Comparison Test: Hyundai Sonata Takes on the Accord and Camry

2006 Hyundai Sonata Sedan

(3.3L V6 5-speed Automatic)
  • 2006 Honda Accord Picture

    2006 Honda Accord Picture

    At speed, the Accord is utterly composed. | September 25, 2009

24 Photos

  • Comparison Test
  • First Place: 2006 Hyundai Sonata
  • Second Place: 2005 Honda Accord
  • Third Place: 2005 Toyota Camry
  • Editors' Evaluations
  • Top 10 Features
  • Consumer Commentary
  • Final Rankings and Scoring Explanation
  • Second Opinions
  • Stereo Evaluation
  • 2006 Hyundai Sonata Specs and Performance
  • 2005 Honda Accord Specs and Performance
  • 2005 Toyota Camry Specs and Performance

We've been recommending the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry for years, decades even. Yes, there are other family sedans out there, even ones that provide a more entertaining drive or more style. But when overall quality, passenger comfort, reliability and longevity are paramount, the conversation always comes back to the two benchmarks, Accord and Camry.

But of late, these benchmarks are creeping up the price ladder. Load an Accord or a Camry up with a V6, leather upholstery and a premium stereo and you're looking at a sticker approaching $30K. Walk into a Honda or Toyota dealership with around $20 grand to spend and you're going to get something completely different. We began to wonder if we could find a worthy, affordable alternative to the acknowledged segment leaders. Specifically, we asked, is the all-new Hyundai Sonata, high expectations and all, ready to compete at the top?

Family Sedans on a Budget
Our Edmunds experts tell us that, as of June 2005, the average transaction price for a midsize sedan was almost $22,000. Thus, in the spirit of affordability, we asked Honda and Toyota to send us the best Accord and Camry they could for under $22,000. At that moderate price point, we got two cars with four-cylinder engines, cloth interiors and few options. We received a 2005 Honda Accord LX with a price of $21,240 and a 2005 Toyota Camry LE that ran $21,683. With their solid reputations as well-built, reliable cars and being the top two best-selling cars in the U.S. for most of the past 20 years, it's not like they have to have a huge value proposition to win over buyers.

Then we tossed in the wild card. We called Hyundai with the same request. Instead of a stripped-down sedan we got an all-new 2006 Hyundai Sonata GLS. It had V6 power, six airbags, a premium stereo and electronic stability control all standard. It had a sticker price of just $20,895 and looked pretty good, too.

Born in the U.S.A.
Interestingly, all three of these "foreign" cars are actually built right here in the States. The Sonata is being built at an all-new plant in Alabama, Honda's been building Accords in Ohio for over 20 years and Toyota has been making Camrys in Kentucky since 1988.

During our week with the cars, we subjected this trio to the typical duties of commuting, taking the kids to lessons and shopping for groceries. We also took them to the track for acceleration, braking and slalom testing. What were we looking for? The family sedan with the best combination of passenger accommodations, safety and luxury features, performance, overall quality and value.

It's Official, Hell Freezes Over
Mark this year down in the history books as the year Hyundai got serious. Not only is the Sonata as nice as the Accord and Camry, it's quite a bit better in many key areas.

Hop inside the Sonata, shut the door (which closes with a solid "whump") and check out the materials and textures. Fiddle with the climate controls and they move smoothly. Drive the car and the same sense of refinement continues. Bumps are absorbed without drama, steering and brakes feel sure and precise, the V6 provides effortless thrust, and the ride is smooth.
In the end, it wasn't even close. Yes, our editors' evaluation forms showed the Sonata just edging out the Accord, but in the areas of performance and features, the Hyundai won in a landslide. Next thing you know, they'll be selling space heaters in Lucifer's 'hood.

You could say that our socks have been knocked off by the 2006 Hyundai Sonata. If you scrutinized the car as closely as we did, and had the opportunity to live with all three cars for a week like we did, we're sure that you too would've been rendered barefoot after the experience.

Swimming in the Mainstream
In terms of styling, Hyundai chose to take a safe and proven route. There's nothing groundbreaking here, just clean, crisp lines with a generic grille (with its chrome mustache) and a nice sense of proportion that the Accord might envy.

A few perks to the exterior give the Sonata a more upscale look than its rivals. Standard dual chrome exhaust outlets, 16-inch alloy wheels (versus the 15-inchers with wheel covers on the others) and foglights make the midlevel Accord and Camry look like base models when parked next to the Sonata.

Inside the cabin, the fit and finish of the materials is equal to the standard bearers. It's obvious Hyundai sweated the details. The console has a padded and stitched top and the trunk is fully lined, unlike the Accord with its bare metal lid. All the controls are where you'd expect and operate with a silken quality that makes them feel as good as they look. Standard features that you might not expect include a leather-wrapped steering wheel, trip computer and side curtain airbags.

The seats garnered kudos all around. Well shaped and with generous under-thigh support, the Sonata seats rival the Accord's in comfort upfront and are better in back thanks to generous rear legroom and plenty of under-thigh support.

Hyundai claims that the Sonata has the largest interior in its class, and the raw specs bear that out as far as total volume: the Sonata at 121.7 cubic feet versus the Camry's 101.8 and the Accord's 102.7. All three sedans are comparable in most passenger dimensions, with the Sonata having (at 43.7 inches) the advantage in front legroom, something taller drivers will want to take note of. In trunk capacity, the Sonata boasts a generous 16.3 cubic feet (compared to the Camry's 16.7 cubes and the Accord's 14.0). A 60/40-split-folding rear seat allows flexibility between carrying passengers and cargo.

More Power to the People
Unlike previous iterations, this Sonata's V6 isn't lacking in power. Sporting a heady 38-percent horsepower increase over the outgoing 2.7-liter unit, the new 3.3-liter V6 pumps out 235 hp and 226 pound-feet of torque. This baby is state of the art, with all-aluminum construction and variable valve timing that provides a broad spread of power.

A five-speed automatic sends the power to the front wheels, and there's a manual mode for those times when you want to take part in the gear swapping. But like most other automanuals, there's a lag when you shift for yourself so it's of dubious value. Left to its own electromechanical devices, the transmission does a fine job of providing seamless gear changes and is smart enough to step down quickly and hold a gear when needed.

Track Star
With an 8.2-second 0-to-60 time and a 15.7-second quarter-mile effort, the Sonata simply embarrassed the Accord and Camry at the track. Even under full throttle, the engine didn't seem strained and remained smooth and relatively quiet. Against EPA estimates of 20/city and 30/highway, we averaged 19.9 mpg with the Sonata. This represents 4 and 7 mpg less than the four-cylinder Camry and Accord, respectively. Let's just say we really enjoyed the 235 horses in this car. We have no doubt, however, that folks with lighter feet than ours will score low- to mid-20s with a V6 Sonata.

Doing the reverse once again had the Hyundai humbling its peers. Sporting four-wheel discs, the Sonata did the 60-0 drill in 128 feet, some 7 feet shorter than the Accord and nearly 20 feet better than the Camry's best effort.

And the Sonata's binders showed virtually no fade in three consecutive panic stops — the third stop was not even a foot longer than the first. Compare that to the Camry, whose second stop (at 149 feet) was over 3 feet longer than the first. Brake pedal feel was nearly as good as the Honda, not quite as firm but fine as far as linear modulation goes.

In the slalom, it was a virtual tie. The Sonata had a 55.7-mph speed through the cones versus the Camry's 55.9 mph and the Accord's 56-mph efforts. What's more telling is how our performance tester reacted after driving all three cars through the cones. "The Camry was a handful whereas the Sonata was easy to push to its limits." We all agreed that both on the road and at the track, the Accord felt the sportiest, but the Sonata wasn't far behind.

In the real world, the Sonata shines. The well-tuned suspension smothers the bumps and keeps its composure in turns without drama, and its tuning falls between the firm Accord and cushy Camry. There's plenty of power for effortless merging and passing, and the brakes are a strong ally in the daily grind. And let's not forget the standard stability control, unusual in the segment, and the huge 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

The Cinderella Story Is Complete
With the Sonata handily dethroning the twin kings of the family sedan segment, Hyundai has shown that, beyond a doubt, it's ready to take a starring role on the automotive stage. Nice job, Hyundai.

A perennial favorite, the Accord won our 2003-2004 family sedan comparison test. But that was an EX V6 with a current list price approaching $28,000. What about the average Joe who wants to spend closer to $21K? That would be Honda's bread and butter of the Accord line, the LX with the four-cylinder engine.

Beauty Is Only…
We still think the Accord sedan looks chunky, especially from the rear three-quarter view. Add in the flat, featureless hood and hokey grille treatment and you're talking about the wallflower of the group. A styling refresh is in the works for the 2006 model with a taillight treatment that helps to make it seem less "hippy."

Inside, the Accord scored points for its large gauges and generous storage space. Firmer seats than the other two lent an almost European feel to the cabin, as did the two-tone scheme and suedelike door trim. Demerits were issued for the stereo's odd controls (we can't count how many times we turned up the fan speed when we meant to pump up the volume) and the lack of a 60/40 split for the folding rear seat, a feature the other two cars had. In its defense, the Accord does have a pass-through for skis and the like.

Eager to Please
Although the Accord's 2.4-liter power plant is similar in size and architecture to the Camry's, it's more of an athlete. One editor praised the Honda's engine in his notes: "It's strong for a four and doesn't run out of breath on steeper hills like the Camry. Although it shares a 160-horsepower rating with the Camry, it actually has slightly less torque (161 pound-feet versus 163 lb-ft). Strange…maybe it works out at the same gym that BMW's inline sixes belong to.

