Hyundai redesigns its midsize sedan for 2011 with an eye on moving up market while maintaining its value positioning. The new Sonata is about three inches longer in wheelbase and one inch longer overall than the model it replaces. New for '11 are fresh styling, a revamped interior, more powerful engines and a hybrid model.
|2011 Hyundai Sonata SE|
Base Price: $22,595
At-Tested Price: $26,015
Built in Montgomery, Alabama.
Navigation and Sunroof Package
Engine: 2.4-liter I4
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic
Drive Wheels: Front-Wheel Drive
Sonata competes with midsize stalwarts like the Chevrolet Malibu, Dodge Avenger, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy, Toyota Camry and Volkswagen Passat. It comes only as a four-door sedan with front-wheel drive and continues to share some chassis and engine components with the Kia Optima. Sonata seats five on twin front buckets and a three-place rear bench seat.
The 2011 Sonata is available in four trim levels: GLS, SE, Limited and Hybrid. All but Hybrid come standard with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. GLS and Limited have 198 horsepower, and the SE has 200. Available on the SE and Limited is a 274-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Sonata models so equipped are badged 2.0T. The GLS is available with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. All other models come with a six-speed automatic.
Sonata Hybrid mates a 2.4-liter gasoline engine with an electric motor for a total of 206 horsepower. Like many other hybrid vehicles, Sonata Hybrid can run in electric mode at low speeds and a combination of gas and electric power at higher speeds or when additional acceleration is called for. There is no need for plug-in charging as the batteries are charged when decelerating and cruising.
Standard safety features on all models include antilock four-wheel disc brakes with brake assist, stability control, front-seat active head restraints, tire-pressure monitor, emergency inside trunk release, daytime running lights and dual-front, front-side and curtain-side airbags. A rear-view camera is available on the limited and hybrid. Blind-spot warning and front or rear park assist are not offered.
The GLS lists for $19,395 and includes air conditioning with interior air filter, tilt-telescope steering wheel with radio controls, cruise control, cloth upholstery, center console, split-folding rear seat, heated power mirrors, power windows, power door locks, keyless entry, AM/FM/CD/MP3 player with digital-media player connection and USB port, satellite radio, Bluetooth cell-phone connection, trip computer, illuminated visor mirrors, variable-intermittent wipers, rear defogger and 205/60R16 tires.
The $22,795 SE adds dual-zone automatic climate controls, leather-wrapped steering wheel, cloth/leather upholstery, eight-way power driver seat with lumbar adjustment, keyless access and starting, outside-temperature indicator, automatic headlights, theft-deterrent system, fog lights, sport suspension, 225/45R18 tires and alloy wheels.
The Limited starts at $25,495 and adds to the SE leather upholstery, heated front and rear seats, sunroof, mirror-mounted turn signals, Dimension AM/FM radio with in-dash 6-disc CD/MP3 changer, high-definition radio, automatic day/night rearview mirror, compass, and universal garage door opener. It rides on 215/55R17 tires and deletes the sport suspension.
The $25,795 Hybrid adds to GLS dual-zone automatic climate controls, leather-wrapped steering wheel, eight-way power driver seat with lumbar adjustment, trunk pass-through, mirror-mounted turn signals, keyless access and starting, automatic headlights, theft-deterrent system, 205/65R16 tires and alloy wheels.
The 2.0T engine adds $1550 to the price of the SE and $1750 to the price of the Limited. Options are limited to navigation system with real-time traffic information and floormats. The Sonata is manufactured in Montgomery, Alabama and has a destination charge of $750.
Get Up and Go Hyundai's decision to ditch the V6 and go with a turbo four is a harbinger of things to come. All automakers must drastically improve fuel economy over the next five years to meet new U.S. government standards. According to the rule, 2016 model year vehicles must get an average of 35.5 mpg. Thankfully, Hyundai has found a way for Sonata owners to have their cake and eat it too.
The base 2.4-four provides enough oomph for most tastes. It pushes the Sonata from 0-60 mph in a little over nine seconds. Highway passing power is adequate and the engine works well with the six-speed automatic to reduce shift shock and limit unnecessary gear changes when climbing hills.
Upping the ante is the turbo motor. Though sleepy off the line, it provides strong acceleration around town and on the highway. Hyundai quotes a 0-60 mph time of just 6.5 seconds, which is quite impressive for the class.
Fuel economy is a big plus. The base 2.4 is EPA rated at 22 mpg city and 35 mpg highway. Those numbers are near the top of the class. Turbo motors garner EPA ratings of 22/33, which might even be more impressive given the power boost. Hybrids boast ratings of 37 mpg city and 40 mpg highway. All Sonatas run fine on regular-grade gasoline.
