|2011 Hyundai Sonata
|2011 Hyundai Sonata SE Auto Specs
By Alex Kramer
- Eager 198 hp 4-cylinder engine
- Surprisingly agile chassis
- Eye catching exterior
- Excellent value
- Could use a bit more power
- Design borrows a bit much
Midsize sedans have long been a bread and butter product for car manufacturers, not to mention a great way to gain brand loyalty with customers, as well as earn recognition from the critics. It’s no surprise, then, to see Hyundai go all out with its recent redesign of the Sonata. As one of the few automotive success stories of these tough economic times, Hyundai is on the verge of shedding its value-oriented, second-tier status and becoming one of the world’s top-tier automotive brands. With any luck, the new Sonata will do for Hyundai what the Accord and Camry have done for Honda and Toyota.
Luckily for cash strapped Americans, the new Sonata is still very competitive when it comes to price. With MSRP ranging from $19k to $25k, this is a lot of car for the money, whether in base GLS or decked out Limited trim. The mid-level SE trim is perhaps the most attractive package, with standard power seats and sporty 18” rims and low profile tires. All models come with the usual safety features, including traction and stability control, and front and side airbags.
In a somewhat risky move, Hyundai has decided to join the recent trend towards increased fuel efficiency through smaller engines and won’t be offering the Sonata with a V6. Instead, buyers will initially be limited to a direct injection 2.4L four-cylinder engine, with a turbo model coming out later in the year for those seeking more power. Fortunately, the standard engine is quite the overachiever, producing an impressive 198 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque while also earning best in class fuel efficiency. Mated to either a 5-speed manual (only available in base GLS trim) or a smooth shifting 6-speed automatic transmission (standard on SE and Limited models), this drivetrain combination is more than adequate for everyday driving and even gives the Sonata a small dose of sportiness.
Although the new Sonata looks very good on paper, that doesn’t necessarily answer the most important question: how does she drive? Unfortunately we didn’t get to drive the car for very long; apparently Hyundai is so eager to get this new model out in front of the public that test cars are hard to come by (although we will have an extended review later this summer). Still, based on our limited seat time we can honestly say that, from a driver’s perspective, this might be the new mid-size car to beat. Road manners are outstanding, with a poised chassis and surprisingly communicative steering. For those who think buying a cheaper mid-sized sedan means having to settle for excess body roll and numb steering, driving the Sonata will be quite a surprise. Only when pushed really hard does the suspension become a bit unglued, at which point the all-season tires begin to howl in protest and you have to remind yourself that this is no M3.
Almost as surprising as the way the Sonata drives is the way she looks. This is no mere makeover; line-up the new Sonata next to the previous generation and you can barely see a resemblance. The new exterior design features what Hyundai calls its Fluidic Sculpture cohesive design language, which we’ll just interpret as swoopy and snappy. Although perhaps a bit too derivative of other designs, with a big dose of Mercedes CLS on the sides, a hint of Mazda 6 in the back, and a nod to recent Ford and Toyota designs with the prominent chrome grill, the overall look is still quite striking and makes for an attractive car.
We honestly can’t wait to spend more quality time with the new Sonata, both to adequately test interior comfort and functionality, and to verify that the car’s on road performance is as good as we think it is. To imagine that for well under 23 grand you can now get a stylish, well appointed sedan that has almost 200 hp and still gets 35 mpg on the freeway. With the new Sonata, Hyundai has a contender in the competitive mid-size sedan market, and perhaps the kind of game changer that will forever change the way we view the brand.
|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|
|Hyundai Motors America: Cars, Coupes, Sedans, CUVs, Touring – www.hyundaiusa.com|