Driving the 2011 Hyundai Sonata – AutoPacific President's Award Winner

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Does the 2011 Sonata Deserve the AutoPacific President’s Award – Yes
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Driving the Sonata We just finished a week driving a 2011 Sonata Limited priced at about $28,500 fully loaded. Is the car as perfect as its early owners indicate? Yes, and no. The car looks great, but styling is very subjective. It looks different from other cars on the road. It turns heads. It is distinctive. While styling is rated almost perfect by its early buyers we wonder how it will resonate with more conservative buyers who are not risk taking early adopters.
The interior is very nicely appointed. The Sonata we drove has the wine colored interior package. It feels very upscale. Tasteful. Hyundai has done a excellent job on ergonomics. The controls fall easily to hand and are easy to understand. The fonts are mostly big enough. At night the controls and instrumentation are tastefully lit by ice blue lighting. Very nice.
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4-Door Coupe Styling Doesn’t Hurt Practicality One of the things we value most highly when living with a car is how easy it is to get into and out of. We were concerned that the swoopy styling of the Sonata would hurt ingress/egress. It doesn’t. The car is easy to get into and out of. The cabin is very spacious and the rear seat is comfortable even with its fast sloping roof.



Navigation System is Decent But Not Perfect
Our Limited has a $2,100 navigation system that should have been state of the art, but isn’t. While it is relatively easy to use (especially for folks who are accustomed to typical in-car navigation systems), the voice directions from the navigation system are very robotic-sounding and street names are often mispronounced. For an all new 2011 model, the display screen is a bit small when compared to the eight-inch and ten-inch screens found on some recent launches from Ford, BMW and others. We would like larger fonts on the display screen. In areas with densely packed cities like Southern California, we’d like the system to add the city name in addition to the road name to the nav display. On the plus side, the screen resolution is fairly good and it does provide detailed traffic, weather, and stock updates.
With the navigation package you also get a backup camera with graphics that show your direction of reverse. A very nice feature.
Dynamically a Bit Soft – Targeting the Mainstream Mid-Size Car Buyer The ride and handling setup Hyundai selected for the new Sonata is relatively soft. It’s electric power steering is almost too light, but you get used to it. Similarly, the brakes are very light, but not touchy. The ride is soft, but handling is fairly crisp. Dynamically, this is a car that may turn off the enthusiast, but clearly not the broad base of American mid-size car buyers. And for those who want sportier handling, there is always the tighter SE model.
Powered by a 198-horsepower (200HP on the dual exhaust SE model) 4-cylinder engine with gasoline direct injection, the power and acceleration is good for a 4-cylinder powered mid-size car. The engine is unobtrusive unless you go pedal to the metal. Then is sounds “gruff” as one AutoPacific staffer termed it. Fuel economy is good too. For those wanting more power, a turbo version will be added in Fall 2010. For those wanting even more fuel economy, a hybrid version will be added then as well.
Well, Nothing’s Perfect The Sonata, of course, isn’t perfect. While the car is very quiet under most conditions its Hankook Optimo tires are very sensitive to road surfaces. At freeway speeds it can get so noisy that a conversation with a rear seat passenger is tough. That’s about it for the negatives.
Taking a poll of AutoPacific staffers to search for negatives, some thought the steering was too light and the brakes too sensitives. Another thought these basics were perfect. She wants her husband to replace his BMW 750Li with a Sonata when his lease is up in a few months. Probably won’t happen, but the new Sonata is quite a car for a third the price of a 7-Series.

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