2009 Hyundai Sonata
In order to be competitive in a segment that produces many established adversaries, the moderately refreshed 2009 Hyundai Sonata
has matched almost everything its Japanese and American midsize rivals like the Nissan Altima
, Honda Accord
, Toyota Camry
and Chevrolet Malibu
have to offer. It is actual quite surreal comparing the cars; offerings from the number of speakers (six) to standard cruise control and air conditioning (available across the board) are identical. What sets the very capable Sonata apart from the others is its outstanding starting price and, so far, unbeaten warranty coverage. For 2009, Hyundai has added more horsepower and torque to the Sonata’s inline-four and V-6 engines, polished up the exterior design and created a much more refined interior than in its previous models. These sophisticated modifications show that Hyundai is successfully staking its claim in this overflowing class.
2009 Hyundai Sonata
What's to Like
The interior styling has been cleaned up beautifully; the simple design is effective and uncluttered. An iPod and MP3 connector, located in the center console storage area, is standard on all trims, and the Sonata’s first ever touch-screen navigation system, optional on the Limited trim, is fantastically easy to use and rivals systems from more upscale manufacturers like Audi.
What's Not to Like
Buyers might feel the exterior styling is a little uninspired, and it certainly doesn’t stand out from the crowd. The larger V-6 engine receives a boost in power, but not enough to make it a leader in the class.
DriverSide Driving Impressions
If a focal point of your car search is a smooth, comfortable and quiet ride, the Sonata should be at the top of your list. The front-wheel drive sedan floats along the roads elegantly and easily; in fact, the car traverses the streets so smoothly, the spacious interior cabin is practically silent, something that couldn’t be said about the previous model. The 4-cylinder, the smaller of the two engines, produces an adequate amount power to move this 3,300-pound five-seater. The V-6 pulls the car responsively and adds an extra 75 horses worth of enthusiasm to the drive. Although steering is sharper, thanks to a quickened steering ratio, it still feels a little flat and lackluster. However, it is just right for commuting and city driving, where the last thing you want to be doing is maneuvering an overly aggressive car.
Engine and Drivetrain
Both of the Sonata’s engines have received a boost in horsepower and torque from the 2008 model and are now available on all three trims. The 2.4-liter DOHC 4-cylinder engine produces 175 horsepower and 168 lb-ft of torque, up from last year’s 162 hp and 164 lb-ft of torque, making it more in line with its competitors. A 3.3-liter DOHC V-6 puts out 249 horsepower and 229 lb-ft of torque, more than the previous 234 and 226, but the 3.3-liter engine is a little underpowered compared to the 3.5-liter engine found in the Toyota Camry
. Power is sent to the front wheels via a 5-speed manual transmission (only available on the GLS) or 5-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic manual mode (available on all trims).
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
For the price, the Sonata has a huge amount of standard features including air conditioning, ABS brakes, XM radio capability, a USB/iPod/Auxiliary MP3 input jack, power doors and windows, tilting steering wheel and cruise control, to name just a few. The car’s packages follow a tiered format with the trim levels. The base model 4-cylinder GLS has no packages available, but the V-6 has a power equipment package for $650 which includes power seats, steering wheel controls, driver lumbar support, a trip computer and wood or metal interior accents. For an additional $900, you’ll get a sunroof as well. For the SE, the power equipment is standard, and there is a premium package for $1,650 that adds a sunroof and upgraded audio system. The Limited has it all plus an available navigation system for $1,250.
Key Technology Evaluation
The navigation system we’ve already mentioned is a stellar first effort by Hyundai. The touch-screen allows the user to easily browse through iPod menus or review the proposed navigation route. Having never used the system before, it took us only a few short minutes before we were able to get the hang of it. Other technology options are at a minimum in the Sonata, but to keep that great base price so low, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
Matching the competition’s gas mileage accordingly, the Sonata gets 21 mpg city and 31 highway with the 2.4-liter manual transmission. For the automatic, the highway mpg drops to 30. The more powerful 3.3-liter V-6 gets 19 city and 28 highway. The Sonata has retained the same 2008 numbers due to the use of their efficient new engines, found in cars like the Dodge Caliber
, which deliver more power without sacrificing gas mileage.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
Hyundai has cleaned up the previously cluttered center stack, and the two-toned, wood-trimmed instrument panel makes the interior far more refined. The interior dimensions haven’t changed from the 2008 model; the Sonata is still categorized as a “large car” by the EPA with its 121 cubic feet of passenger space – compared to the Accord
’s 106, and the rear seats fold down in a 60/40 split.
A few subtle changes have been made to the exterior. The chrome-rimmed grille and headlights have been enlarged, giving the Sonata a much more formidable and modern feel, and the bumpers and body-moldings have been modified slightly. The GLS still comes standard with 16-inch wheels, and the SE and Limited run on 17s for a somewhat sportier presence.
Market Segment and Pricing
The three trims start at $18,795 for the GLS, $21,195 for the SE and $24,645 for the Limited. The Hyundai undercuts all of its competitors in price, including the Honda Accord
, Chevrolet Malibu
, Saturn Aura, Nissan Altima
and Toyota Camry
. The most we could get the Sonata up to was $26,920, with the Limited V-6 trim and navigation package. The Nissan Altima and Honda Accord can easily hit $30,000. Its 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty will also appeal to those looking for a long-term investment.
What We Think
Value is still the number one reason to choose the Hyundai Sonata, but buyers might soon be lining up because of the styling and engine performance as well. The dramatic and clever changes to the interior have upped the car’s livability tenfold, and the engine modifications nicely match the sedan up with its competitors. We think, with so many cars in the class, the Sonata definitely deserves a look.