Wow, Hyundai has come a long way in a single generation of Sonata. It used to be that a Hyundai Sonata would show up in our office and it was selected about as quickly as an asthmatic kid in a grade school basketball game. When a 2011 Hyundai Sonata Limited arrived a few weeks ago it was signed out as quickly as LeBron James was drafted. With editors choosing the Sonata over cars with twice as many cylinders and more than double the horsepower, it was clear Hyundai had done well with the new mid-size sedan.
Hyundai has bet the farm on fuel economy and thus only offers Sonata buyers a choice of four cylinder engines. The basic 2.4-liter I-4 makes 198 hp (the SE is 200 hp) and is rated at an impressive 35 mpg on the highway. Buyers looking for better fuel economy can select the upcoming Hybrid and performance-minded shoppers will likely be attracted to the turbo, which has 274 hp. By the way, upgrading to a turbo only costs one mile per gallon on the highway and there's no difference in urban fuel economy.
With a delightful interior, impressive powertrains, and Hyundai's long warranty there's a lot to love here. However, just after Hyundai unveiled the full Sonata range, Kia stepped up to the plate with its 2011 Optima mid-size sedan. In my opinion, the Kia is far better looking than the Sonata and it will come to market with virtually identical powertrains. If Kia has finally figured out the ride/handling equation, the mid-size sedan market will be in for an even bigger surprise later this year when the Optima goes on sale.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor