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2011  Hyundai  Sonata  SE  -­  Four  Season  Wrap-­Up

From  the  December,  2011  issue  of  Automobile  Magazine   By  Joe  Lorio

 
PRLog - Dec. 22, 2011 - It's fair to say that we were surprised by the Hyundai Sonata. Granted, the previous  Sonata was a competent offering, but it was not exactly a standout.  With  the  new  Sonata,  however,  staff  members  suddenly  started  tossing  around
phrases  like  "best-­in-­class."  Against  such  stalwart  competitors  as  the  Honda  Accord  and  the  Toyota  Camry  -­-­  and  solid  challengers  like  the  Nissan  Altima,  the  Ford  Fusion,  and  the  Chevrolet  Malibu  -­-­  that  was  a  very  big  claim.The  best  way  to  find  out  for  sure  whether  the  Sonata  was  deserving  of  such  enthusiasm  was  to  spend  a  year  with  one  in  a  Four  Seasons  test.  
The  Sonata  comes  in  three  flavors:  GLS,  SE,  and  Limited.  We  chose  the  midlevel  SE,  which  is  also  supposed  to  be  the  (slightly)  sporty  version.  For  the  SE,  there's  only  one  powertrain:  a  2.4-­liter  four-­cylinder  engine  and  a  six-­speed automatic  transmission.  You  might  think  the  six-­speed  manual  would  be  available  on  the  SE,  but  it  can  be  had  only  on  the  base  GLS.  We  added  the  navigation  and  sunroof  package  (which  also  includes  an  upgraded  audio  system)  and  a  cargo  net,  bringing  the  total  price  to  a  still  very  reasonable  $25,965.  The  navigation  system  proved  to  be  a  key  addition,  and  it  garnered  lots  of  praise  for  its  ease  of  use.  "I  drove  a  Honda Accord  recently,"  said  senior  web  editor  Phil  Floraday,  starting  off  our  logbook,  "and  the  first  thing  I  noticed  in  the Sonata  is  how  much  more  intuitive  the  infotainment  and  climate  controls  are.”  Assistant  editor  David  Zenlea  put  the  Sonata's  system  alongside  Nissan's  at  the  head  of  the  class.  "Hyundai  consistently  nails  in-­car  technology,"  he  said,  "something  that  utterly  confounds  most  automakers."  "There's  no  learning  curve,"  added  associate  editor  Eric  Tingwall.  "The  controls  for  everything  from  the  radio  to  the  headlightsto  the  HVAC  are  smartly  placed,  neatly  arranged,  and  appropriately  sized."  "Nicely  peppy,"  wrote  copy  editor  Rusty  Blackwell,  who  thought  the  2.4  "doesn't  feel  base-­level  at  all."  Tingwall  agreed,  saying,  "I'm  constantly  impressed  with  how  strong  and  smooth  the  power  delivery  is  with  this  engine."  Strong  and  smooth,  perhaps,  but  not  silent.  This  four-­cylinder  is  direct  injected,  which  aids  efficiency  but  often  makes  for  a  noisy  engine.  More  than  one  driver  thought  that  the  engine's  gravelly  idle  sounded  almost  like  that  of  a  diesel, although  most  were  not  bothered  by  the  powerplant's  patter  once  underway. What  was  also  diesel-­like,  at  times,  was  the  fuel  economy.  One  staffer  averaged  36.6  mpg  (indicated)  on  a  five-­hour   highway  drive  from  Chicago.  Another  reported  getting  33  mpg  on  a  trip  to  New  York  and  36  mpg  on  the  return.  (The   EPA  rates  the  Sonata  at  35  mpg  on  the  highway.)  Everyone  appreciated  the  long  highway  cruising  range,  which  could   exceed  500  miles.  In  all,  we  averaged  28  mpg  over  26,679  miles.  
An  extra-­tall  sixth  gear  aids  the  cause  of  highway  fuel  economy,  and  the  six-­speed  automatic  was  mostly  well   behaved  -­-­  Tingwall  credited  it  with  "some  of  the  smoothest  gearchanges  in  the  mid-­size  segment"  -­-­  with  one   exception.  On  a  few  occasions  -­-­  low  traction,  big  throttle  opening  -­-­  the  engine  would  bang  off  the  rev  limiter  before   the  transmission  shifted  into  second  gear.  
The  standard-­fitment  Hankook  Optimo  all-­season  tires  appear  to  have  been  chosen  for  their  low  rolling  resistance,   because  they  didn't  come  across  as  a  particularly  sporting  choice.  They  were  quick  to  protest  during  enthusiastic   cornering.  Nor  were  the  brakes  the  stuff  of  enthusiasts'  dreams:  New  York  bureau  chief  Jamie  Kitman  characterized   them  as  "lifeless  and  weak,"  and  Floraday  described  an  emergency  stop  on  I-­94  as  "not  the  most  confidence   inspiring."  Our  measured  stopping  distance  of  175  feet  from  70  mph  was  not  bad,  though.  
