Hyundai has reworked its midsize, front-drive sedan for 2002, giving it new front and rear sheet metal, lighting and bumpers, and a bigger trunk. Fog lamps are now standard on all models. New link-type trunk hinges and gas-charged struts for the trunk and hood makes them easier to raise. A new dashboard incorporates a digital trip odometer.
Three versions of the Sonata are available: base, LX and GLS. Top models have 10-spoke, 16-inch alloy wheels. The LX sedan features a leather interior and fully automatic temperature control.
Enlarged to 2.7 liters, the V-6 engine produces 181 horsepower, while the carryover four-cylinder is rated at 149 hp. A manual shift is standard, and a four-speed Shiftronic automatic is optional.
This is the first redesign of the Sonata since 1999. Hyundai also produces an upscale XG350 sedan. Ranked as South Koreas largest automobile company, Hyundai also owns Kia. Kia sells a variant of the Sonata called the Optima, but it has different front and rear styling.
Measuring 186.9 inches long overall, the Sonata is nearly 5 inches shorter than Hyundais XG350 and a couple inches shorter than the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Styling touches include a waterfall-style grille and what Hyundai calls high-tech headlights. Riding a 106.3-inch wheelbase, the 2002 Sonata stands 56 inches tall. A revised rear multilink suspension is said to enhance ride and handling.
The Sonata is 71.7 inches wide broader than the Accord and Camry allowing backseat passengers more room to spread out. Three can fit in the rear seat, but it will be a tight squeeze. Headroom and legroom are sufficient for taller occupants. The split rear seatback folds down for extra cargo room.
Competing against Honda and Toyota, Hyundai includes a sizable helping of features at a lower price. Standard equipment on the base model includes air conditioning, a CD player, cruise control, keyless entry with an alarm, and power windows, locks and mirrors. The LX sedan adds leather upholstery, a power drivers seat and automatic climate control.
Under the Hood
Hyundais new 2.7-liter V-6 engine cranks out 181 hp, and the 2.4-liter four-cylinder produces 149 hp. Both engines are available with either a five-speed-manual or four-speed-automatic transmission. The automatic gearbox incorporates a Shiftronic provision for manually selected gear changes.
Side-impact airbags for the front seats are standard, giving Hyundai an edge over some competitors that either offer them as an option or dont make them available at all. Hyundais Passenger Presence Detection System ensures that the airbags will not deploy if a seat is empty or occupied by a small person. Bosch antilock brakes and traction control are optional.
The quality of Hyundais products has been steadily improving. When comparing the class-leading Accord and Camry to the last-generation Sonata, Hyundais model appeared sufficiently competent, so the new model should do likewise. Resale value lags behind that of the Accord and Camry, but Hyundais long warranty and low prices make the Sonata worth considering. Hyundai covers the entire car for five years/60,000 miles, major powertrain components for 10 years/100,000 miles and corrosion for five years/100,000 miles. Free roadside assistance is provided for the first five years.