In the hyper-competitive mid-size family sedan market, simply coasting between major model changes is a sure way to get left behind, so Hyundai has given its Sonata a comprehensive mid-cycle makeover for 2009, the better to face up to pumped-up rivals like the all-new 2008 Honda Accord and the upstart Chevy Malibu.
Keen Hyundai observers might notice the subtle exterior modifications (Well okay, maybe not), but there are more substantive changes. Both the four-cylinder and V-6 engines make more power, and do so while yielding better gas mileage. The 2.4-liter four gains 13 hp (now 175 hp) and achieves 22/32 mpg. The 3.3-liter V-6 adds 15 hp (for a total of 249 hp) and returns 19/29 mpg. These figures are at or near the front of the pack.
In a welcome change, Hyundai has also quickened the Sonata's steering and firmed up its standard suspension (on the GLS and Limited models) while treating the SE to an even stiffer set-up. The interior sees some changes in color and design, and adds two modern-day essentials: an available navigation system and iPod/USB input jacks for the audio system.