2011 Hyundai Sonata
In their attempt to remain competitive in such a large segment, Hyundai may have outdone themselves, not to mention the competition. Challenging the public’s preconceptions of their brand, they’ve taken a knife to one of their previously underwhelming models. The Sonata is now a car that begs to be noticed. The completely redesigned exterior exudes a sense of class that the previous generation lacked, while the interior looks as if it’s been lifted from a car twice the price. For 2011, the Sonata loses, for the time being, its thirsty V-6, and instead comes with a retuned 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces more horsepower and has a leaner appetite for fuel than the outgoing four-cylinder. Despite its low base price, the Sonata comes equipped with more standard tech treats than many other cars in the segment. Oh and have we mentioned their incredible powertrain warranty?
What's to Like
Redesigned exterior and interior, improved fuel economy and a more luxurious look and feel. The Sonata comes with a number of standard features, even at the base price. A retuned suspension creates a better drive as well. The 10-year/100,000-mile warranty
is the best in the biz.
What's Not to Like
An option of a V-6 engine would really help it compete against its main competition, all of which have one available. The touch screen is also a little small.
DriverSide Driving Impressions
While the 2011 Sonata isn’t going to break any speed records, the 198 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine does a nice job of pushing the car down the highway, across the mountains and through the city. Hyundai has, with the redesign, taken steps to improve the drivability of the Sonata and added a somewhat more spirited feel to the car, especially in its sporty SE guise. Road noise is down, the stereo is loud and it drives like a car that costs a lot more than the sticker would suggest.
Engine and Drivetrain
While the V-6 engine has been dropped for 2011, the Sonata receives a newly refined engine that boasts more power and sophistication than the previous generation. With 198 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque on tap, the new 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine ignites the Sonata to performance levels seen in similar cars in the segment like Volkswagen’s CC
. Our test car came with a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic, but if you prefer to do the work yourself, the base GLS model comes equipped with a fun-to-drive six-speed manual as standard, sending power through the front wheels.
Interesting Vehicle Features
Considering its starting price, the Sonata is equipped with a huge amount of standard features including push-button start, power locks and windows, iPod/USB integration and an auxiliary jack, Bluetooth connectivity and XM satellite radio. Hyundai does not offer any options for the very base, six-speed manual GLS. If you even want the option of, well, options, you’ll need to start with the automatic GLS. From here you can equip your Sonata with the $750 Popular Equipment Package, which includes a power driver seat and 16-inch wheels. If that doesn’t cut it, you can add navigation for $950. If you’re really looking to deck out your Hyundai, the SE and Limited trims offer features like a sunroof, rear-view camera and premium speakers.
Key Technology Evaluation
While the base Sonata leaves much to be desired in the realm of tech, the aforementioned navigation system is, once again, beautifully executed and took us only a short time to learn to use. While the touch screen is on the smaller size, making it a little tougher to use, it provides simple menus for your iPod, radio and, of course, navigation.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
In the absence of a V-6 engine option, gas mileage gets an impressive bump across the line. Fuel economy numbers are remarkable no matter which transmission you opt for. The base GLS Sonata with a manual transmission gets an impressive 24 miles per gallon in the city, and a huge 35 mpg on the highway. Those numbers fall only slightly with the six-speed automatic at 22 city, 35 highway.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
Hyundai has made a habit of improving their interiors with each generation. Simply said, the driver’s seat is a beautiful place to be. The modern, high-quality dashboard rises out of the center console and is laden with soft-touch plastics and chrome accents. While the seats could be a little more supportive and some of the buttons are tough to read at a glance, overall we are impressed with the level of refinement found in a car that starts under $20K.
Hyundai has been working extremely hard to rework the exterior styling on a number of their vehicles, and the Sonata is no different. What was a previously bland and unexciting exterior has been hugely improved with hints of Volkswagen CC, Mazda 6 and Lexus ES. The sweeping, coupe-like styling gives the Sonata an upscale road presence that is echoed throughout the cabin.
Market Segment and Pricing
Pricing for the Hyundai Sonata starts at a reasonable $19,195 for the base GLS trim and ascends steadily from there. A fully loaded Sonata Limited, complete with rear-view camera, navigation and sunroof won’t break $30K. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better deal for this level of refinement. At this price, the 2011 Sonata competes with the likes of the $21,055 Honda Accord
, $19,595 Toyota Camry
, $19,900 Nissan Altima
and even the $27,760 Volkswagen CC
What We Think
We like to think of the Sonata as a mini-Genesis, which is a very good thing. You can really feel the billion-plus dollars in R&D Hyundai put into the Sonata, as this generation really feels like it’s the first Hyundai to give the Camry and Accord a run for their money. The Sonata would be a perfect cross-shop for those looking for a mid-sized Japanese sedan.