2006 Hyundai Sonata
This 2006 review is representative of model years 2006 to 2008.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
A few years ago, hardly anyone thought Hyundai would offer an auto that could seriously compete with Japan's Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, which are the leaders in the big midsize family car market. After all, many still remember that South Korea's Hyundai once sold cheap, junky cars here.
But never say "never" in today's frantic auto business—Hyundai has become more accepted in America each year as its vehicles have improved. It's experiencing skyrocketing sales when established automakers are faltering.
Everyone loves a bargain, and the new $17,895-$22,895 Sonata certainly seems to be one. For starters, it's more handsome than its predecessor. Sonatas with the available V6 even have chromed dual exhaust outlets, which signal that this car is no pushover.
Large Car Class
The new model has a longer wheelbase and is two inches longer overall and taller, besides being wider than the Camry, Accord and Altima. One thing Americans have noticed about popular Japanese cars is that they're rather narrow. That's because they are built for a world market, and not every country has America's wide roads. The extra width helps make the Sonata unusually roomy, especially in the rear-seat area.
Designed for Americans
However, although they look good, the front seats should provide more support. And the stiff center of the back seat is best occupied on trips of more than 15 minutes by the large fold-down armrest, which contains dual cupholders.
The enlarged trunk is quite spacious, with a low, wide opening and has a lid that smoothly raises well out of the way on struts. The cargo area can be enlarged by fold-forward rear seatbacks, although the pass-through area between the trunk and back seat should be a little larger.
The Sonata is a family car, not a sports sedan. But its speed-sensitive steering is quick enough and handling is surprisingly good. The all-independent suspension provides a smooth ride, although it occasionally becomes a little bouncy. The brake pedal initially felt too sensitive, but I soon got used to it.
The Sonata is offered as the base $17,895-$18,795 GL, mid-range $19,395-$20,895 GLS and top-line $22,895 LX.
Lots of Equipment
Other standard safety items include anti-lock all-disc brakes with electronic brake force distribution, front side-impact airbags and front/rear side-curtain airbags. The Sonata is projected to perform at a 5-star level in government frontal and side-impact testing.
The GL has standard air conditioning, cruise control, keyless entry, power windows, 16-inch wheels, a rear defroster, power door locks and heated power side mirrors, an AM/FM/CD/MP3 sound system, a leather-wrapped wheel and a tilt steering column.
Up the Ladder
Options for the GLS include a power sunroof and a Premium Package that includes the sunroof and a power driver's seat.
I tested the top-dog LX, which adds heated front leather-covered seats, power driver's seat, 17-inch wheels with wider tires, automatic temperature control and a telescoping steering column.
Optional for the LX are the power sunroof and a CD changer with subwoofer and component amplifier.
My test car's smooth, quiet V6 delivered strong acceleration in town and fast passing on freeways and highways.
The new 4-cylinder should have enough juice for most driving. It comes in the base $17,895 GL with a 5-speed manual gearbox and in the GL and GLS with a 4-speed automatic transmission. The V6, which works with a 5-speed automatic, is offered for the GLS and is standard in the LX.
The tilt steering column also has a notchy action that is out of step with the otherwise smooth controls. Large audio system and climate controls are conveniently located so a driver need not take eyes from the road much to fuss with them. Stylish red needles make the speedometer and tachometer especially easy to read quickly.
The hood smoothly raises on a single strut and thus needs no awkward prop rod. Fluid filler areas are easily reached in the engine compartment.
The Sonata has been Hyundai's best-selling model, and the new one should help keep the automaker's sales climbing and further improve its image.