What certainly helps the Accord's performance is the smart "Grade Logic" automatic transmission. This five-speed gearbox was never caught flat-footed and knew when to hold a gear (rather than hunt down and up), such as when running through hilly terrain. One driver stated that it's "like it knows what's coming up, great transmission."

At the track, we recorded the 0-60-mph sprint in 9.5 seconds, with the quarter taking 16.8 seconds at 82.8 mph. This is respectable performance for a midsize sedan with a four-cylinder/automatic drivetrain. Fuel economy was outstanding at 27 mpg, no mean feat considering our staff's lead feet.

In the braking area, the Accord was midpack, with a 60-0 distance of 135 feet. Not bad for a car with drum brakes in back. We also saw no fade in three panic stops — the first and third stops were identical at 134.6 feet. A firm, progressive brake pedal inspires confidence and, as with the other two cars, the Accord comes standard with ABS.

Snaking through the slalom, the Accord essentially tied the others, with a 56-mph run through the cones. But where the Camry felt dicey when pushed hard, the Accord felt planted and sure. On our road loops, that feeling continued as the Honda was called "the sport sedan of the trio" by one enthusiastic pilot. The ride was deemed firm but comfortable by all but one driver, who complained that you could "feel more bumps [than the Camry], a negative to me."

Has Core Values but Lacks Strong Value
The Accord has the basics nailed down. A strong powertrain, a well-sorted suspension, reassuring brakes, an accommodating cabin and a bulletproof history for long-term happiness are all aces in the Accord's hand. Furthermore, people who need an affordable midsize sedan and appreciate a responsive, involving drive won't be disappointed with this choice.

But perhaps Honda is relying too much on its sterling reputation. At $345 more than the equally refined Sonata, the Accord lacks features that come standard on the Hyundai, such as stability control, a potent V6, four-wheel disc brakes and a split-folding rear seat.

With the Sonata equaling the Accord in fit and finish and trouncing it in performance and features, one can see why the Honda finds itself in unfamiliar territory — second to a Hyundai.

Millions of consumers can't be wrong. There are some valid reasons why the Camry continues to ride atop the sales charts. Rock-solid quality and unfailing reliability have been this model's calling card for years.

Yet the 2005 Toyota Camry finished in third place, soundly beaten by a 2006 Hyundai Sonata. How could this be?

Comfort Zone
Inside the cabin the styling is clean and functional, if unexciting. Storage compartments abound and controls are simple and intuitive. Although most staffers thought the front seats were comfortable, a few complained about the upholstery, saying that it "grabs my clothes" and "attracts lint like a magnet." Rear accommodations drew favorable comments ranging from "the seatback angle is perfect and there's tons of headroom back here" to "[it's] super easy to install a car seat."

Under way, the Camry impresses with a soft, quiet ride and a general feeling that everything has been built using a micrometer.

Hold Your Letters
So why the last-place finish? Let's start with the detached driving experience. Sure, everything is butter smooth — the steering and brakes are both light to the touch, the engine barely audible and the transmission nearly invisible in action. But it's not all good, the numb steering provides all the feel of an '80s video driving game and the brakes were not just soft, but downright mushy.

Under the microscope of the test track, a few of these downfalls were magnified. Yes, all three cars posted virtually the same time running through the cones (only four-hundredths separated the slowest from the fastest) but where the Accord and Sonata felt confident, the Camry felt shaky when being pushed to its limits.

The braking exercise confirmed our suspicions about the squishy brakes. At 146 feet from 60 to zero, the Camry posted a stopping distance more akin to an SUV than a middleweight sedan. By contrast, the Sonata performed the same feat in just 128 feet, an accomplishment more befitting a sport sedan. And where the Camry's second panic stop grew to 150 feet (we didn't bother with a third stop), the Sonata's second and third efforts were within one foot of the first stop.

Notes from our editors universally praised the Camry's ride quality while hammering the car for its lazy handling. "A nice soft ride, but the handling is floaty compared to the other two." "It's great around town, but lacks precision when the road gets curvy." Now we know this car's mission is not to chase down Bimmers in the twisties, but a taut suspension is as reassuring on a straight highway as it is in the mountains.

When it was time to step into the sprinter's blocks, the Camry was still back o' the pack. On paper, the Camry's inline-four specs virtually match the Accord's, and it is also teamed with a five-speed automatic. Yet although both felt about the same around town, the Accord (and, of course, the Sonata) had the edge in the hills and at higher speeds.

The Camry's 10.3-second 0-60 time put it over 2 seconds behind the Sonata, and nearly a second behind the Accord. Running around town, the Camry seems peppy enough. Lay into it off a light and it pulls sweetly up to about 45 or so. But throw in some elevation increase at medium speeds or goose it to merge into fast-moving freeway traffic and the Camry runs out of breath. On the hilly parts of our loop, the tranny would hunt, constantly downshifting to get up a head of steam in order to maintain speed.

