We haven't given much attention to the Hyundai Sonata's infotainment system in the past seven updates. Perhaps there's a reason for that: the Sonata's touch-screen interface and center-stack controls are so well designed, they don't require attention. Which is exactly how it should be when you're driving a 3200-pound vehicle at 70 mph.
"There is no learning curve to the Hyundai Sonata," asserts one logbook comment. "The controls for everything from the radio to the headlights to the air-conditioning are smartly placed, neatly arranged, and appropriately sized. Big deal, you say, but it's something that so many automakers screw up."
Senior editor Joe Lorio chimed in: "I love the simplicity of the HVAC controls, even if they are lifted from Volvo. Might as well copy from the best."
As automakers rush to make in-car technology as versatile as smartphones, the best executions won't be those with the fastest hardware or the coolest app but those that integrate new ideas with the cleanest, most accessible interface. Ford's new MyFord Touch has buried several features in a system that's far too complex to be easily usable. Hyundai, on the other hand, has established an Apple-like simplicity that new drivers don't need to learn because it's so intuitive. The graphics are crisp and clear, the menus are logical, and the core functions are always easily called up. The only thing missing is a physical knob to browse through iPod artists, as tapping the on-screen scroll bar becomes tedious when moving from Abba to ZZ Top.
Hyundai's unobtrusive audio and climate controls are especially nice when the weather demands a driver's complete focus on the road, as February snowstorms repeatedly did. "I thought the Bridgestone Blizzaks were a little disappointing through eight inches of fresh powder, but the roads were completely unplowed," opined Lorio. Just two weeks later, though, copy editor Rusty Blackwell lauded the tires after a lighter storm. "Despite a quick blast of a couple inches of snow at the end of the weekend, the Blizzak'd Sonata had no trouble whatsoever climbing a long, steep, snow-dusted driveway," he logged. "In contrast, a Volkswagen Jetta shod with all-seasons could make it only a couple car lengths before coming to a halt. Chalk up another victory for winter tires." The Sonata continues to impress the staff as a road-trip car, too. With its 18.5-gallon tank and frugal 22/35-mpg EPA city/highway fuel economy rating, the Sonata recently made a trip from Ann Arbor to Cleveland, Ohio, and back with the Blackwell family, covering more than 350 miles without stopping for fuel. "After initially finding the driver's seat cushioning to be too firm, my wife found it very comfortable and refreshing over the long drive," Rusty reported.
As we'd almost put another 7500 miles on the odometer, we ended February with a trip to the dealer for the 22,500-mile service. Just as with the Sonata's past two visits, there were no surprises. An oil change, tire rotation, and multipoint inspection cost a reasonable $55.68.
|Base price (with dest.)||$23,315|
|Price as tested||$25,965|
|Body Style||4-door sedan|
|Engine||DOHC direct-injected inline 4-cylinder|
|Power||200 hp @ 6300 rpm|
|Torque||186 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||22/35/26 mpg (city/hwy/combined)|
|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|
|Tires||Hankook Optimo H431 all-season tires|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|