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2011 Hyundai Sonata: What's It Like to Live With?

Read the latest updates in our long-term road test of the 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS as our editors live with this car for a year.

Hyundai Sonata 2011

What do you want to know about?


On one hand you've got the G8, which means eight of the world's most powerful national entities — Canada, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the United States — meeting to talk over big-picture ideas and generally rule the world.

On the other hand you have the BRIC — Brazil, Russia (yeah, they're double-booked here), India and China as the next group eager to take on the responsibility for ruling the world. And then there's the Next 11, Pakistan, South Africa, Turkey...well, just go to Wikipedia for the rest, but you get the point. BRIC and the Next 11 represent the nations most likely to surpass the power/status/per-capita GDP of the G8.

That's right. According to economists and political scientists, Pakistan and Brazil are in prime position to surpass the United States and the European Union on the world stage. It sounds ridiculous, like saying that Korean automaker Hyundai is poised to take over top billing in the family sedan market, displacing on both a quality and value scale what we might consider to be the Automotive G2, Honda and Toyota. Only it's true (in both cases).

Enter the newest car in our Long-Term Road Test fleet: the 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS. If you're looking for evidence of intent to rule the world, you'll find it right here.

Why We Got It
Just look at the 2011 Hyundai Sonata. Now, close your eyes. Picture the Hyundai Genesis. Got it? Yeah, you do. Now do the same for the Genesis Coupe. There you go. Sharp, aggressive and interesting, yet without being busy or tacky.

Now picture the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry; not for long, though, cuz we want you to be awake to finish the rest of this little exercise. Last one: Picture the last-generation Hyundai Sonata, the one that looked like a cross between the Toyota Avalon and the old Chevy Malibu. Manage to do it? Us neither.

Even among family sedans, anono-box styling is fading from the scene. No more of the roughly car-shaped mold designed to hold a roughly man-shaped driver on his way to a roughly lifelike existence. People want style and presence even in a family sedan, even if they do show up at their destination with a trunk full of strollers and sunblock and strained carrots. So Hyundai has been working hard on the style thing with one of the most elaborate design studios of any manufacturer in the world, and the style alone of this car attracts us. Can a family sedan aspire to be something more?

Of course, if you don't care about style, you can marvel at the new Sonata's ability to deliver all the usual comfort and convenience features as standard equipment, like a six-speed automatic transmission, traction and stability control, cruise control, audio controls on the tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, air-conditioning, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity. Or maybe you'll be more impressed by the direct-injected 2.4-liter inline-4 engine that makes 198 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque while still returning an EPA-rated 22 city/35 highway mpg and 26 combined mpg. Can a family sedan do it all?

Or if all this is really too flashy for those of you interested in family sedans, focus instead on Hyundai's warranty structure; when it was introduced in 1999, it transformed Hyundai into a world-class car company almost overnight. Can a family sedan be as reliable and durable as something cheap and cheerful or expensive and luxurious?

What We Got
Our new 2011 Hyundai Sonata comes equipped with all of the above as well as some options.

The GLS Popular Equipment package with navigation is a $2,450 package consisting of 16-inch alloy wheels with 205/65R16 Kumho Solus KH25 all-season tires, automatic headlights and a touchscreen navigation system with XM NavTraffic, weather and sports. We also received the $100 carpeted floor mats.

Altogether, our Venetian Red 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS carries a sticker price of $23,456 (including $720 destination fee).

Living the Sedan Life
When we first tested the 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS, we said, "Twenty-thousand dollars is too little to pay for this 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS."

This came from a test that didn't take into account bang for the buck, and we thought the Sonata could use a few more bucks' worth of quality materials to really make a power play in its market segment.

But in a recent comparison test, the 2011 Hyundai Sonata found itself measured against the Honda Accord and Mazda 6, and it took top honors. We said, "With its winning combination of features, price and fuel economy, the all-new Sonata probably didn't need a stylish package to win. But it didn't hurt, either."

So which is it? A winner on price, style and features? Or yet another nearly there attempt by Hyundai at a family car that seems in the end to be more about clever pricing than good driving? Does this new family sedan pump up Hyundai to G8 status, or is it still a wannabe entity, still overachieving and still hopeful, yet still on the outside looking in?

Some 12 months and 20,000 miles in our fleet of long-term test cars should sort this out. Follow the blogs for updates about our 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS.

Current Odometer: 505
Best Fuel Economy: 35.5 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 35.5 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 35.5 mpg

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

First Impressions

June 22, 2010

It just joined the fleet. It stickers at just over $23,000, and it's a Hyundai. So what are my first impressions of our new Sonata?

