It’s been some time since I’ve been in a Sonata, and I was remarkably surprised by what I found when I sat behind the wheel of our test car. Somehow, in the past four or five years, Hyundai’s bread-and-butter four-door has crept into normalcy. The Sonata is an attractive, thoroughly pleasant mid-size sedan, one that I wouldn’t mind recommending to any of my nonenthusiast friends. Gone is the heinously dead steering, the cut-rate interior, and the sluggish, slam-bang transmission of the previous Sonata, and while it’s no sport sedan, the current Sonata is at least marginally entertaining to drive. Torque steer has been cut to a minimum, the 3.3-liter V-6 is remarkably strong, and the interior is both quiet and comfortable. The Sonata isn’t quite as entertaining as something like a Honda Accord – the engine is too uninvolving, the chassis too distant, the steering too Toyota-like – but it’s still a remarkably strong effort, and one that should keep most ordinary drivers perfectly happy.
Sam Smith, Associate Editor
This refresh actually did a lot for the Sonata. I spent a good amount of time behind the wheel of a 2006 Sonata and walked away very unimpressed. The steering wheel felt cheap and slimy, the radio offered only AM/FM and a CD player, and the suspension was not well tuned at all. Now the Sonata has a great radio with XM and USB iPod interfaces and much better suspension tuning on SE models. What’s more, the steering wheel no longer feels like it’s covered in slime. Like Sam said, the 2009 Hyundai Sonata is a remarkably normal, if not terribly involving, mid-size sedan. That’s a formula that works very well for the Toyota Camry.
The only things that I dislike about the Sonata are its vanilla looks and the generally soft, uninvolving nature of the chassis, suspension, and steering. But this segment isn’t about high-performance driving, and the generic looks mean the design doesn’t offend any potential customers. Virtually all mid-size shoppers will be very happy with this Sonata, and the future looks even brighter. Hyundai has already promised a hybrid version of the car for 2011.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
As I noted when I drove a four-cylinder 2009 Sonata, this newest face-lift has yielded a surprisingly impressive sedan. Compared with that model, the V-6 offers plenty more power (249 hp vs. 175 hp) and pep. Still, the lighter, less expensive, more fuel-efficient four-banger seems like the better overall package to me. Like Sam implied, enthusiasts probably aren’t going to buy many Sonatas anyway, so that extra power isn’t as critical as it’d be in a hotter car. It’s hard for me to tell conclusively, however, since I left work very late last night and got stuck in a traffic jam this morning. That said, the air-conditioning and the stereo are quite good, although FM radio reception was weaker than that in most new cars I’ve driven. I found the seats a bit too firm for my liking, but unlike Phil, I actually like the Sonata’s styling, particularly its side profile.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
2009 Hyundai Sonata SE V6
Base Price (with destination) : $23,845
Price as tested: $23,935
– Carpeted Floor Mats – $90
– 19 / 29 / 22 (city/hwy/combined)
Engine: DOHC CVVT V6, Aluminum block and head
Size: 3.3 L
HP: 249 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 229 lb-ft @ 4,500
Transmission: 5-Speed Automatic with SHIFTRONIC
– 17″ Alloy Wheels
– 215/55R17 Tires