With an eye to high gasoline prices, Hyundai
is making its fuel-thrifty four-cylinder engine available for all its 2008 mid-size Sonata
models and continues to offer Sonata
s with a high level of comfort, convenience and safety features. There's also greater availability of a potent V-6.
There are three trim levels for the front-drive Sonata
, which is by far Hyundai
's top-selling car in America: the entry GLS, sportier SE and top-line Limited.
Base list prices with the four-cylinder are $17,670 for the GLS, $19,570 for the SE and $22,470 for the Limited, which has upscale items including leather upholstery and heated front seats.
GLS V-6 is priced several thousand dollars less than a Toyota Camry or Honda Accord with a V-6. The GLS V-6 costs $21,120, while an SE V-6 is $22,220 and a Limited V-6 lists at $24,170.
However, the Sonata
isn't as refined as a Camry or Accord and can't match their resales values, although it has one of the industry's longest powertrain warranties, at 10 years or 100,000 miles.
New for 2008 are XM satellite radio standard for all Sonata
s, eight-way power driver's seat for the SE, along with a new SE spoiler and performance tires, advanced audio system for the Limited and new premium seat cloth fabric in the GLS and SE.
s are handsome, although their mainstream styling isn't particularly distinctive. They offer a good combination of roominess, comfort and performance features at compelling prices.
So what do you get for your hard-earned money? Well, even the entry GLS has standard air conditioning, cruise control, tilt-adjustable steering column, AM/FM/XM satellite radio/CD/MP3 audio system, split fold-down rear seatbacks and power windows, heated mirrors and door locks with keyless entry.
The SE adds such items as 17-inch (up from 16-inch) wheels with wider 55-series performance tires, power driver's seat, steering wheel audio controls and that new spoiler.
Besides leather and heated seats, the Limited adds new exterior aluminum bodyside moldings and chrome-accented exterior door handles. Inside are automatic climate control, an AM/FM/XM/CD six-speaker audio system and a sliding center armrest. This model is so well-equipped that its only option is a power tilt-and-slide sunroof.
There are just a few option packages, which allow lower-line Sonata
models to have some features found on the higher-line trim levels, such as a driver's power seat and sunroof. I'm no big fan of fairly large white cars, but the $200 White Pearl paint looks tempting. My test Sonata
had Steel Gray paint, which was OK but didn't help make it stand out. Sonata
s shine in the safety feature area -- with six air bags, electronic stability control and traction control. There also are anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake force distribution to allow surer emergency stops.
The 2.4-liter, 162-horsepower four-cylinder previously was offered only for the entry GLS but now can be had in the SE and Limited. The 3.3-liter, 234-horsepower V-6 formerly available just for the SE and Limited now can be put in the GLS. Sonata
s come with a five-speed manual gearbox or responsive four- or five-speed automatic transmissions with a manual-shift feature.
The sophisticated dual-overhead-camshaft four-cylinder has continuously variable valve timing for improved response and provides decent acceleration. It provides an estimated 21 mpg in the city and 31 on highways with a five-speed manual transmission and 21 and 30 with a four-speed automatic.
The 3.3-liter, 234-horsepower V-6, which has considerably more torque than the four-cylinder, also has continuously variable valve timing and delivers 19 city and 28 highway with its five-speed automatic.
is certainly roomy for four to five tall adults, although the front seats don't offer much side support. Nicely sized door handles help make it easy to get in or out.
Rather dark gauges aren't easy to read quickly during the day in the quiet interior, but the large radio and climate controls are easily used. Visibility is good in all directions from the driver's seat, thanks partly to thin roof pillars. Front doors have decent-sized storage pockets.
Steering is quick and precise, although it provides better road feel at expressway or highway speeds. That's partly because it has an "engine-rpm-sensing" feature.
An all-independent suspension and fairly long 107.4-inch wheelbase help provide a smooth ride in this 3,253-3,458-pound car. But no Sonata
comes close to being a sports sedan. It's a family car, meant to be driven fairly moderately. For instance, while stable, it has too much body lean when curves are taken briskly.
Some might feel the brake pedal has an overly light feel, but stopping distances are consistently decent during normal stops. The large trunk has a low, wide opening and a lid that raises smoothly on struts. The lid's interior lining prevents it from having an unfinished look, and the inside of it has an indented area to make it easier to close.
Rear seatbacks can be flipped forward for more cargo space. They sit flat, but the opening from the trunk to the back seat area is only moderately large. The hood's strut lets it swing up easily, and it's refreshing to see that the engine has no big, unsightly plastic covering, which is found in too many cars.
offers a good blend of comfort, roominess and performance. It doesn't have much sex appeal, but that's not what most mid-size sedan buyers are looking for, anyway. 2008 HYUNDAI SONATA PRICE:
Roomy. Economical. Many convenience and safety items. Strong engines. More four-cylinder and V-6 availability. DISLIKES
: Mainstream styling. Little driving flair. Average front seats. Moderately sized trunk pass-through opening.