Driven on its own, a four-cylinder Camry will probably strike you as acceptable, but if you've just stepped out of the V6 Sonata, you're going to feel some major disappointment.

Still Not a Bad Choice, Just Not the Best
How about strengths? The Camry's got plenty of them. There's the comfortable ride and seats, a spacious rear compartment, a roomy and well-finished trunk and the promise of trouble-free motoring for years to come.

That's all well and good, and certainly you won't be doing something stupid if you buy a 2005 Toyota Camry. But it's our job to let you know that, yes, there are better choices out there and you should consider them if driving enjoyment and overall value weigh into your decision.

Evaluation - Drive
Evaluation - Ride
Evaluation - Design
Evaluation - Cargo/Passenger Space

Evaluation - Drive

Engine Performance
Vehicle Score Rank
Honda Accord LX 9.0 2
Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 9.3 1
Toyota Camry LE 7.3 3
Transmission
Vehicle Score Rank
Honda Accord LX 10.0 1
Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 9.0 2
Toyota Camry LE 7.7 3
Braking
Vehicle Score Rank
Honda Accord LX 9.3 1
Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 9.0 2
Toyota Camry LE 5.7 3
Suspension
Vehicle Score Rank
Honda Accord LX 8.7 1
Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 8.3 2
Toyota Camry LE 7.3 3
Tires
Vehicle Score Rank
Honda Accord LX 8.7 2
Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 9.0 1
Toyota Camry LE 7.0 3
Steering
Vehicle Score Rank
Honda Accord LX 9.7 1
Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 8.3 2
Toyota Camry LE 6.3 3
Visibility
Vehicle Score Rank
Honda Accord LX 8.7 1 (t)
Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 8.7 1 (t)
Toyota Camry LE 8.3 3
Fun to Drive
Vehicle Score Rank
Honda Accord LX 9.0 1
Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 7.7 2
Toyota Camry LE 5.7 3

Evaluation - Ride

Seat Comfort Front
Vehicle Score Rank
Honda Accord LX 7.7 1 (t)
Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 7.7 1 (t)
Toyota Camry LE 7.7 1 (t)
Seat Comfort Rear
Vehicle Score Rank
Honda Accord LX 8.7 3
Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 9.3 1
Toyota Camry LE 9.0 2
Wind & Road Noise
Vehicle Score Rank
Honda Accord LX 8.7 3
Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 9.7 1
Toyota Camry LE 9.0 2
Rattles & Squeaks
Vehicle Score Rank
Honda Accord LX 10.0 1 (t)
Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 10.0 1 (t)
Toyota Camry LE 10.0 1 (t)

Evaluation - Design

Interior Design
Vehicle Score Rank
Honda Accord LX 8.0 3
Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 8.7 1 (t)
Toyota Camry LE 8.7 1 (t)
Interior Material
Vehicle Score Rank
Honda Accord LX 9.0 1 (t)
Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 9.0 1 (t)
Toyota Camry LE 9.0 1 (t)
Climate Control Design/Operation
Vehicle Score Rank
Honda Accord LX 8.7 3
Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 9.0 2
Toyota Camry LE 9.7 1
Audio System Design/Operation
Vehicle Score Rank
Honda Accord LX 7.0 2 (t)
Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 8.0 1
Toyota Camry LE 7.0 2 (t)
Secondary Control Design/Operation
Vehicle Score Rank
Honda Accord LX 9.3 1 (t)
Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 8.7 3
Toyota Camry LE 9.3 1 (t)
Exterior Design
Vehicle Score Rank
Honda Accord LX 6.7 3
Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 9.0 1
Toyota Camry LE 8.3 2
Headlight Illumination
Vehicle Score Rank
Honda Accord LX 5.0 3
Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 6.0 1 (t)
Toyota Camry LE 6.0 1 (t)
Overall Build Quality
Vehicle Score Rank
Honda Accord LX 9.7 2 (t)
Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 9.7 2 (t)
Toyota Camry LE 10.0 1

Evaluation - Cargo/Passenger Space

Entry/Exit
Vehicle Score Rank
Honda Accord LX 9.3 1
Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 8.7 2 (t)
Toyota Camry LE 8.7 2 (t)
Expanding/Loading Cargo
Vehicle Score Rank
Honda Accord LX 6.7 3
Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 9.0 1 (t)
Toyota Camry LE 9.0 1 (t)
Storage Space
Vehicle Score Rank
Honda Accord LX 9.3 2
Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 8.7 3
Toyota Camry LE 9.7 1
Cupholders
Vehicle Score Rank
Honda Accord LX 9.0 1 (t)
Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 9.0 1 (t)
Toyota Camry LE 8.7 3

In this segment, some of these features, such as stability control and side curtain airbags, are practically mandatory today given the larger number of vehicles and inattentive drivers on the road. Other features, such as steering wheel-mounted audio controls and a trip computer add convenience and luxury to these family cars.

