It used to be the Japanese who kept upping the ante in the mid-size car segment – now it’s the Koreans. To be specific, it’s Hyundai and the new 2011 Sonata, which has just aced the opposition in the high-stakes midsize market that still accounts for 20% of all new vehicles sold in North America.
In their publicity materials, carmakers often get carried away, but I think Hyundai has it right when it says, “Taken to a new level of style, luxury and refinement, the all-new Sonata will undoubtedly be the sedan against which others in its class will be measured.”
Our test car is Sonata GL. And, while at the low end of the Sonata lineup, it’s far from a “base” model. The GL can be ordered with either a six-speed stick or a six-speed automatic, which also adds heated front seats. No options are available on GL, but standard equipment includes air conditioning, power locks/windows/heated mirrors, tilt and telescopic steering, cruise control, anti-lock disc brakes with brake assist, six airbags and electronic stability control with traction control.
So you get a lot for your money. But to keep it under $25,000 a few corners had to be cut. For instance, there’s no keyless ignition (which Toyota even offers on the compact Corolla) and the driver’s seat lacks power adjustments.
If you can’t live without those things, there are better equipped GLS and Limited models. And moving up to get more equipment doesn’t cost a bundle – a loaded Sonata Limited with touchscreen navigation, leather, heated rear seats, push-button start and sunroof lists at just $30,999.
Unlike many of its competitors, the new Sonata does not have an optional V6. Across the lineup, power is provided by a peppy DOHC 2.4- litre inline four with direct fuel injection. The all-aluminum engine produces 198 hp, which Hyundai says is best in its class. And thanks to the best power-to-weight ratio among four-cylinder family sedans, the Sonata wins the 0-100 km/h sprint against its competition with a time just over 8.0 seconds.
Still, this is much more of a family sedan than a sports car, with Hyundai engineers – properly, I think – putting a premium on smoothness, predictable handling and a quiet cabin.
A turbocharged version as well as a hybrid will join the lineup later. With a shape that looks fresh out of a wind tunnel, this is the best looking Sonata ever, with none of the bland sameness that resulted from everyone in this segment copying the Camry and Accord.
Instead, the Sonata makes its own fashion statement (inspired perhaps by the Mercedes-Benz CLS – another four-door sedan with coupe-like styling). Outwards vision hasn’t been impeded by the design, nor has rear seat passenger room or trunk space, with a capacity of 462 litres.
The car’s quiet, comfortable ride is amazing considering its low price and the fit and finish – both inside and out – and the use of quality materials is impressive.
Controls are ergonomic and easy to use and there are so many places to stash stuff I may have missed one or two. The driver and front passenger have access to three storage trays, a large bin under the centre binnacle big enough for an SLR camera, a two-tier bin under the centre armrest, and the usual twin cupholders, glove box and door pockets with bottle holders.
The old Sonata was good, and offered great value for the money. But the new one is better, with the bonus of a stunning new shape Hyundai calls Fluidic Sculpture.
No doubt about it: with the 2011 Sonata Hyundai has dealt itself another winning hand.
Canada Auto Finance
Power Duct Cleaning