Very slick interior. Solid materials, some interesting, high quality finishes and a generally pleasing layout. I'm not usually a big fan of the pictograph climate controls, but this setup is fairly simple without taking up too much space.

Steering is too light and artificial feeling. This is probably a good thing to some degree as most buyers in this segment will appreciate the easy-to-maneuver feel of the Sonata. A little more heft and road feel would make it feel more like a Volkswagen and less like a Camry.

Solid engine. This four-cylinder engine is smooth, quiet and sounds refined even when you're winding it out. If it ends up returning the mileage Hyundai says it can, there will be plenty of satisfied customers.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, @ 787 miles

Nice Power Outlet Setup

June 23, 2010

Small point here, but important for a car like this. I'm talking about the power outlets/media plug in the center console. Most cars have them these days, but far too many bury them in out of the way places. Great if you want stuff out of sight. Not so great when you want to plug in quickly and have easy access to the device.

As you can see, in the Sonata they're front and center. Two 12V outlets for power, a dedicated plug for an iPod and a place to put the stuff you just plugged in. That last point is important as all too often there's a plug buried in some corner that leaves no place to put the iPod or phone you're trying to charge. The GTI is guilty of this.

So nothing magical here, just a simple, logical design that most buyers in this class will appreciate.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, @ 805 miles

ShakyCam Walkaround

June 24, 2010

Some things I like about the Sonata's appearance:

Venetian Red Paint Color
Sleek lines
Seat Fabric (texture and color)
Well-Balanced Center Console

What do you like?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Seat Fabric

June 28, 2010

I really like the look of the seats in the 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS. The textured fabric is very attractive. But that light color worries me.

Do you think it will hold up? Here's a closer look.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 1,023 miles

First Milestone

June 28, 2010

Our 2011 Hyundai Sonata passed the 1,000-mile mark this weekend. As it reached the dregs of a tank of gas, you can see we were averaging 24.1 mpg, according to the Sonata's trip computer. EPA estimates for this car are 22 city/35 highway/26 combined.

We'll have overall fuel numbers for you in our first of the month update.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 1,001 miles

Not Your Average Gauge Cluster

July 08, 2010

Our new Hyundai Sonata stares back at you with an interesting set of gauges. They're not quite as "casual" as the Mitsubishi's, but they're better than the flat, features dials you get on most sedans in this class. I'm not going to say it's the most stylish look around, but it's clear that Hyundai's designers put some effort into the design.

They're easy to read and don't wash out in direct sunlight thanks to the deep set binnacles. The designers also managed to get the fuel and temp gauges in there without cluttering it up too much. And that screen that says "Sonata" eventually switches to a trip computer with plenty of additional information.

Does any of it really grab your attention the minute you sit down? Not really, but spend a few days tooling around in the Sonata and you realize it's a pretty functional setup. Can't ask for much more than that in a family sedan.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, @ 1,051 miles

Compelling Trunk Video Inside

July 12, 2010

Can't resist a trunk opening video can you? I shot it to highlight the Sonata's release that actually opens the lid when you push the fob button. Nice feature for a $23,000 sedan.

On the flip side, there's no cargo net, or at least not one that I could find. So it's easy to load groceries, just not easy to keep them from rolling all over.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, @ 1,089 miles

Ride Isn't to My Taste

July 13, 2010

Our long-termer is the second 2011 Hyundai Sonata I've driven, and just as with the first test car, I don't care for the ride quality. Specifically, the dampers are derelict in their duty. Even when I'm just driving around town, there's far too much suspension movement over garden-variety bumps, ruts and seams, and it doesn't get any better on the freeway. Ultimately, you get a soft ride with the Sonata, but there's too little control for my taste. Mazda 6, please.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor


July 14, 2010

Sure, the sales numbers and the buzz surrounding the 2011 Hyundai Sonata would classify this car as hot, we're talking temperature here. Inhumane temperature. Palm Springs temperature.

The Sonata and I got lost the other day and wound up in Palm Springs where the mercury burst through the top of the thermometer registering 109 at nearly 4pm. I sprinted from the car to the coffee shop and then almost immediately back to the car. The cloth seats were scorching (usually my main argument FOR cloth), the steering wheel was on fire and the shifter — with its black accent — was hotter than a thousand suns in a microwave. Even my camera was too hot to touch which is why the photo is so terrible. Yeah, that's why.

In any case, cars parked in the sun get hot. But for the first time in a long time dealing with new cars, the air conditioning was not up to the task of keeping me happy / alive.

After a few minutes of its full-strength wheeze, I had to — gasp — open the windows and just deal with the breeze. It took some time, but eventually it worked enough to bring me back to life.

Still, I've yet to see a GM that can't handle the desert.

