s…”Gutsy 4 cyl with V6 power” then under con’s…puts down, “missing a V6 option”

    The new 2 liter Turbo at 34 mpg higway, is just around the corner for the Sonata, I hope that 275 HP in a 3200 pound family sedan will stop the whining.

    And “stying has a bit too much going on” …Hah! not for the record amount of people who are actually putting down the cash and driving away with big grins!

  • fcebedo says:

    I just looked up the Equus. That is a silly looking car. It’s almost as bad as the car name.

    Anyway, back on topic. Sonata, rules!

  • Derek says:

    Hyundai was doing so well until they starting selling the Equus in the US. Old design, weak ergonomics, and sub-par materials make the Equus a loser in the luxury car market that the Equus is supposed to squeeze into. Hyundai should have waited until the redesign was ready to be released before attempting to force-fit themselves into that particular car segment.

    Giving away an iPad is not going to help sell the Equus once prospective buyers step into the car and see first-hand what is before them.

  • francois says:

    I just noticed the reviewer gave the car a 4.0 for the styling and it’s dragging the average down. I straight up believe that this is a 5.0 styling. It is truly groundbreaking and it looks good from any angle. It trumps any Lexus, Infiniti, Bmw around. The sheetmetal work is truly impressive!

  • francois says:

    If I can buy stock in Hyundai Motors, let me know now since I want to invest a bunch of money in them.

    Hyundai is absolutely killing it right now with their line-up of cars. In 10 years, the went from ridiculous, to trying too hard with ugly cars and now they are a category leader in many areas.

    This Sonata is just unbelievable. The exterior design is just miles ahead of everyone!! Interior is beautiful. It drives awesome and it delivers incredible value. And with the presence of the high end Genesis cars, the brand has been uplifted so no one but the truly prejuciced should be embarassed about driving a Hyundai.


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