Tuesday, July 8, 2008

New Sonata is Good, But Not Great


Considering how much I enjoyed the Hyundai Santa Fe and Veracruz models, I was fairly excited to get the chance to evaluate the revised 2009 Sonata. Additionally, given the current cost of gasoline and our marginal economy, brands like Kia, Suzuki, and Hyundai, that offer less expensive alternatives, are becoming increasingly marketable. However, if you aren’t familiar with the Hyundai Sonata, don’t feel bad. This mid-size sedan has been around for quite some time, but was most recently redesigned in 2006. Aimed at would-be Accord or Camry buyers, Hyundai’s Sonata claims to offer many of the features of its more expensive competition, but at a lower price.


While my tester came in the Limited trim, it still featured the lesser of the two engines, a 2.4-liter DOHC inline four banger. To be blunt, this engine is not only rough and loud, but it is also underpowered. However, I’m not picking on the Hyundai. Compared to other four-cylinders in its class, its power is better than many, and it gets better gas mileage as well. So comparatively speaking, the Sonata really is pretty good in this respect. I just don’t think I could spend my time with under 200 horsepower. I know, I know, it’s this line of thinking that is responsible for $4-per-gallon gas. What can I say, I’ll be dead and buried when we finally run out of oil.


So, I wasn’t picking on the Sonata before, but now I am. Having spent time in virtually every major competitor to the Sonata, its cornering ability and ride puts it near the bottom of the heap. Not only is its steering rather numb and vague, but when turning into a corner or making an evasive maneuver, there is abundant body roll. This is especially apparent in transition between corners, where body roll is so dramatic that it makes it difficult to keep the Sonata going in the right direction.


In terms of fit and finish and available options, the Sonata measures up well against its competition. Since my tester came in the Limited trim, it featured many upscale features like leather, sunroof, iPod/ MP3 input, chrome trimmed body moldings and door handles, and dual climate control. When you consider my tester’s sub-twenty five grand sticker, such content is even more impressive.


While Hyundai’s Sonata has some redeeming qualities, it isn’t the superb alternative to mainstream choices that the Santa Fe and Veracruz are.

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