In 2005, Hyundai really started to change its game in the American market with a refresh of the Sonata. This fifth-generation Sonata stepped up with good looks, dual exhaust, and an optional V6. The quality of the interior started to come up as well, bringing people to notice the Sonata for the first time. Hyundai has continued to push its way upmarket with the Genesis Sedan going on sale in 2008 and the Genesis Coupe starting its life shortly after.
When Hyundai pulled the covers off the all new 2011 Sonata at the LA Auto Show back in 2009, we and many others were stunned at the creation this company had presented. The new Sonata takes influences from the Volkswagen CC and the Subaru Legacy, yet it looks like nothing else out there, especially not at that price range. Smaller car companies, most often, don’t deliver cars that are out there in design. Stick to the box that sells well and you’ll be okay. Hyundai lost that memo somewhere. The Sonata is just the beginning with Hyundai as the sleek and sloping lines will carry through its lineup.
So it looks good, but it’s cheap and something has to give, right? Not exactly. After a visit to our friends at Absolute Hyundai in Mesquite, Texas, we took the opportunity to jump in the new Sonata and see for ourselves. Our friend Delwyn handed us the keys to a Limited Edition Sonata packed to the max with options. My first thought was to look at the sticker, and to my delight this fully loaded package was under $28,000. I opened the door and slid into the seat, put my hands on the steering wheel and immediately rolled my eyes. The interior quality is fantastic with great feeling and looking materials all around, yet the steering wheel, like in the Genesis Coupe, is covered in hard leather and not as comfortable as I’d like. Yes, I have a thing for steering wheels – but I digress.
By the time I was a few feet out of the parking lot, I had forgotten all about the steering wheel. The rest of the interior really puts you in the frame of mind that you’re in a much more expensive and luxurious car. The ride is smooth and pretty precise. I wouldn’t call it sporty, but then it’s a family sedan, and I was in the Limited with an automatic transmission. We did have a 2.4 liter CVVT engine putting out 200 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque, so when you smashed the gas pedal down it was no slouch. Soon, you’ll be able to purchase the Sonata with a 2.0 liter engine slapped with a turbo. Yes, it’s the same engine from the 2.0T Genesis Coupe. If you’re looking for a sporty sedan, wait for that one, and pick it up with the six-speed manual transmission. Hyundai is already comparing it to the new Buick Regal GS 2.0 turbo, and that’s a good thing.
What this car does is bath you in luxury features you’d be hard pressed to find in cars even $10,000 over its price range. The Limited Sonata not only had front heated seats, but rear heated seat as well. Try and find that button in your Infinity G37. We had the sun roof, leather seats, navigation system, 9 speaker Infinity system, backup camera, and some 18” wheels. It was packed. Everything worked well too. The navigation and infotainment system was easy to navigate and understand. All the buttons, and there are quite a few, where easy to find and distinguish their functions. The new Sonata is 2.6 inches longer than the previous generation. You can’t determine this from the outside but by sitting inside it’s quite noticeable. There’s plenty of room for me, a 6’1” Texan, to fit behind a driver of the same size. Even though it’s been stretched, it’s stayed relatively light, tipping the scales at 3340 pounds thanks to lighter, yet stronger steel.
I have been saying for a while now to keep watching what Hyundai is doing. From the 2005 Sonata to the Genesis and Genesis coupe, and now the all new Sonata, people are paying attention. Now Hyundai has announced they are bringing the Ultra Luxurious Equis to the American market with yet another blow to conventional wisdom. The new Elantra and Accent are taking cues from the Sonata style and should shake up the compact segments as well. Hyundai has also been developing and now getting ready to release their new hybrid technology, first in the Sonata, and already getting good reviews on that front.