In the first month of the 2011 Hyundai Sonata's service in our Four Seasons fleet, logbook comments have centered on the sedan's transformation from a middle-of-the-road transportation device to a stylish and sporty competitor to heavyweights such as the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord.
"In a segment where progress is often measured in baby steps, the Sonata seems to have made a giant leap," said assistant editor David Zenlea. "As a driving machine, the Sonata doesn't set hearts afire, but it is perfectly competent. The four-cylinder is smooth and never sounds strained, and the steering is accurate, if mostly devoid of feedback."
Zenlea's sentiments were echoed by editors after they used Sonata to perform common daily tasks. Copy editor Rusty Blackwell hauled his family in the Sonata over a recent summer weekend and discovered large-car value for midsize money.
"An example of the Sonata's spaciousness is its trunk, which has a fairly small opening but lots of depth beneath that swoopy rear window," wrote Blackwell. "A big, round kiddie pool fits perfectly, for example. On another occasion, I was able to fit my mom's disassembled power wheelchair in the boot." His major complaint? The lack of keyless remote access to open the trunk.
Associate web editor Evan McCausland had the opportunity to try out the Sonata over a long weekend and heaped praise on its chassis and powertrain tuning.
"The SE doesn't feel gelatinous in the corners, and it exhibits less body roll than some of its mid-size competitors," McCausland said. "Both the new Sportage and this Sonata impressed me with the natural weight dialed into the electric power steering rack."
During his morning commute, McCausland discovered that the Sonata's quiet cabin hides the power of the direct-injection engine well when he briefly saw a triple-digit speed on the highway. "I was all too surprised to see my speedometer push close to the 100-mph mark this morning," McCausland wrote. "In my defense, the Sonata's cabin was quiet, thanks in no small part to the fact that the four-cylinder engine was running at only 2800 rpm. I dropped the speed back down to 80 mph and watched the tach needle swing just below the 2000-rpm mark."
While McCausland was impressed with the Sonata's power, production editor Jen Misaros's first drive of the Sonata included an evening run to Costco. "The engine struggles a bit when really pushed, but it's adequate for passing once up to speed," Misaros said. "Once it was loaded up with XL sizes of food and paper products, it had an even harder time merging onto the highway."
Misaros found that the Sonata's driving position was lower than expected, due to the high beltline. Nonetheless, her thoughts echoed those of design editor Robert Cumberford, who called the new Sonata a stylish car for the mainstream. "The swoopy styling of the new Sonata is an about face from the slightly dull, previous-generation car," Misaros said. "I can't say that I love the design, but it's dramatic and has an overall sense of motion to it that is appealing."
So far, we've been impressed with the Sonata's refinement and every-day utility. As we continue to pile on the miles, we'll see if it lives up to the observation of one commenter, who pronounced it "comfortably among the leaders in this segment."
|Navigation and sunroof package||$2,600||Navigation with high-res touch screen display Power sunroof with tilt and slide feature Dimension AM/FM/XM/CD premium audio system Subwoofer|