Features

Features
  Honda Accord LX Hyunda Sonata GLS V6 Toyota Camry LE
4-Wheel Disc Brakes N/A S N/A
60/40-Split-Folding Rear Seat N/A (Not split, but folds and has a pass-thru) S S
One-Touch Up/Down Driver Window N/A (Down only) S N/A (Down only)
Outside Temperature Display N/A N/A S
Side Curtain Airbags S S O
Stability Control N/A S N/A
Steering Wheel-Mounted Audio Controls N/A S (But not for track/channel up/down) S
Tilt/Telescopic Steering Wheel S N/A (Tilt only) N/A (Tilt only)
Trip Computer N/A S N/A
V6 Engine O S O

Key:
S: Standard
O: Optional
N/A: Not Available

4-Wheel Disc Brakes: In addition to typically offering a shorter stopping distance from a given speed, disc brakes are less prone to fading after rapidly repeated usage, such as when driving down a mountain road.

60/40-Split-Folding Rear Seat: As compared to a one-piece folding seatback, a split arrangement allows you to carry a bulky and long piece of cargo while still having room for one or two more passengers.

One-Touch Up/Down Driver Window: Although all the cars had a one-touch down feature, those who deal with toll roads on a daily basis will appreciate the added convenience of one-touch up.

Outside Temperature Display: For those who are as adamant about knowing the current temperature as the current time. Also great on a long trip, as knowing that those seemingly just-wet roads might actually be icy is a valuable warning.

Side Curtain Airbags: This passive safety feature gives you the peace of mind of knowing that the heads of both front and rear outboard occupants will be protected in the event of a side-impact collision.

Stability Control: This amazing technology can help prevent bad things from happening (such as going off the road) by automatically and selectively applying the brakes to whichever wheel(s) necessary to correct over- and understeer and keep the car on the intended course. It can't, however, repeal the laws of physics.

Steering Wheel-Mounted Audio Controls: These handy buttons allow drivers to adjust various stereo functions without ever having to take their hands off the wheel. Perfect for channel surfers.

Tilt/Telescoping Steering Wheel: By providing adjustment of both reach and angle, this feature allows drivers of all sizes to find a more comfortable relationship between their body and the steering wheel.

Trip Computer: Monitoring your fuel consumption may coax you into adopting a more efficient driving style. This feature also lets you know how much farther you can drive before you need to fuel up, handy on a long trip.

V6 Engine: Having a more powerful engine makes for a more enjoyable driving experience. It also makes merging onto crowded yet fast-moving freeways safer.

2005 Honda Accord LX

"This is our 3rd Accord LX 4-cylinder. Our 1997 LX model has 209,000 miles & is still going strong with no major repairs, 2000 LX model has 73,000 miles with no repairs. The new 2005 model finds an excellent middle ground between the '97, which runs and feels like a sport coupe, and the 2000 which drives and feels more like a traditional 'family' sedan. I switched from Toyota after blowing the head gaskets in our 1992 3.0-liter V6 engine twice (@ 85K and 140K miles) due to an engine design defect which necessitated a complete engine rebuild. My favorite features are the adjustable seat height and steering column (up/down & front/back), the comfortable seats (front & rear), good sound system, excellent engine/power/reliability/economy, ergonomic interior, airbags & ABS. I'd like to see a more standard stereo setup so the opening could readily accept an aftermarket head unit and there should be an input jack to plug external audio sources (MD, iPod, etc.) into the car's audio system. Lastly, the blind spots are larger than '97 and '00 models." — Runs Forever, June 14, 2005

"In my years I have owned many cars, nothing better than this. My Accord is ultra reliable, gets great mileage and fits everybody and everything. Also, the size is great, not too big that parking in the city is a problem yet big enough to fit everything and the gas mileage is excellent."
mvspenny, May 19, 2005

"This car is very well-thought-out. Interior is very comfortable and the ride a good compromise between handling & smoothness. Engine is very quiet & smooth for a 4, except for a slight vibration at about 900 rpm (3-5 mph), which I am told is 'normal' for this car but is mildly annoying. Quiet on highway, except for slight, inconsequential road noise on rough pavement. Steering feels sporty for its size on the highway, although in this regard my '94 Accord was a little better. The car feels more powerful than it is. Overall, this car does everything well and nothing poorly and is, in my opinion, the best overall choice in its class. Strong points are the Honda reliability; smoothness of engine at cruising speeds; fuel economy for its size; the very comfortable interior; extra power outlet in console; brakes; quiet interior; all-around drivability. Weak points are few. Get rid of that vibration (my '04 Accord had the same problem); reduce the blindspot out back and make trunk a little larger." — BMS, March 20, 2005

2006 Hyundai Sonata GLS V6

No ratings as of this writing.

