Don't be put off by age or styling but pay attention to the way the car has been cared for and maintained. I bought this car in 2013 and it's a 1999. I paid $2500 for it here in Korea where I'm living now. It was in mint condition and needed nothing. In the 2 1/2 years in which I have driven this wonderful car daily it has performed like a champ. It's only a 4-banger and I left a Ford Taurus V-6 24-valve OHC in LA before moving to Korea and I like this car better. It is so comfortable and gets great mileage. The 4-cylinder 16-Valve OHC engine really does perform. I can cruise at 160 Km/Hr all day long if need be. I have only had one problem in all the miles that I have put on this car: it needed a new head gasket (a relatively cheap job in Korea). After that all has been fine. The car had 90,000 Kilometers on it when I bought it and, despite the high mileage, I have never had a more comfortable or reliable car. I love this car and, after all these years, it still looks mint. One thing I particularly like is the cloth seats and cozy, comfortable interior. The air conditioner is powerful and cold and the heater will burn your ears off in the winter. I drive hard and fast and this car cooperates wonderfully with me. But one must maintain any car religiously with oil and filter changes and inspections. One of the virtues of this car is that it is long, wide and low with a low center of gravity and excellent road-holding qualities in curves and driving through the mountainous terrain of Korea. It hugs the road like nothing else I've ever driven. It is, far and away, the best handling car I have ever owned --and at 65 years old--this is my 29th car! No kidding. I've owned English, German, Swedish, American, and Japanese cars but this one does take the cake as the best overall, but I have always had a soft spot for well-performing 4-door sedans. I highly recommend this car to anyone and bear in mind I'm still driving this 17-year-old car daily!
I purchased this vehicle in 2002 with 15,000 miles from the original owner's estate. It presently has about 50,000 miles, including 4 cross-country trips from SFO to ORD and back. Hyundai reported no warranty claims prior to my ownership, and I've had none.
Owner 1 did only basic maintenence, according to Hyundai records, and I've done the same: oil and filter, coolant, trans and filter, battery, tires.
It's a solid, comfortable, reliable, economical and completely practical car, and it's served me well for nearly 10 years. It's not as much fun to drive as my Miata, but I can't carry lumber on a roof rack of a Miata.
I'll gladly purchase another Sonata, with even better value.
There's not any single, specific feature that stands out, either "good" or "bad". Everything is at least "Ok", and sometimes reaches "quite good". Engine is adequate, but hardly "quick" or "fast". When accellerating, turning off A/C (or defroster) noticeably impproves the performance. Power is "adequate", just. Transmission was *much* happier with installation of a $30 "trans oil cooler". 2nd best money I ever spent on trans maintenence. (1st best was oil flush and filtter every 24 months). Front seats are comfortable on long drives, suspension mostly smooths the ride, but seems "floaty", compared to a Miata. (giggle) HVAC mostly works well, but the defroster doesn'tt clear side windows.
Brakes are adequate, but rear drums are obsolete. 15 inch wheels wouldn'tt hurt, either. I'm amused that this Sonata shares wheel size with a Miata half the size and weight. Styling was already greatly improved; it looks like the smooth, swoopy, Taurus-era styling, never my favorite. Lots of refinements, but so far, so good.
I bought new in 1999 at only 84 miles. Now in 2010, I'm at 149,000. 4-cylinder is decent during daily commute and actually smooth and quiet during highway cruising but don't even think about fast lane changes or quick acceleration on entrance ramps. Fuel pump and Tranny were problems during first 50,000 but warranty was in effect. Timing belt replaced after 80,000. Car groans over speed bumps, brakes have always squealed, and paint is chipping now, but other than regular oil changes every 3k, she's had no major repairs in her old age. Still averaging an impressive 28mpg highway today. I'm finally getting another car but this one's lasted longer than I expected.
Hyundai gives a lot of car for a low price. Although ride is uninspiring, it's still smooth on cruising speeds.
Warning sound when the lights are left on (I too have had to get a jump several times because I didn't realize the lights were left on).
Was happy with my purchase, even though I had a lot of warranty work done on it during the first 5 years. Beginning in the 7th yr., I've dished out more money for repairs than I care to remember, every six months or so. Nothing less than $200 each trip to the service dept! Now, for the past 2 yrs., I'm paying for repairs every other month, in the neighborhood of $700-900 per visit. I've owned other Brands that didn't have the problems I'm having with this Sonato! It drives like a dream, but these costly repairs are a nightmare. Don't think I'll buy another Hyundai. I normally keep a vehicle 10-12 yrs, before buying a new one, but don't think I can put up with these problems much longer!!
The smooth highway ride.
Thicker outside body material(less dings/dents), and better underhood components.
We bought the car when it had about 60,000 miles on it. My wife drove it basically around town. At about 90,000 miles I thought it needed the wheels aligned but our mechanic said the cradle bolt (sub frame) was rotting out and it was unsafe to drive. The part from the dealers cost $1500. We checked availability from junk yards and the common response was laughter. Since we were not the original owners, Hyundai did not offer any recourse. We sold it to a mechanic who said he would take a chance on it.