First Look: 2011 Hyundai Sonata

Hyundai's upward climb will be bolstered by the addition of the 2011 Sonata to showrooms this January. Riding on the success of the Genesis sedan and coupe, the Sonata finally gives Hyundai a very competitive entry into the hugely important midsize sedan segment -- and it doesn't hurt that this time, the Sonata looks great.

A Sonata worth staring at sounded like a huge stretch for Hyundai, until images of the Korean-spec Sonata trickled out a few months ago. Some people even doubted the car was a Hyundai. On the outside, the new Sonata almost looks like a Volkswagen CC from some angles. Indeed, the Sonata is the latest car that can be described as a four-door coupe and the transformation is certainly breathtaking.

Hyundai's new Fluidic Sculpture design language debuts on the Sonata and will quickly migrate to other Hyundai models as part of the brand's ambitious plan to unveil seven new models in the next 24 months. Stronger lines and more dramatic shapes are part of the Fluidic Sculpture design language, which is supposed to simulate motion even when the car is standing still. Hyundai hasn't sacrificed much space in the pursuit of good design, though passengers taller than six-feet will not be completely comfortable in the back seat.

Though the sheetmetal will surely attract many more potential buyers, the Sonata is truly impressive underneath its skin. All Sonatas will be powered by four-cylinder engines to help Hyundai meet its goal of being the most fuel efficient automaker. Initially, the 2011 Hyundai Sonata will only be available with a 2.4-liter engine that produces 198 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. The Theta II engine utilizes direct injection along with advance valve timing and intake geometry to provide better power and efficiency. Later in 2010, Hyundai will unveil 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and advanced hybrid models.

The engine is backed by either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. Hyundai designed the automatic transmission in-house and the company is quite proud of that fact. With some clever engineering, the new six-speed auto is smaller, lighter, and made of fewer parts than the outgoing transmission, and helps deliver a nine percent improvement in fuel economy. Hyundai also promises there is no need to change the transmission oil for the life of the vehicle.

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Looks like a mashup of the Chrysler Sebring, Camry Solara, and VW CC, but at least it's not instantly forgettable like the previous generation Sonata!

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