By Mike Hanley on December 1, 2009
The Sonata has long been a practical family sedan, but Hyundai aims to increase the car's style appeal with the redesigned 2011 model, which sports a more distinctive — if not revolutionary — design.The changes are immediately apparent in the Sonata's face, which features a wide chrome grille and long, thin headlights that run into the fenders. Chrome trim around the side windows is a common styling cue; Hyundai has taken it a step further by extending the chrome strip, which sits at the base of the windows, forward along the sides of the hood to the headlights. While the overall look definitely pushes the bar compared to the previous Sonata, there are some other memorable designs, including the Mazda6, in the segment.
Hyundai significantly updated the Sonata's interior for the 2009 model year with better materials. Although the cabin design of the 2011 model is all-new, materials quality seems about the same; it's still competitive but doesn't notably raise the bar for the class, which is already fairly high. Less compelling is the appearance of the faux wood and silver accents in the middle of the dash of top-of-the-line Limited trim levels. Two other trims are also offered: a base GLS and midlevel SE.
The sleek new exterior design has consequences for backseat passenger space. While legroom is good — it's close to what you'll find in a Toyota Camry or Honda Accord — there's not much extra headroom for taller adults, and those same people might find that they have to dip their head when exiting to avoid bumping it on the headliner. The backseat cushions felt a little lumpy, too.
The Sonata is Hyundai's best-selling model in the U.S. and it's not hard to see why: It offers a lot of value for the money. The 2011 Sonata adds some style to the overall package. It promises to remain a solid value, too, with base versions expected to start at less than $20,000.
Senior Editor Mike Hanley is a father of three boys; he reviews new cars, admires classic cars and has embraced the minivan lifestyle. Email Mike