Real-world economy is as impressive as the EPA numbers would suggest. The 2.4 is likely to return about 28 mpg in an even mix of light-duty suburban commuting. That number jumps to above 30 mpg if your commute is mostly highway driving. Turbo motor economy depends more on your driving style--stomp your foot to the floor every stoplight and you'll be happy to top 19 mpg, but give it a light throttle foot and 25 mpg is quite achievable.
On the Road Since its arrival on the scene in 1989, the Sonata has always favored ride comfort over handling ability. That continues to be true with the redesigned 2011 model, but to a lesser extent. GLS and Limited ride with serene comfort over most surfaces, but occasionally seem to overreact to potholes and expansion joints. The SE is more buttoned down and does a good job of limiting secondary body motions that can annoy in other models.
Regardless of model, Sonata holds the road with competent front-drive midsize manners. It's up to the task in everyday driving and the occasional freeway on ramp or twisty two lane jaunt. Still the steering is a little too slow and vague and there's too much body lean for most enthusiasts, even on the more-confident SE model. Two bright spots though are the responsive and easy-to-modulate brakes and tight turning circle.
Sonata is one of the quietest cars in the class. There is little wind and road noise (though the SE is slightly louder than other models) and the engines don't intrude in normal cruising. When pushed hard, both the 2.4 and turbo motor groan with a slightly unrefined growl.
Behind the Wheel Hyundai designers spent some serious time in midsize competitors because the Sonata's new interior seems to combine the best features of the class into one comely and attractive package. Materials are a cut above the class norm and the level of fit and finish belie this car's first-year status.
Driver's face a large and easy-to-decipher instrument panel. There's a large speedo and tachometer. The center stack places the radio up high in an easy-to-reach location. Climate controls are a bit unconventional, but are quickly mastered. Opting for the available navigation system means confusing some of the radio controls. Ancillary controls for the window, mirrors and locks are right where they belong on the driver-door armrest.
The driving position is class typical though feels slightly more reclined than a Toyota Camry or Ford Fusion. The front seats are quite comfortable and nicely padded. Head and leg room are generous and both seats move fore and aft quite a bit. Outward visibility is great, though the sloping rear pillars block the view to the side.
Rear-seat passengers are treated to exceptional leg room, even with the front seats pushed all the way back. Head room is adequate for those under six feet tall. The seat cushion is flat and lacks support for long-haul comfort, but the seat backs provide plenty of support. Large door openings make it easy to get in and out both front and back.
The trunk offers class competitive space, but the elbow-shaped hinges eat into cargo space. Gas models get folding rear seatbacks, Hybrids have only a pass through and lose an additional 5.7 cubic feet of storage space to the battery pack. Interior storage is excellent with lots of covered and open bins throughout. In addition there are two power outlets in the front seat, a nice touch for those looking to charge their cell phone and power another device.
Bottom Line The Sonata has always been a good value backed by a strong warranty. However, the 2011 redesign vaults it to the front of the class in terms of overall refinement and value for the money.
Sonata is not the sportiest car in the class--even the new SE model--but it more than makes up for that with plenty of room and comfort. It also offers all of the features a customer might be looking for at a fair price. If you're shopping for a midsize car, broaden your search from the usual suspects and give the new Sonata a test drive.
|Specifications 2011 Hyundai Sonata SE|
|Dimensions||4-door sedan||Engine||DOHC I4|
|Wheelbase, in.||110.0||Size, liters/cu. in.||2.4 / 144|
|Length, in.||189.8||Horsepower @ rpm||200 @ 6300|
|Width, in.||72.2||Torque (lb.-ft.) @ rpm||186 @ 4250|
|Height, in.||57.9||Transmission||6-Speed Automatic|
|Weight, lbs.||3199||EPA Estimates, mpg||22 city / 35 highway|
|Cargo Capacity, cu. ft.||16.4|| |
|Fuel Capacity, gals.||18.5||Manufacturer's Warranty|
|Seating Capacity||5||Bumper-to-Bumper||5 years / 60,000 miles|
|Front Head Room, in.||40.0||Powertrain||10 years / 100,000 miles|
|Front Leg Room, in.||45.5||Corrosion||7 years / Unlimited miles|
|Second- Row Head Room, in.||37.8||Free Roadside Assistance||5 years / Unlimited miles|
|Second-Row Leg Room, in.||34.6||Free Scheduled Maintenance||None|