An all-new Sonata sedan appeared at the 2004 Paris Motor Show and will reach the U.S. market as a 2006 model. Therefore, little has changed on the current version of Hyundai's mainstream midsize sedan.
Available with four-cylinder or V-6 power, the Sonata comes in GL, GLS and LX trim levels. A new GLS Special Value model features heated front seats.
Hyundai also produces an upscale XG350 midsize sedan. Ranked as South Korea's largest automaker, Hyundai also owns Kia, which sells the Sonata-based Optima.
Compared with the class-leading Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, product quality has been steadily improving. Hyundai's long warranty and modest prices make the Sonata a car worth considering.
Measuring 186.9 inches long overall, the Sonata is 5 inches shorter than the XG350. Styling touches include a vertical-bar grille and dual-oval headlights. Riding on a 106.3-inch wheelbase, the Sonata stands 56 inches tall. GLS and LX models have 16-inch wheels. A glass moonroof is available.
At 71.7 inches, the Sonata is slightly wider than the Camry. Three people 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 additional cargo room. Trunk space totals 14.1 cubic feet.
Standard equipment in the GL includes air conditioning, a CD player, cruise control, a tachometer, remote keyless entry, and power windows, locks and mirrors. A cassette/CD stereo goes into GLS and LX sedans. The LX adds leather upholstery, an eight-way power driver's seat and automatic climate control.
Under the Hood
A 170-horsepower, 2.7-liter V-6 is standard in the GLS and LX sedans and available in the GL. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder produces 138 hp. The four-cylinder may team with either a five-speed-manual or four-speed-automatic transmission, while the V-6 works only with the automatic. The automatic transmission incorporates a provision for manually selected gear changes.
Seat-mounted side-impact airbags for the front seats are standard. Antilock brakes are optional.
In its current form, the Sonata has closed in quickly on the league-leading Accord and Camry. Even though the ride is pleasantly smooth, it's not quite on par with Honda and Toyota models because the Sonata's suspension tends to take an extra bounce at times on rougher pavement. The Sonata is an easy car to drive, but it doesn't deliver an athletic driving experience. It handles nicely for everyday motoring. Though it's ordinarily quiet, a bit of engine noise is present during acceleration.
Performance is more than adequate, and the automatic transmission shifts capably with only an occasional abrupt gear change. Downshifts are prompt and smooth.
The Sonata is spacious up front but is short on rear headroom. The seats are on the hard side, with minimal side bolstering and support. The gauges are ordinary but easy to read. Due to ample glass area, visibility is good.