2005 Toyota Camry LE

"Overall solid quality sedan. I bought the car mainly on reputation and previous experience with Toyota truck line. Nice exterior lines (but the) interior is typical Toyota bland. The 4-cylinder engine is adequate most of the time, but when fully loaded with 5 people it's definitely noticeable. The automatic transmission shifts well and is smooth. I like the ability to program the door locks so that it is almost impossible to lock keys in the car. A disappointment is that the paint finish is easily scratched. A few more applications of clear coat would have done wonders."
— DYLANDAWG, May 10, 2005

"My 2005 Camry LE replaced a 2003 Camry LE. There was nothing wrong with the 2003. With 50K miles on it, it had still a quiet, comfortable ride, but I wanted a different color and the features of the 2005 model. The Camry has a comfortable, quiet, refined ride. The four-cylinder engine is smooth, quiet, and peppy, and the cabin has plenty headroom for me (I'm 6'4"). The five-speed automatic shifts smoothly, but it is a little busier than the 2003's four-speed. I really like the power driver-side seat, as the angle of the back is continuously adjustable, instead of at fixed points as on the manual seat. The Optronic instrument cluster is pretty spiffy. The quality of the interior, while not flashy, is very good. The cabin is quiet — no wind noise or rattles. For improvements, I'd like to see the lights on the radio, clock, etc., match the gauge cluster, put the steering wheel-mounted controls at 2 and 10 o'clock and put a 12-volt outlet in the trunk."
David H, May 4, 2005

"In light of projected fuel prices skyrocketing, I thought I'd look at something more economical (than my Impala) with a good reputation for reliability. I like everything the Camry does. It has surprising acceleration for a four-cylinder. It is smoother and quieter than the Impala. The steering is lighter but much more precise. The Camry took me from Atlanta to Tampa on 14 gallons of fuel, approximately 475 miles. My favorite features are — the multiadjustable power driver seat with power lumbar, automatic headlamps and excellent sound system. As far as complaints, the brakes could use a little more feel and sometimes takeoff from a standstill can be a little jerky."Steven, April 6, 2005

Final Rankings

Final Rankings
  Hyunda Sonata GLS V6 Honda Accord LX Toyota Camry LE
Personal Rating (10% of score) 75% 89% 50%
Recommended Rating (10% of score) 88% 75% 63%
Evaluation Score (20% of score) 88% 87% 82%
Feature Content (20% of score) 80% 33% 47%
Performance (20% of score) 99% 72% 56%
Price (20% of score) 100% 98% 96%
       
Total Score 89.7% 74.4% 67.5%
Final Ranking 1 2 3

Scoring Explanation

Personal Rating: Purely subjective. After the test, each participating editor was asked to rank the sedans in order of preference based on which he or she would buy if money were no object.

Recommended Rating: After the test, each participating editor was asked to rank the sedans in order of preference based on which he or she thought would be best for the average consumer shopping in this segment.

24-Point Evaluation: Each participating editor ranked every family sedan based on a comprehensive 24-point evaluation. The evaluation covered everything from exterior design to cupholders. Scoring was calculated on a point system, and the scores listed are averages based on all test participants' evaluations.

Feature Content: Editors picked the 10 features they thought would be most beneficial to a consumer shopping in the family sedan segment. For each test vehicle, the score was based on the actual features it had versus the total possible (10). Standard and optional equipment were taken into consideration.

Performance Testing: Each sedan was subjected to a set of performance tests that measure acceleration, braking and speed through a 600-foot slalom course. Scores were calculated by giving the best sedan in each category 100 percent. Subsequent vehicles were awarded points based on how close they came to the best performing sedan's score.

Price: The numbers listed were the result of a simple percentage calculation based on the least expensive sedan in this comparison test. Using the "as tested" prices of the actual evaluation vehicles, the least expensive vehicle received a score of 100, with the remaining vehicles receiving lesser scores based on how much each one cost.

Road Test Editor Brian Moody says:
I am very surprised by the results of this test. I have driven each of these cars many times individually but never back-to-back. My assumption going into the test was that the Sonata would be easily outclassed by at least one of its competitors. Not so! The new Hyundai Sonata is smooth, quiet, comfortable, refined and attractive. It's not a car I would choose for any sort of sporty driving but I'd easily pick it over the Camry for that chore.

The Hyundai Sonata has a nice-looking interior and all the buttons and switches are just where you'd expect. The material that's used for the door pulls inside is almost Audi-like. With regard to the interior look and feel, I think the Sonata has the Camry and Accord handily beat.

I really like the Honda Accord's balance between sport and comfort. It's easily the car I'd most like to drive every day. But the Sonata offers unparallel value with a little something extra — think of it as Target while Camry and Accord are more Sears.

The Sonata isn't much less expensive than its Japanese rivals but it is less expensive and offers a V6, foglights, alloy wheels and trip computer for that slightly lower price. Brands like Mitsubishi, Kia and Suzuki can claim Camry- and Accord-like attributes all they want but the 2006 Hyundai Sonata delivers. It's a competitive sedan that offers the quality, features and feel of the segment stalwarts but with an added dash of value and style.