Mike Magrath, Associate Editor,

New World Order

July 14, 2010

Ten years ago, there were two top family sedans: the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Sure, there were other choices, but the Accord and Camry were the two cars that collected the most attention and praise. Flash forward to today and things are very different. I'd say there are now six top family sedans: the Accord, the Camry, the Ford Fusion, the Mazda 6, the Nissan Altima and the 2011 Hyundai Sonata.

With so much more to choose from, and with Hyundai not fielding a truly competitive family sedan previously, you might think the 2011 Sonata would be lost in the shuffle a bit. But consumers are definitely aware the Sonata's a player. According to our internal tracking, people are reading the Edmunds Sonata review more than those for any of the other cars I listed. And it's not just by a little, either. We're talking by a factor of anywhere from two to seven times as much traffic in favor of the Hyundai.

Having a Sonata to test for a whole year will be very interesting.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

More Thoughts On The Ride Quality

July 16, 2010

Earlier this week Erin wrote that our Sonata's ride quality wasn't to her liking, noting that "there's far too much suspension movement over garden-variety bumps, ruts and seams, and it doesn't get any better on the freeway." Normally Erin and I come up with pretty similar conclusions on cars, but this time my opinion differs.

I certainly don't think our Sonata GLS rides too softly. It seems about right, actually, given the car's family sedan mission. If anything, I could see some people asking for the ride to be softer than it is — I've noticed the suspension lets too many short, quick impacts from rough pavement into the cabin.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

The Workhorse of America

July 19, 2010

I really like driving our new 2011 Sonata. Part of this is because the car itself is quite good, and part it is because I appreciate the all-around usefulness and value of a four-cylinder family sedan. Obviously crossover SUVs are very popular, but in my mind cars like the Sonata are still the workhorses for the American family.

Look what you get from our Sonata: A stylish design inside and out; plenty of power for any normal driving situation; 35 mpg highway fuel economy; a roomy interior; a comfortable ride; lots of interior storage; a factory navigation system; a big trunk; and Hyundai's long warranty coverage. All of this for our test car's $23,456. That's not much money these days for a car that will do just about everything for you and your family.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 2,178 miles

Directional Man

July 21, 2010

Now we have two vehicles in the long-term fleet with pictogram climate controls: the Volvo XC60 and the Hyundai Sonata. They don't work in exactly the same way, however. The XC60's directional man has separate buttons to direct airflow to the head, body and feet. The Sonata's directional man (or mode man, perhaps, seeing as how he's labeled as such) is comprised of just one button; his head is just for display. The way he works is that pushing the button cycles through the various air flow modes.

I'm preferential to the Volvo's directional man since I can get what I want immediately; I don't like having to push a button a bunch of times to call up what air flow I want. That said, I do like the Sonata's big arrows that show air flow and the fan speed/temperature knobs, which are rubberized and feel nice to the touch.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Voice Control Navigation

July 23, 2010

Does your car have voice control for its navigation system? Do you use it? I've never really bothered and typically just key stuff in. I noticed our Sonata's navigation system is voice operated, though, so I played around with it a bit this morning. Seems to work fine in my very limited testing. It takes about twice as long to enter an address via voice command than the touchscreen. And Hyundai keeps the navigation menus operational when you're driving (thank you!) so the quick way is definitely the screen. But for keeping your eyes on the road, voice command seems nice.

A video of me entering our office's address to the Sonata's navigation system by voice command follows after the jump. It will likely be the least exciting video you watch today, though it does have a slight movie reference near the end, which you might catch if you haven't fallen asleep already.

Go Sonata!

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Weekend Trip and Odd TPMS

July 26, 2010

On Saturday I decided to check out the 2010 Gilroy Garlic Festival. Ever eaten garlic ice cream? Me neither. It's pretty good, actually (if you like garlic). The ride of choice was our 2011 Hyundai Sonata, which proved to be a pleasant companion. It was roomy, quiet and got about 30 mpg in combined fuel economy.

The one weird issue, however, was the Sonata's tire pressure monitoring system. On my way to Gilroy the TPMS warning light illuminated. "Oh great," I thought to myself. I wasn't too happy with the thought of driving with a space-saver spare tire on for the rest of the trip.

I stopped at a Chevron next to Casa de Fruta, which is a fruit-and-nut store (and popular rest stop) near Hollister, Calif. (pictured above). The Sonata won't tell you what the tire pressures are, so I had to check them manually. I only had one of those cheap-o pencil tire pressure gauges with me, but even with that I could tell that all of the tires were pretty close to the recommended pressures. The left-front was perhaps a couple psi lower than the rest of the tires, but it shouldn't have been enough to trip the warning light.

