Hyundai has done very well with the Sonata. There's a price leader with great fuel economy in the form of the base car, a hybrid to appease the greenies, and now a turbo model that eliminates any argument for a V-6 engine in a mid-size sedan. Notice I didn't say the turbo will appease sport sedan shoppers, because it doesn't come close to reaching that level.
Perhaps the biggest problem for Hyundai's turbo four-cylinder is the existence of the Volkswagen/Audi 2.0T engine. Hyundai delivers a very strong powerplant for a reasonable price, but it doesn't offer nearly the same level of refinement or smooth power delivery that VW does. Hyundai's engine feels less impressive because it's backed by an automatic transmission that, in the interest of increasing fuel economy, is hesitant to downshift. With 22/33 mpg ratings, the Sonata Turbo certainly delivers impressive fuel economy, but those figures come at the expense of responsiveness when you floor the accelerator. We used to have to wait for boost to build to get strong acceleration from a turbo car, now we're waiting for a transmission to drop a gear or two.
If I were shopping for a mid-size sedan right now the Hyundai Sonata SE would be at the top of my list. I don't think the $1550 premium for a turbo model is unreasonable, but the 2.4-liter non-turbo Sonata SE we're currently testing in our Four Seasons fleet never feels like it needs more power. The transmission programming that prioritizes fuel economy over acceleration also feels more appropriate in the non-turbo Sonata. I still haven't warmed to the Sonata's grille, but everything else about this car is great.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
One of the most impressive things about the turbocharged Sonata -- besides the fact that it's an award-winning entry from a hot company in arguably the toughest class in the market, of course -- is its impressively high horsepower figure. For those who like extra power, the turbocharged Sonata is definitely worth the extra $1550 (on the SE trim level). As Phil noted, though, the engine is not as refined as Volkswagen's turbo four. Still, for the normal consumer who wants more pep at a decent price, this is a great option -- and a seemingly better approach than the previously de rigueur six-cylinder option in the segment. Hyundai has clearly started a trend here, as, for instance, the next Chevy Malibu will have a four-cylinder-only lineup.
Like other Sonatas I've driven (normally aspirated and hybrid), the turbo model sometimes hiccups on the 1-2 upshift, especially where traction is compromised.
I achieved an indicated 26.5 mpg over 250 weekend miles, which included very little highway driving; 26 mpg is the EPA combined rating. Impressive indeed.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor