Used 1997 Hyundai Sonata Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1997

Sheet metal is all new, and gives Sonata a more substantial look despite somewhat controversial retro-style front fascia and grille. Flush-fitting doors and restyled exterior mirrors help quiet the ride, while horn activation switches from spoke button to center steering wheel pad.

Vehicle overview

Sonata is Hyundai's midsize entry, and faces some very stiff competition in this category. Ford's Contour/Mystique populates this class of automobiles, as does the Breeze/Cirrus/Stratus trio from Chrysler. Perennial favorites such as the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Mazda 626 also go head-to-head with the Hyundai. Heady competition indeed.

Hyundai's forte to date has been budget prices and standard (or low-priced) luxuries that couldn't be matched by competitors. It seems those days are over. The 1996 Sonata GLS we sampled ran nearly $21,500. True, it was well-loaded with automatic, sunroof, leather and power everything, but a similarly equipped Contour SE or Chrysler Cirrus was priced less than the Sonata. Considering Hyundai's quality record, we don't find the GLS to be a viable option in this class, particularly since the Contour/Mystique twins are a real kick in the pants to drive.

That's not to say that the Sonata isn't a satisfying car. The doors thunk shut nicely, it is quiet and comfortable inside, and the leather makes it feel like a much more expensive sedan. Everything looks and functions as though quality has been built-in, but the radio and climate controls are a tad overdone. The back seat could benefit from better thigh and back support, but it isn't any more uncomfortable that the rear quarters of a Dodge Stratus. Overall, we are impressed with this roomy effort from Hyundai.

For 1997, Hyundai stylists have gone hog wild on the Sonata, providing the basic design with additional character through a jutting grille, revised rear styling, and intriguing headlamps. Inside, the horn moves from a spoke-mounted button to the center pad where it belongs, and remote radio controls move from the bottom of the steering wheel to the side. Noise, vibration, and harshness is further quelled by flush-fitting doors and restyled exterior mirrors.

Unfortunately, the Sonata competes with many cars that feel as good and often cost less money. Factor in the depreciation that the Hyundai is sure to endure, as well as the questionable quality levels of past Sonatas, and this new one's shine begins to dull. Drop the price a couple grand, and the leather-lined Sonata GLS would begin to look like a bargain.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.