Sunday, May 2, 2010;
Bottom line: All rival car manufacturers should keep an eye on the new Sonata's performance in the marketplace. Hyundai's underlying drive to beat the Japanese at their own game could upset everybody.
Ride, acceleration and handling: Excellent marks in all three. It's hard to believe this is a biggish four-cylinder family sedan.
Head-turning quotient: Tops! It beats everything in its class.
Body style/layout: The 2011 Sonata is a front-engine, front-wheel-drive, midsize/large (the government calls it "large") family sedan now available only with a normally aspirated (no forced air) four-cylinder engine. Future iterations will offer a turbocharged (forced-air, higher-horsepower) four-cylinder engine. A gas-electric hybrid model is also planned The 2011 Sonata has three trim levels -- base GLS, midline SE and near-luxury Limited.
Sweet irony: Made mostly by American workers in Montgomery, Ala.
Engine/transmissions: A 2.4-liter, direct-gasoline-injected, 16-valve engine that produces a maximum 198 horsepower and 184 foot-pounds of torque in the tested Limited version. Horsepower rises to 200 in the SE because of exhaust modifications. A six-speed auto-manual transmission is available in the Limited and SE versions. The GLS gets a dedicated six-speed manual gearbox.
Capacities: There are seats for five people. Maximum luggage capacity is 16.4 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 18.5 gallons of recommended regular gasoline.
Mileage: We averaged 35 miles per gallon on the highway, which means we often got better than 35 mpg (as high as 38 when moving downhill at posted speed limits). Mileage often fell as low as 20 (two below the federal government's mileage rating) on congested routes in and around Philadelphia and the D.C. area.
Safety: Standard equipment includes disc brakes (ventilated front/solid rear); four-wheel antilock brake system; emergency braking assistance; electronic stability and traction control; side and head air bags, but no driver's knee bag (available in the new Ford Fiesta); and tire-pressure monitoring system.
Price: From $19,195 for the GLS to $25, 295 for the Limited. Dealer invoice price for the Limited is $23,648; price as tested is $28,150, including $2,135 in options (navigation with backup camera, iPod and other infotainment connectivity) and a $720 destination charge.