The Hyundai Sonata shuffles trim levels for 2007. Last year's GL, GLS and top-of-the-line LX models become GLS, SE and Limited, respectively. Equipment is roughly equivalent to each trim's predecessor.
First seen at the 2004 Paris Motor Show, the redesigned Sonata sedan made its U.S. debut several months later at the 2005 Detroit auto show. The fourth-generation Sonata, Hyundai's first American-made product, is manufactured at a plant in Montgomery, Ala.
The Sonata is technically a full-size car, but its primary rivals include such midsize sedans as the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Hyundai says the Sonata is quieter than either of those models.
Larger than its predecessor, this redesigned Sonata was 2 inches longer and 2 inches taller. The car's wheelbase is an inch longer than before.
The Sonata's design cues include a concave hood dome, distinctive rear-door cut lines and strong Z-lined body-to-fascia interfaces. Jeweled projector headlights sit up front, and chrome-tipped dual exhausts are installed with the V-6 engine.
Built on a 107.4-inch wheelbase, the redesigned Sonata is 188.9 inches long overall, 72 inches wide and 58 inches tall. All spot-welds are done automatically, and the car is painted with 18 robotic sprayers. Standard wheels measure 16 inches in diameter, but Limited sedans roll on 17-inch tires.
The Sonata has recessed rear head restraints and can seat up to five occupants. A 60/40-split, folding rear seat is installed. Greater distance between the driver and windshield pillar enhances the sensation of roominess, and Hyundai says there's more space between the seat cushion and headliner for easier entry and exit.
Trunk volume has increased by 16 percent, and the trunk uses a four-bar link hinge mechanism with twin assist struts. Tilt steering is standard, and up-level models include a telescoping feature. All trims get a CD/MP3 audio system. Steering-wheel audio controls are included in SE and Limited models.
Standard equipment includes keyless entry with an alarm, power windows, heated mirrors, air conditioning and cruise control.
Top-end features in the Limited include leather seating surfaces, heated front seats, a power driver's seat, automatic temperature control, air filtration, an electrochromatic auto-dimming mirror, a sliding center armrest and a telescoping steering wheel. A power sunroof and premium stereo are optional. Trunk space totals 16.3 cubic feet.
The Sonata's 2.4-liter four-cylinder produces 162 horsepower, versus 235 hp for the available 3.3-liter V-6. Standard in the Limited and optional in the SE the V-6 has variable valve timing. Both engines get an Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle rating.
A five-speed manual gearbox is standard in four-cylinder GLS models, and a four-speed Shiftronic automatic with a manual-shift provision is optional. A new five-speed Shiftronic automatic couples with V-6 engines. Hyundai says a V-6-equipped Sonata can accelerate from zero to 62 mph in 7.7 seconds.
Side-impact airbags for the front seats, side curtain airbags, active front head restraints, traction control and Electronic Stability Control are standard. Antilock brakes incorporate electronic brake-force distribution. All seating positions have three-point seat belts.
The Sonata has long been a sensible family sedan, and it still is. The redesigned model, however, didn't make a dramatic leap forward.
The stylish Sonata is easy — even enjoyable — to drive. It is light on its feet and fairly maneuverable.
When equipped with the quiet-running V-6, the four-door performs with a fair degree of energy, and it does so in a rather refined way. Though smooth on good roads, the ride gets quite bumpy on rough pavement.
Visibility is great, courtesy of big mirrors and abundant glass. The gauges are ordinary but amply sized for legibility. Controls are logical and within easy reach. Front occupants enjoy good seat support. Cushioning may be a tad short for full comfort, but thigh support is excellent. There's ample headroom, legroom and elbowroom in front.
Entry and exit is especially easy. The center rear seat is passable, and the outer rear spots are quite roomy, but their cushions are slightly hard. The Sonata's trunk has a low liftover height and a large opening.