The Sonata's midcycle updates have made a good, pleasant car even better. The interior in particular is noticeably classier (note the metallic-looking gauges and the well-wrought storage bins in the center stack, for instance), and our test car's build quality puts it near the top of the class. The cloth seats had a strange fabric covering and were a bit too firm for my liking, however, and the door panels also wore a similarly odd fabric.
Given today's fuel crisis, it's nice that Hyundai offers the loaded Sonata with the base four-cylinder powerplant, which isn't as slow as I feared. But for me, the biggest problem with the Sonata is that it doesn't excite me one bit. It completely suppresses my interest in cornering with verve. When I get out of the car, I don't even think about turning around to admire it or showing it to my neighbors. I just can't imagine that any enthusiast would be very proud to own this car ... a Honda Accord or a Chevy Malibu, sure; a Ford Fusion or a Nissan Altima, maybe; a Sonata or a Chrysler Sebring or a Toyota Camry, not so much.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
The Sonata looks innocuous inside and out and feels solidly put together, which is about all one can ask from an inexpensive mid-size sedan.
The engine upgrade has done its job, producing adequate power even given our test car's four-cylinder. I found the manual shift on the transmission lever a bit odd, since Sonata buyers don't strike me as the enthusiast type, but it seems that's the way most automatics are going these days; I would presume that most drivers will leave the car in D without giving the shift-it-yourself gate another thought.
The car's ergonomics have been improved by an interior redesign that puts all functions within easy reach. I did have difficulty seeing the green lights that illuminate on the climate control buttons when they were bathed in direct sunlight. The exterior looks nice now that it's been cleaned up for 2009, although the car still blends in with the sea of mid-size sedans.
Given its price, subdued appearance, and comfortable interior, I would have no problem recommending the Sonata to someone who needs a no-nonsense sedan.
David Gluckman, Web Producer