I spent a weekend with the 2011 Hyundai Sonata SE and found it to be just as appealing as the more expensive 2011 Hyundai Sonata Limited that we recently had in the fleet. As the mid-priced Sonata model, the SE gets a mid-line but still appealing interior; it features seats that are upholstered with both cloth and leather. The base Sonata GLS gets cloth, while the Limited gets leather. At first the combination seemed strange but I quickly grew to not mind it at all.
As the sporty model, the SE further distinguishes itself from the other two Sonata models with its dual exhaust, which bumps the standard direct-injection four-cylinder engine’s output slightly, from 198 hp/184 lb-ft to 200 hp and 186 lb-ft. It works well with the standard six-speed automatic. At about $26K, I found this to be a pretty appealing and roomy family sedan.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Hyundai has really got something good with all-new 2011 Sonata. It’s absolutely great-looking inside and out. The interior quality is on par with the Hyundai Genesis we all grew to love during its Four Seasons test.
The 18-inch wheels on this SE look amazing and really fill the wheel wells perfectly, without hurting the ride quality at all either. One area I’d like to see improved is in the steering. The 2011 Sonata is a bit numb on center on the highway, but at low speed almost feels too tight. Still, the 2011 Hyundai Sonata just took a big leap up to near the top of its class.
Mike Ofiara, Road Test Coordinator
Wow, Hyundai has come a long way in a single generation of Sonata. It used to be that a Hyundai Sonata would show up in our office and it was selected about as quickly as an asthmatic kid in a grade school basketball game. When a 2011 Hyundai Sonata Limited arrived a few weeks ago it was signed out as quickly as LeBron James was drafted. With editors choosing the Sonata over cars with twice as many cylinders and more than double the horsepower, it was clear Hyundai had done well with the new mid-size sedan.
Hyundai has bet the farm on fuel economy and thus only offers Sonata buyers a choice of four cylinder engines. The basic 2.4-liter I-4 makes 198 hp (the SE is 200 hp) and is rated at an impressive 35 mpg on the highway. Buyers looking for better fuel economy can select the upcoming Hybrid and performance-minded shoppers will likely be attracted to the turbo, which has 274 hp. By the way, upgrading to a turbo only costs one mile per gallon on the highway and there’s no difference in urban fuel economy.
With a delightful interior, impressive powertrains, and Hyundai’s long warranty there’s a lot to love here. However, just after Hyundai unveiled the full Sonata range, Kia stepped up to the plate with its 2011 Optima mid-size sedan. In my opinion, the Kia is far better looking than the Sonata and it will come to market with virtually identical powertrains. If Kia has finally figured out the ride/handling equation, the mid-size sedan market will be in for an even bigger surprise later this year when the Optima goes on sale.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
Base price (with destination): $23,315
Price as tested: $26,015
2.4L 4-cylinder engine
6-speed automatic transmission
four-wheel disc brakes with ABS
18-inch silver alloy wheels
Sport seats with leather bolsters and cloth inserts
Tilt/telescoping steering column
Leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob
Steering wheel mounted cruise/audio/phone controls
AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 audio system with 6 speakers
iPod/USB & auxiliary jacks
Options on this vehicle:
Navigation and sunroof package — $2600
– Power sunroof with tilt/slide
– Navigation with high-resolution touchscreen
– XM traffic/weather/sports
– Dimension AM/FM/XM/CD premium audio system
Carpeted floor mats — $100
Key options not on vehicle:
Auto-dimming rearview mirror Homelink & Compass — $250
22 / 35 / 26 mpg
Size: 2.4L I-4 with direct injection
Horsepower: 200 hp @ 6300 rpm
Torque: 186 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm
6-speed automatic with Shiftronic
Curb weight: 3199 lb
18-inch hyper silver alloy wheels
225/45R18 Hankook Optimo H431 all-season tires