2007 Hyundai Sonata

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2006 Hyundai Sonata

This 2006 review is representative of model years 2006 to 2008.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

It's now a far more serious rival to top-selling midsize autos.
Pros:
  • Deftly redesigned for American market
  • Roomier
  • More powerful
Cons:
  • Average front seats
  • Notchy automatic transmission shifter
  • Questionable resale value

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.

Bigger Headache
The early 2006 Hyundai Sonata sedan will represent an even bigger headache for rivals. It's close to matching the Camry, Accord and formidable Nissan Altima—and even tops them in some areas. And the Sonata will cost less.

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 Sonata has more powerful engines, lots of equipment and a roomy interior that puts it in the large-car class, as measured by the EPA. Importantly, it has good fits and finishes, inside and out, and Hyundai's 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, which continues to attract customers to Hyundai showrooms.

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
The new Sonata was designed to meet U.S. driver needs. It required collaborative development at Hyundai's global research and development operations, including those in Michigan and California. It's the first Hyundai built in America—at the automaker's new manufacturing plant in Montgomery, Alabama.

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.

New Engines
The sophisticated new engines let the new Sonata leave its predecessor in the dust. One is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder with 162 horsepower; it replaces a 138-horsepower 4-cylinder and has a balance shaft to eliminate 4-cylinder roughness. The other is a 3.3-liter V6 with 235 horsepower; it replaces a smaller 170-horsepower V6.

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
All Sonatas have a level of standard equipment that's typically a cut above comparable models. In this case, for instance, all versions have standard electronic stability and traction control systems, which is a "first" for the midsize sedan market and a prime safety feature.

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
The GLS moves up the ladder by adding an automatic transmission, alloy wheels, a steering wheel with audio controls, automatic light control and a trip computer. It also has metal-grain or woodgrain interior trim accents.

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.

Best Buy
For the money, the GLS V6 is arguably the best buy of the lot, but the LX is easily worth the extra money.

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.

Notchy Shifter
Both automatic transmissions have an easily used manual-shift feature. However, the automatic's shifter is notchy during normal operation, as when moving it from Park to Drive.

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.

Thoughtful Touches
Thoughtful touches include six windshield washer jets, sun visors with lit vanity mirrors and extensions to help block out unwanted sunlight, a large glove compartment, handily front cupholders and front door storage pockets. Rear windows go down all the way.

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.

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BB01 - 7/25/2014 7:00:53 AM