<strong>Miles to date: 22,421
Months in fleet: 9
New York bureau chief Jamie Kitman was in town recently, and his visit introduced a fresh perspective into the logbook of our Sonata. For Kitman, it wasn’t just the first time behind the wheel of our Sonata, it was his first time driving any Sonata.
“I'd not been in a Sonata and was prepared for the best, as I've been successively impressed by the Genesis and the Equus,” he reports. “While I can readily understand why the Sonata has been selling so well, I came away slightly underwhelmed. Like the Camrys and Accords whose lunch it has been snacking on, the Sonata is not a focused drivers' car but rather of the trusty appliance school. The steering is firm but feel is pretty much non-existent and the brakes, in particular, feel lifeless and even weak. They were not confidence inspiring.”
In approximately 150 miles of Michigan driving, Kitman came away impressed with one Sonata strength. “Fuel economy seemed like a plus, as I hit close to 30 mpg in a lot of stop-and-go and fast highway driving. It’s a decent car but, for enthusiasts, lots of work remains to be done.”
That’s probably not news to those of you who have been following our Sonata updates. Our love for Hyundai’s mid-size sedan has nothing to do with performance or emotion. It has to do with practicality, comprehensive execution, and how well the Sonata suits everyday drivers like Charley Sullivan, a friend of the magazine who borrowed our Sonata for a weekend jaunt to Chicago at the end of February. Sullivan is no stranger to Hyundais, but certainly had never met one as nice as the Sonata.
“The very first new car I ever bought was a Hyundai,” he recounts. “A year out of college, heading off to the wilds of Western Connecticut to teach French at an all-boys prep school in the hills, I bought a 1988 Hyundai Excel, essentially a tin can with four squirrels running the engine. Hyundai was a new name in the American market, and everything about it screamed ‘cheap.’ Loaded with boys heading to the nearest McDonalds, it would creep up the mountain roads going into the next valley, the vinyl seats sticking to short-clothed legs and tank-topped shoulders, with awful reception on the Korean-made radio. Within the cadre of young teachers, I had the newest car, but by far the least sexy, with the single exception of my best friend’s Yugo, clearly the bottom feeder of the group.”
More than 20 years after leaving the old Excel behind, Sullivan got behind the wheel of Hyundai’s greatest success yet. “The most striking attributes are the sheer sense of luxury and the car’s design,” he wrote. “This does not feel like my old tin can, but rather like I’m sitting in a nice, comfortable, and well-appointed living room.” Just like so many of our staff members, Sullivan quickly took to the infotainment system, easily pairing his iPhone via Bluetooth: “Talking, playing music, dialing by voice command, all was seamless.”
Sullivan saw the Sonata as a symbol of how high Hyundai has climbed since the brand sold its first car in the U.S. in 1986. “This is nothing like my old Hyundai, the Excel that didn’t,” he mused. “Hyundai has come a long way in 25 years.”