Manager of Vehicle Testing Kelly Toepke says:
Perhaps I would've been more surprised by the Sonata's quality if I hadn't recently driven the Hyundai Tucson. Almost without missing a beat I seem to have forgotten that Korean cars used to have a reputation for substandard quality.

Suddenly, the all-new Sonata is just what I expected it would be. Its stylish exterior is sporty and sophisticated. The interior materials aren't one iota behind the fabrics and plastics used in the Accord and Camry, and if anything, the Sonata's interesting terry clothlike seat upholstery is my favorite in the group.

And with V6 power for just over $20,000, if you can get over the Korean factor, this is the car to beat.

When I consider the Honda Accord, I immediately think of my brother. He's 23 years old and wants to drive a BMW, but instead needs a car he can afford on a part-time substitute teacher's salary.

He's so image-conscious that a Korean car isn't even yet on his radar, and the Camry isn't nearly sporty enough. With its near suedelike interior trim, sporty gauge cluster and modern center stack, the Accord's look is the most youthful. The seats are much firmer than the Camry's comfortable chairs, and they're well bolstered to aid the performance image.

For actual performance, the Accord has all the right stuff. Even with a four-cylinder engine, the transmission is so good that you never feel a loss of power. It's always a step ahead of you, knowing when to knock down a gear to keep power on tap.

Still, I've talked more "Mommy and Me" classmates into Camry ownership during the past few years than I can count on two hands.

The Camry is reliable, spacious and easy to drive. The interior seems cavernous to me, exactly the type of sedan a minivan- and SUV-avoiding mother needs when toting around little ones. It also offers more standard features than the competitors, including basic must-haves like power seats.

After driving the Accord, Sonata and Camry back-to-back, there's no denying that the Camry has the softest ride, most lethargic acceleration and mushiest brake pedal, but I hardly think the Mommy and Me graduates are going to be concerned about its lack of performance edge. They'll be too busy concentrating on what the Camry does well, which is comfortably move passengers from dance class to swim class to soccer practice to gymnastics.

2006 Hyundai Sonata
2005 Honda Accord LX
2005 Toyota Camry


2006 Hyundai Sonata

System Score: 7.5

Components: The Hyundai Sonata GLS comes standard with a fairly nice stereo considering the car's $20,895 base price. The unit is a single-disc CD player with MP3 capability and six speakers. There are also preset equalizer settings; another nice feature for a standard stereo on an inexpensive car. The knobs are easy to use and feel much better than previous Hyundai products. We also like the big, easy-to-read display mounted high in the dash. Even the words and symbols are large enough to read at a glance.

The Sonata has steering wheel-mounted audio controls but only for volume, and changing between audio sources — there aren't steering wheel buttons for changing the CD track or radio station.

Performance: The overall sound quality is good and anyone trading up from a Civic or an Elantra will certainly think Hyundai gave them a premium stereo for a budget price.

While there are six speakers, two pairs are up front and the rear speakers are mounted in the doors. The result is a very "front biased" sound. Also, the fact that there are no speakers in the rear package tray means the audio system just doesn't deliver a very "big" sound. Although the sound quality is good, it has too much presence when listening at higher volumes.

Also, the speakers don't handle a lot of bass very well. Too much bass and the sound turns rumbly or muddy but never degenerates into outright distortion. Music with many layers can also overwhelm the system leading to poor sound separation.

The EQ setting works well even though the settings (Jazz, Rock, Classical, etc.) don't always correspond to the appropriate type of music. Many rock tracks sounded best on the "Jazz" setting.

Many of these complaints are minor at best especially when you keep in mind we're talking about a $21,000 car, not a $30,000 luxury sedan. It's a good stereo overall with sound quality that tops almost every other standard system at its price point.

Best Feature: Big, easy-to-read display.

Worst Feature: Doesn't handle bass well.

Conclusion: Like the car, the audio system is a real bargain. It delivers good sound quality and easy-to-use features. It's also included in the price of the Sonata GLS and that makes it even easier to live with. — Brian Moody


2005 Honda Accord LX

System Score: 7.0

Components: The standard stereo on the Accord LX offers a single-disc CD player in addition to the radio. It's a no-frills system but does have six speakers and 120 watts of output. The head unit looks good and the somewhat large display makes the system easy to use. There are no steering wheel-mounted controls as with the Hyundai Sonata and Toyota Camry nor does the Accord offer MP3 capability like the Sonata.

Performance: The Accord's stereo delivers fairly good sound; there's nothing really remarkable about it but recent Honda products have shown great improvement in the quality of its stock stereos.

The six speakers reproduce most sounds well but the bass isn't as sharp as it could be. In fact, both the Camry and Sonata's stereos sound better than the Accord's. What the Accord does offer is a unique display that is large and logical. Each function is displayed in a circular graphic that is easy to understand and kind of cool-looking. It helps to give the car a more upscale feel.

