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  • 2011 Hyundai Sonata SE

    Posted on July 27th, 2010 ninarussin

    Full-sized sedan offers luxury features with value pricing

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Hyundai Sonata

    2011 Hyundai Sonata

    It’s no surprise that Hyundai continues to post strong sales, despite the tough economy. No company works harder at keeping its customers happy.

    This year, Hyundai rolls out the sixth-generation Sonata sedan. An all-new 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission offer exceptional fuel economy: 35 miles-per-gallon on the highway. Direct injection reduces parasitic fuel loss by delivering gasoline into the engine cylinders rather than through the valves. Despite a high compression ratio, the engine runs on 87-octane fuel.

    Later this year, Hyundai will roll out a turbocharged, high performance model and a Sonata hybrid.

    Standard safety features include antilock braking, electronic stability control, six airbags and daytime running lamps.

    Monospec pricing for the Sonata simplifies the buying process. A sub-$25,000 MSRP buys a fully-equipped car, including power seats, air conditioning, satellite radio, Bluetooth and iPod interface, keyless start, and a tilt-and-telescopic steering column with redundant controls. Unless the buyer wants leather upholstery or navigation, he doesn’t have to worry about the cost of add-ons.

    The 2011 Sonata comes in three grades: GLS, SE and Limited. Of these, the SE (tested) appeals to driving enthusiasts with a sport-tuned suspension and 18-inch wheels. MSRP is $22,595, not including a $720 delivery charge.

    Standard safety features include antilock braking, electronic stability control, active front headrests and daytime running lamps.

    Comfort for the daily commute

    2011 Hyundai Sonata

    2011 Hyundai Sonata

    My test drive of the SE included highways and surface streets around Phoenix, Arizona as well as some rural roads east of town. The Sonata’s four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission offer commuters a nice combination of power and fuel economy. Although the car lacks the low-end torque of bigger engines, there is plenty in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range for merging into high-speed traffic.

    Engineers stretched the sedan’s fuel economy by minimizing curb weight, and spending time in the wind tunnel. The Sonata’s coefficient of drag is an impressive .28.

    The automatic transmission is responsive without being dicey. Shift shock is conspicuously absent.

    Visibility around the car is adequate though not exceptional. There are rather large blind spots in the rear corners. The side mirrors don’t obstruct the driver’s visibility cornering to either side, but they can be hard to adjust for monitoring traffic in the adjacent lanes.

    The electric power steering system provides plenty of assist for maneuvering through crowded parking lots, while maintaining positive on-center response at speed. Making an emergency lane change is a non-issue. A 35.8-foot turning radius is remarkably good considering the Sonata’s 110-inch wheelbase.

    Four-wheel disc brakes with four-channel antilock braking stop the car in a firm, linear fashion.

    All models come with a four-wheel independent suspension. The SE has stiffer springs and larger stabilizer bars than the other two grades to keep the chassis flat in the corners.

    I took the Sonata on a two-lane road outside of town to test the steering and suspension. Since peak engine torque comes on fairly late, I used the manual gear select mode to gain more power on the low end, and enhance uphill acceleration.

    Taking some off-camber turns at speed, I was impressed by how well the Sonata held the road. The transmission’s manual select mode gives drivers an extra measure of confidence when passing slower vehicles.

    Stylish interior

    Hyundai Sonata Interior

    Hyundai Sonata Interior

    Inside, the spacious sedan seats up to five adult passengers. Designers paid careful attention to details important to buyers with active lifestyles. All four doors have bottle holders, and both rows of passengers have access to cupholders. The standard cloth upholstery is attractive and more practical in a hot southwestern summer than leather.

    A tilt-and telescoping steering column enable smaller drivers to maintain a clear forward view, and maintain a safe distance from the front airbag. Gauges are easy to read in a variety of lighting conditions. An “eco” light on the gauge cluster tells the driver he is maximizing fuel economy.

    Center stack controls are easy to reach from either front seating position and intuitive to operate. The Sonata doesn’t have rear air conditioning vents, which can impact second-row passengers in temperature extremes.

    Hyundai uses blue back-lighting for its digital displays. There are two on the Sonata: in the gauge cluster and in the center stack. The lighting is attractive, but makes the displays almost impossible to read in bright sunlight.

    Two power points at the base of the center stack recharge portable electronic devices. A USB port enables passengers to plug in a music stick. A large locking glovebox provides first-row passengers with secure storage.

    Second-row passengers have ample hip and headroom in all three seating positions. The Sonata has a relatively low floor tunnel, but the center console protrudes into the middle passenger’s legroom.

    A long deep trunk has plenty of room for the weekly groceries or luggage. Second-row seats fold flat in a 60/40 pattern to extend the cargo floor for longer items. While it might be possible to shoe a bicycle in back, Hyundai’s cross and sport-utility vehicles are more practical choices for these buyers.

    Hyundai builds the Sonata at its all-new assembly plant in Montgomery, Alabama. The all-new Sonata is on display at Hyundai dealerships nationwide.

    Likes: A full-sized sedan with excellent power, performance and fuel economy. The SE grade (tested) comes with most of the safety, comfort and convenience features buyers want, saving them from having to add option packages.

    Dislikes: Large blind spots in the rear corners. No air conditioning vents behind the center console.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Hyundai
    Model: Sonata SE
    Year: 2011
    Base price: $22,595
    As tested: $23,415
    Horsepower: 200 Hp @ 6300 rpm
    Torque: 186 lbs.-ft. @ 4250 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Off-road: No
    Towing: No
    Fuel economy: 22/35 mpg city/highway.

     

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