Only minor modifications are evident on Hyundais midsize front-wheel-drive sedan, which was redesigned for the 1999 model year and then reworked for 2002. The current Sonata is related to the Kia Optima, which reached the U.S. market for 2001. The Sonata comes in base, GLS and LX trim levels.
Enlarged to 2.7 liters last year, the V-6 engine produces 181 horsepower, while the carryover four-cylinder is rated at 149 hp. Hyundai also produces an upscale XG350 sedan. Ranked as South Koreas largest automobile company, Hyundai also owns the Kia company. Even though Kia sells the Sonata-based Optima, it has different front and rear styling.
Measuring 186.9 inches long overall, the Sonata is nearly 5 inches shorter than the 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 Sonata stands 56 inches tall. Top models have 10-spoke, 16-inch alloy wheels.
Slightly wider than the Toyota Camry at 71.7 inches, the Sonata allows backseat passengers more room to spread out. Three occupants can fit into 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 additional cargo room.
Competing against Honda and Toyota, Hyundai provides a sizable helping of features at a lower price. Standard equipment on the base model includes air conditioning, a CD player, cruise control, remote keyless entry with an alarm, and power windows, door locks and mirrors. A cassette/CD stereo goes into the GLS sedan. The LX adds leather upholstery, an eight-way power drivers seat and automatic climate control.
Under the Hood
Hyundais 2.7-liter V-6 engine, which is standard in the GLS and LX sedans and optional in the base model, develops 181 hp. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder produces 149 hp. Both engines are available with either a four-speed automatic or a five-speed-manual transmission. The automatic gearbox incorporates a Shiftronic provision for manually selected gear changes.
Side-impact airbags for the front seats are standard, which gives 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.
In recent years, the quality of Hyundais products has been steadily improving, and the Sonata has edged closer to the class-leading Accord and Camry. The Sonatas resale value lags behind those two vehicles though, but Hyundais long warranty and low prices make it a car 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.