High and midrange sound good and the sound quality overall is clear, lacking the hollow, muffled feel of some low-end systems. Although separation could be better, it's a stereo that perfectly fits the Accord LX and its value for the money proposition.

On the downside, the placement of the knobs used to control those functions leaves something to be desired. There's one large, round knob that controls all audio features. The design is nice and clean but the smaller round knobs to the left and right of that main control are for climate control and we kept instinctively reaching for the fan speed knob when trying to change the stereo volume. In fact, the Accord with a navigation system has the volume knob in that exact spot. In a car without steering wheel-mounted audio controls, this unfortunate placement can be irritating.

Best Feature: Large display and easy-to-read graphics.

Worst Feature: Lacks bass punch.

Conclusion: The stereo on the Accord LX sounds fine and works well given the car's $21,000 price. It has the basic features and acceptable sound quality; it's not for audiophiles but most customers will find little to complain about. — Brian Moody


2005 Toyota Camry

System Score: 7.0

Components: The Camry LE uses a basic Toyota head unit that offers a single CD player. Unlike the Hyundai Sonata, it does not offer MP3 capability but does have six speakers and comprehensive steering wheel-mounted controls.

Performance: The controls are easy to use and logically placed. The knob for adjusting tone is a simple push-in type and the track up-and-down button is nice and big and placed close to the driver.

The sound quality is very good. The bass is punchy and the highs are sharp without being too bright. Different types of music sound good and there is little distortion even at higher volumes. Separation is good — in fact sound quality is this system's best feature. Like the optional JBL system found in many Toyotas, the Camry LE's base stereo has a warm quality and a spaciousness that makes it sound like a slightly more expensive stereo than it really is.

The downside (and the reason this stereo gets a 7) is that there are not many features. There's no midrange adjustment, no equalizer settings and no MP3 capability.

Best Feature: Very good sound quality.

Worst Feature: Lack of features.

Conclusion: A very good system for the price. It has better-than-average sound quality but lacks features like an equalizer or MP3 that may be important to some people. — Brian Moody

Vehicle
Model year2006
MakeHyundai
ModelSonata
Drivetrain
Engine typeV6
Displacement (cc/cu-in)3.3
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)235@6000
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)226@3500
Transmission type5A
Track Test Results
0-60 mph (sec.)8.2
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)15.7 @ 89.6
60-0 mph (ft.)128
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)55.7
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)20/30
Edmunds observed (mpg)19.9
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)3458
Length (in.)188.9
Width (in.)72.1
Height (in.)58
Wheelbase (in.)107.4
Turning circle (ft.)35.8
Legroom, front (in.)43.7
Legroom, rear (in.)37.4
Headroom, front (in.)40.1
Headroom, rear (in.)38.2
Shoulder room, front (in.)57.4
Shoulder room, rear (in.)56.9
Cargo volume (cu-ft)16.3
Warranty
Bumper-to-bumper5 years/60,000 miles
Powertrain10 years/100,000 miles
Corrosion7 years/Unlimited mileage
Roadside assistance5 years/Unlimited mileage
Vehicle
Model year2005
MakeHonda
ModelAccord
Drivetrain
Engine typeI4
Displacement (cc/cu-in)2.4
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)160@5500
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)161@4500
Transmission type5A
Track Test Results
0-60 mph (sec.)9.5
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)16.8 @ 82.8
60-0 mph (ft.)135
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)56
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)24/34
Edmunds observed (mpg)27.1
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)3177
Length (in.)189.5
Width (in.)71.5
Height (in.)57.1
Wheelbase (in.)107.9
Turning circle (ft.)36.1
Legroom, front (in.)42.6
Legroom, rear (in.)36.8
Headroom, front (in.)40.4
Headroom, rear (in.)38.5
Shoulder room, front (in.)56.9
Shoulder room, rear (in.)56.1
Cargo volume (cu-ft)14
Warranty
Bumper-to-bumper3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain3 years/36,000 miles
Corrosion5 years/Unlimited mileage
Roadside assistanceN/A
Vehicle
Model year2005
MakeToyota
ModelCamry
Drivetrain
Engine typeI4
Displacement (cc/cu-in)2.4
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)160@5700
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)161@4000
Transmission type5A
Track Test Results
0-60 mph (sec.)10.3
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)17.3 @ 80.4
60-0 mph (ft.)146
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)55.9
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)24/34
Edmunds observed (mpg)23.4
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)3164
Length (in.)189.2
Width (in.)70.7
Height (in.)58.7
Wheelbase (in.)107.1
Turning circle (ft.)34.8
Legroom, front (in.)41.6
Legroom, rear (in.)37.8
Headroom, front (in.)39.2
Headroom, rear (in.)38.4
Shoulder room, front (in.)57.5
Shoulder room, rear (in.)56.7
Cargo volume (cu-ft)16.7
Warranty
Bumper-to-bumper3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain5 years/60,000 miles
Corrosion5 years/Unlimited mileage
Roadside assistanceN/A
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