The Hyundai Sonata now offers a four-cylinder or V-6 with any trim level; last year the engine choices were restricted by which trim level you chose. At any trim, the Sonata offers a litany of safety and convenience features at an affordable price, something that's made it the value choice against popular midsize sedans like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.
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.
Trim levels include the GLS, SE and top-of-the-line Limited. All are now available with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder or 3.3-liter V-6; the SE and Limited have a few more bells and whistles that used to be optional.
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 and distinctive rear-door cut lines. Jeweled projector headlights sit up front, and chrome-tipped dual exhausts are installed with the V-6 engine. The horizontal taillights look a lot like those on the previous-generation Honda Accord.
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 and SE 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.
Cargo volume totals 16.3 cubic feet. It's maximized thanks to strut assists that open the trunk from the sides, as opposed to the arm-style hinges many competitors use, which encroach on luggage space when shut.
A tilting steering wheel is standard, and the SE and Limited add a telescoping feature. All trims get a CD/MP3 audio system with XM Satellite Radio. The Limited adds a six-CD changer and premium sound. 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 climate control, an electrochromatic auto-dimming mirror and a sliding center armrest. A moonroof is optional. Some luxury features available in competing vehicles, like dual-zone climate control and a power passenger seat, are unavailable on the Sonata.
The Sonata's 2.4-liter four-cylinder produces 162 horsepower, versus 235 hp for the available 3.3-liter V-6. Both engines get an Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle rating.
A five-speed manual gearbox is standard in GLS and SE 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 an electronic stability system are standard. Four-wheel-disc 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. The controls are logical and within easy reach, and 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.