Although  the  Sonata  in  SE  trim  might  not  be  a  road-­burning  sport  sedan,  its  firmer  suspension  earned  good  reviews.   We  found  it  to  be  nicely  poised  through  high-­speed  curves.  "You  can  plant  the  Sonata  in  a  bend  and  it  feels  like  a  car   with  much  more  sporting  credentials,"  said  Tingwall.  That  the  Sonata  managed  this  without  garnering  a  single   complaint  about  ride  quality  over  our  horrendous  local  roads  indicates  that  Hyundai  has  struck  an  ideal  balance  in   suspension  tuning  for  this  car.  The  tuning  of  the  electric  power  steering,  however,  is  not  quite  there  yet,  although   satisfying  all  drivers  might  be  impossible.  To  wit,  various  staffers  described  the  steering  as  "delightfully  weighted"  and   "better  than  most,"  yet  also  "springy"  and  "ponderous  and  uncommunicative."  
There  was  no  such  disagreement  about  the  Sonata's  more  practical  attributes,  such  as  the  spacious  interior  and  the   roomy  trunk.  Regarding  the  latter,  the  only  disparate  comments  had  to  do  with  what  we  put  in  it:  a  kiddie  pool,  a   partially  disassembled  motorized  wheelchair,  a  TV  satellite  dish  and  two  kitchen  garbage  cans,  or  luggage  for  four   people.  The  last  was  for  a  group  of  triathletes  who  were  traveling  with  bikes,  helmets,  sleeping  bags,  and  a  small   cooler  in  addition  to  their  duffel  bags.  "I  was  certain  that  I  needed  a  utility  vehicle  for  the  trip,"  recounted  Tingwall,   "but  the  Sonata  was  surprisingly  comfortable  and  roomy.  Interior  space  is  very  generous,  with  plenty  of  legroom  for   four  adults."  What  about  reliability,  a  prized  quality  among  buyers  of  mid-­size  sedans?  Well,  aside  from  a  slightly  alarming  four   recalls  (for  the  overhead  console,  the  steering-­column  intermediate  shaft,  the  transmission  control  module,  and  the   fuel  door),  we  had  only  one  problem:  a  mild  but  persistent  rattle  in  the  sunroof.  It  eventually  was  found  to  be   severely  out  of  adjustment.  We  did  have  one  experience  with  Hyundai  roadside  assistance,  when  managing  editor  of   digital  platforms  Jennifer  Misaros  had  a  tire  go  flat.  She  reached  a  pleasant,  well-­spoken  woman  on  the  phone  and  got   a  text  message  with  an  ETA  from  the  responding  local  service  company  before  she'd  even  hung  up.  The  driver  arrived   within  ten  minutes  and  immediately  got  to  work; he even  diagnosed  the  cause  (a  tire-­pressure  monitor  improperly   installed  when  the  winter tires  were  mounted).  Misaros  was  taken  aback:  "If  this  is  any  indication  of  the  level  of   service  Hyundai  owners  receive,  I'm  thoroughly  impressed."  Actually,  we  were  quite  impressed  with  the  Sonata  overall.  "Hyundai  has  finally  gone  from  catching  up  to  the   competition  to  raising  the  bar  with  the  Sonata,"  said  Floraday.  "In  a  segment  where  progress  is  often  measured  in   baby  steps,  the  Sonata  seems  to  have  made  a  giant  leap,"  echoed  Zenlea.  "The  last  generation  brought  respectability.   This  one  joins  the  best  in  the  class."  We  should  point  out  that  the  Sonata  is  also  the  newest  car  in  its  class.  Staying  on   top  won't  be  easy,  but  if  Hyundai  can  do  it,  this  time  we  won't  be  surprised.

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The Taylor Automotive Group is a locally owned and locally committed group of dealerships consisting of Taylor Cadillac, Taylor Hyundai,Taylor KIA of Toledo and Taylor KIA of Findlay. To contact us or browse our inventory click http://www.taylorauto.com

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Tags:hyundai, sonata, 2011, taylor, automotive, toledo, perrysburg, Ohio
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