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1009 2011 Hyundai Sonata Se August Update
four seasons long-term tests

2011 Hyundai Sonata SE - Four Seasons Update - August 2010

Months in fleet: 2 / Miles to date: 7850

Jeffrey Jablansky
Matt Tierney
2011 Hyundai Sonata reviews to date

During the lazy months of summer, the only thing harder to obtain than a paid day off at the beach was the key fob to our Four Seasons Hyundai Sonata SE. Since it arrived in Ann Arbor at the beginning of July, editors and friends of the magazine have collectively piled on nearly 8000 miles. That's no small feat. By contrast, it took our Four Seasons Nissan Cube twice that amount of time to begrudgingly hit 7000 miles. In August alone, the Sonata covered 4000 miles, reaching destinations as far as the mountains of North Carolina, as well as the urban jungles of Saint Louis and Chicago.

And unlike our Four Seasons Suzuki Kizashi, we don't seem to be the only ones to appreciate the Sonata's penchant for time on the roads.

"I see more and more 2011 Sonatas on the road every day, it seems," said copy editor Rusty Blackwell. "Hyundai seems poised to climb the sales rankings in the megacompetitive mid-size segment."

A recent conversation with Hyundai North America CEO John Krafcik revealed that Hyundai's factories are struggling to keep up with demand. In July, the Alabama plants produced within fifteen units of the number that dealers moved out the door. A quick trip to New England confirmed the Sonata's success outside our Midwest home office, according to senior web editor Phil Floraday.

"A surprising number of new Sonatas were on the road in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, and they looked very good alongside much more expensive German sedans," Floraday said. "It's clear that Hyundai's styling has come into its own, which is a key factor in image-conscious markets."

Although our editors are in relative agreement on the Sonata's attractive exterior, not everyone is a fan of the courageously stylish interior. After returning from a weekend road trip to Chicago, which was accomplished primarily during nighttime hours, one editor bemoaned the lack of consistent lighting in the cabin.

"The blue backlit illumination is harsh on the eyes. It definitely adds panache to the interior, but makes the small, white text nearly impossible to decipher. Lighting throughout the cabin is also inconsistent. There are separate brightness adjustments for the instrument panel and the navigation screen, as opposed to one controller."

Issues of interior lighting haven't escaped the minds of other editors.

"My first drive in our Four Seasons Sonata was at night, and because some of the HVAC controls aren't illuminated, I had a hard time adjusting it in the dark," noted digital platforms managing editor Jen Misaros. "Even with the interior lighting at its minimum brightness, the PRND lettering next to the gear selector was so bright that, every time I saw it out of my peripheral vision, I thought it was my cell phone ringing."

"Hopefully Hyundai will fix the nondimming gear-selector lights that Jen noted," Blackwell added. "But it'll be harder, I imagine, for the company to address the low-quality sound of the doors shutting (particularly the driver's door)."

Our typically lead-footed drivers have lauded the Sonata for its noteworthy thriftiness. Friend of the magazine Marc Meyer piloted the Sonata 500 miles west of Ann Arbor, and he praised the Sonata for having "at least 100 miles left in the tank." While he, as well as our editors, have reported indicated average fuel economy as high as 36 mpg on the highway (higher than the EPA-estimated 35 mpg), we think the Sonata's internal computer might be reading too high. Our best calculated thankful, however, yielded 33.5 mpg on a journey of mostly highway miles.

If that kind of mileage keeps up, the Sonata could stand tall against a previous Four Seasons test car, the diesel-equipped Volkswagen Jetta TDI -- which averaged 37 mpg during its year with us. But before that can happen, though, we'll have to hold the Sonata down around the office a little longer.

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
Cargo net $50
2011 Hyundai Sonata Specs
  • Overview
  • powertrain
  • chassis
  • measurements
  • equipment
  • options
Base price (with dest.)$23,315
Price as tested$25,965
Body Style 4-door sedan
Accommodation 5-passenger
Construction Steel unitbody
Engine DOHC direct-injected inline 4-cylinder
Displacement 2.4 liters
Power 200 hp @ 6300 rpm
Torque 186 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Drive Four-wheel
Fuel Economy 22/35/26 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Steering Power-assisted rack-and-pinion
Turns lock-to-lock3.0
Turning circle 35.8 ft
Suspension, Front Strut type; coil spring
Suspension, Rear Multi-link; coil spring
Brakes F/R Power-assisted ventilated disc/disc; ABS
Wheels 18-in aluminum-alloy
Tires Hankook Optimo H431 all-season tires
Tire Size 225/45R18
Headroom F/R 40.0 / 37.8 in
Legroom F/R 45.5 / 34.6 in
Shoulder Room F/R 57.9 / 56.7 in
Wheelbase 110.1 in
Track F/R 62.5/ 62.5 in
L x W x H 189.8 x 72.2 x 57.9 in
Caro Capacity 16.4 cu ft
Weight 3316 lb
Fuel Capacity 18.5 gal
Est. Range 480 miles
Fuel Grade 87 octane
Standard Equipment
  • 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine
  • 6-speed automatic transmission
  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • Electronic stability control
  • Traction control
  • 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS
  • Tire pressure monitoring system
  • Fog lights
  • Power windows/locks/mirrors
  • 60/40 split-folding rear seat
  • Tilt/telescoping steering column
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob
  • Steering wheel mounted cruise, audio, and phone controls
  • Air conditioning
  • AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 audio system
  • 6 speakers
  • iPod/USB and auxiliary jack input
  • Bluetooth connectivity
I test drove one of these a few months ago. It seems to be a good bang for the buck, but while I was on the test drive the steering wheel kept tugging to the left when I was on the freeway with it. When I got off the freeway and pulled over to the side of the road, the steering wheel was doing this wierd kind of quiver, then it stopped. I drove back to the dealership and let them know, but they didn't say anything back, they were just got really quiet. Normal driving characteristics seemed fine. But when I pushed a bit like in sharp corners, it didn't hold up to its sporty looks, instead demonstrating some sloshy'ness more like what you would expect from a floaty family sedan. The car is still ok for the price as equipped. The steering quirk did leave me a little unsettled though.

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