A new top-of-the-line model with leather upholstery is the main addition to the Sonata lineup for 2001. The front-drive Sonata midsize sedan returns in base and GLS models and as the new GLS Leather, which also has a standard CD player and power drivers seat.
The Sonata was redesigned for 1999, and until this year was Hyundais largest, most-expensive U.S. model. That honor now goes to the XG300, a new midsize sedan that joined the lineup this fall.
Hyundai, South Koreas largest auto company, also owns Kia, which will sell a version of the Sonata as the Optima with different front and rear styling.
At 185 inches, the Sonata is a few inches shorter than the Toyota Camry or Honda Accord and 7 inches shorter than the new XG300.
Though the Sonata is shorter than the Camry and Accord, it is wider than both at 71.6 inches. That gives backseat passengers more room to spread out, and three can fit with some squeezing. Headroom and legroom are sufficient for taller folks. Trunk space looks larger than the 13.2 cubic feet quoted by Hyundai, and the split rear seatback folds for extra cargo room.
Hyundai tries to compete with Toyota and Honda by offering more features at a lower price. Standard equipment on the base model includes air conditioning, a cassette player, cruise control, and power windows, locks and mirrors.
Under the Hood
Base models come with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 149 horsepower, but the majority of sales are GLS versions with a 170-hp 2.5-liter V-6. Both engines are available with five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmissions.
Side-impact airbags for the front seats are standard on all models an unusual standard feature among midsize cars in the Sonatas price range. The front airbag for the passenger seat does not deploy if a weight sensor detects less than 66 pounds on that seat. If there is less than 33 pounds on the front passenger seat, the side airbag does not deploy either.
Antilock brakes are optional on GLS models.
Poor quality on earlier models deterred many buyers from even considering a Hyundai, and a spotty dealer network turned off some of those who dared. The quality is better these days, and the Sonatas performance is competent enough to compare with the class-leading Camry and Accord. Resale value still doesnt match Toyotas or Hondas, but Hyundais lower prices and longer warranties make the Sonata worth considering.
Hyundai covers the whole car for five years/60,000 miles, major powertrain components for 10 years/100,000 miles and corrosion for five years/100,000 miles. The company also provides free roadside assistance for the first five years.