2011 Hyundai Sonata

July 7, 2010

The Scoop

The mid-sized sedan market features a pretty homogonous batch of cars. The sales stars in this class include the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion and Chevy Malibu. I predict that the introduction of the stunning all-new 2011 Hyundai Sonata will make many buyers sit up and pay attention. Trust me, the other carmakers are paying very close attention too! Hyundai is doing so much right these days and they are being rewarded with very brisk sales. In fact, for the first time ever Hyundai outsold Honda in Canada. It looks like most Canadians have moved past Hyundai's reputation of the 1980s and have come to realize that this Korean car company offers vehicles equal or better than the main competition and now they are doing it with a sense of style and pizzazz.

The Skin

Anyone looking at this car will notice is how great it looks. My test unit is the top line Limited version but even on the base models the same flowing lines keep the eye engaged. The designers have developed a flowing shape that certainly looks similar to the VW Passat CC and even the Lexus ES. Good company. With a starting price under $23,000 and toping out under $31,000, this car will attract even more attention. The Sonata is longer and wider than the outgoing model but since the wheelbase has been lengthened, this allowed the designers to give more slope to the front and rear window and lower the roof for a more dramatic effect. The base wheel is 16-inches and the Limited gets 17-inch alloys. Hyundai claims this car is the biggest in its class for all passengers and trunk space but keep in mind that some of the cars this Sonata competes against have moved into the full-sized class, like the Honda Accord.

The Cockpit

The radio interface and navigation buttons look just like Infiniti controls. Below those are the heating controls, which look right out of a Volvo. Some might say that copying Infiniti and Volvo is not original but I'm all for emulating good design. The rest of the dash is skillfully designed with the closest attention to detail and materials. The base model, with manual transmission, is rather basic but the same model with automatic features more features like standard heated seats. The steering wheel telescopes and features radio controls on all models. Some car companies charge more for convenience features but Hyundai includes an USB/iPod connector and Bluetooth as standard equipment. Smart. I'm impressed with the overall look of the interior-- It looks so much like a luxury car, especially the Limited version, plus this model features navigation and a back up camera all for under $31,000.

The Ride

Not only do you get a lot of content in this car you also get some leading edge technology. For example the new 2.4L 4-cylinder has class leading power thanks to direct injection technology that helps pump out 198hp. There is a 6-speed manual but that is only offered on the base model and that car does not have heated seats. There is one problem with the 6-speed automatic. It does a great job and the driver can shift it manually for more control but there is no in-between. I'd like to see a sport mode to make the automatic livelier all on it's own. The steering feel is firm, which makes this car feel sportier and well made but some might not like the additional effort to steer. Hyundai also made the ride rather firm. They can firm up the suspension and keep the ride pleasant because of the longer wheelbase on this new 2011. For buyers who want a smooth car like the Camry or Malibu might not like the firm ride but Honda Accord or Nissan Altima drivers will feel more at home. The 4-cylinder engine is very versatile; it pulls with ease and on the highway it passes like a V6. There is engine noise when the engine is cold but this settles down quickly.

Verdict

For buyers who are interested in a Sonata but prefer a smooth and quiet V6 you are out of luck. Later this year Hyundai will offer a turbo 4-cylinder which will appeal to power hungry buyers and a hybrid is also in the works but no V6. Keep in mind the Turbo 4-cylinder VW Passat has 200hp and this Sonata has 198hp with no turbo. To be honest the 4-cylinder is very good and will fulfill the average drivers needs to a tee. How much power do we need? As I mentioned the Sonata will get noticed, not only for its good looks but a first-rate interior, value and overall appeal. The name Hyundai used to have baggage but more and more buyers have moved past that. Hyundai is right in the thick of the battle for Canadian shoppers and I'd bet that this time next year they will have continued there march farther up the sales ranks.

The Good, The Bad

Good:

Fuel consumption is rated at just 9.4L/100km in the city and only 5.7 on the highway. That's 30mpg city and almost 50mpg on the highway.

Bad:

The ride and steering might be too sporty for some buyers.

The Lowdown

Power: 198hp 2.4L 4-cylinder

Fill-up: 9.4L/5.7L/100km (city/highway)

Backup: 5-year/100,000km

Sticker price: $22,649-$30,999

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