When I started the Sonata back up, the TPMS light was still on. At that point I figured I'd keep driving to Gilroy and check the pressures again. But about five minutes after leaving Casa de Fruta the TPMS light went out. It hasn't come back on since, and subsequent checks of the tires have revealed no leak or puncture. Like I said, weird.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 2,532 miles

Lots of Interior Storage

July 29, 2010

Hyundai certainly put some thought into giving the new Sonata a lot of interior storage. There's plenty of space for your stuff, whether its cell phones, MP3 players, drinks, etc. Almost all of these locations are lined or rubberized to keep items from sliding around or rattling. Of the recent long-term cars we've had, the Sonata certainly ranks at or near the top for interior storage design. Photos of the Sonata's storage areas in action follow after the jump.

Up front, you a cubby that works well for electronics (phones, iPods); a small holder next to the cubby (not really pictured) that's good for little items or spare change; a lidded storage slot for items like CDs; and a sunglasses holder (which is good as long as you're not wearing huge Hollywood-style glasses).

The door bins can hold bottles and have a pretty wide slot, too. The rear has two map pockets.

The center console bin is two-tiered; the lower bin is pretty deep. There's also the the shallow area ahead of the bin. The glove-box is kind of small, however.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Quiet on the inside; noisy under the hood

July 30, 2010

One of the reasons our 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS makes 198-hp and is currently earning over 25 mpg with just a 2.4-liter 4-cylider engine is because it uses high-pressure gasoline direct-injection (GDi in Hyundai parlance). While it is just teeny bit louder at idle on the inside than either the comparable Honda Accord or Mazda6 4-cylinder models (here's the comparison), it makes quite a racket on the outside. Have a listen for yourself.

Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor @ 2992 miles

Windshield + Rock = Cha Ching!

July 31, 2010
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

Track Tested

August 02, 2010

Break-in complete, it was time to take our 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS to the test track for its introductory numbers.

We ran our new Sonata through all of our tests. How did the 198-horsepower I-4 motivate the 3,251 sedan and how did the P205/65R16 Kuhmo tires grip the pavement?

Follow the jump to find out.

Vehicle: 2011 Hyundai Sonata
Odometer: 1,113
Date: 6/29/10
Driver: Josh Jacquot
Base Price (with destination and tax): $20,915
Options: Venetian Red, Option Group 03 Popular Equipment Package Plus Navigation ($2,450 — includes 16-inch alloy wheels; power driver seat; driver's lumbar support; automatic headlight control; chrome interior door handles; leatherette interior panel door inserts; navigation system with high-resolution touchscreen display; dimension AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 audio system with seven speakers and external amplifier (360 watts); 90-day complimentary subscription to XM NavTraffic, XM NavWeather; XM sports and XM stock), Carpeted Floor Mats ($100).
Price as tested: $23,465

Drive Type: Front-wheel drive
Transmission Type: Six-speed automatic
Engine Type: Inline-4
Displacement (cc/cu-in): 2,359cc (144 cu-in)
Redline (rpm): 6,500
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 198 @ 6300
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 184 @ 4250
Brake Type (front): 11.8-inch one-piece ventilated steel discs with single-piston sliding calipers.
Brake Type (rear): 11.2-inch one-piece ventilated steel discs with single-piston sliding calipers.
Steering System: Hydraulic-assist variable-ratio rack-and-pinion steering.
Suspension Type (front): Independent MacPherson struts, coil springs, twin-tube dampers, stabilizer bar.
Suspension Type (rear): Independent multilink, coil springs, twin-tube dampers, stabilizer bar.

Tire Size (front): P205/65R16 94H
Tire Size (rear): P205/65R16 94H
Tire Brand: Kumho
Tire Model: Solus KH25
Tire Type: All Season
Wheel Size: 16-by-6.5 inches front and rear
Wheel Material (front/rear): Cast aluminum
As Tested Curb Weight (lb): 3,251

Test Results:
0 - 30 (sec): 3.2
0 - 45 (sec): 5.4
0 - 60 (sec): 8.2
0 - 75 (sec): 12.0
1/4 Mile (sec @ mph): 16.1 @ 88.3
0-60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 7.9

30 - 0 (ft): 31
60 - 0 (ft): 128

Slalom (mph): 64.5 stability off. 62.7 ESC on
Skid Pad Lateral Acceleration (g): 0.76 stability off, 0.76 trac on

Db @ Idle: 41.5
Db @ Full Throttle: 79.2
Db @ 70 mph Cruise: 69.5
RPM @ 70 mph: 2,000

Acceleration Comments: Don't bother with manual shifting. best run in "D." Manual response is too slow and only results in mis-shifts.

Braking Comments: Solid, consistent high-effort pedal. No significant fade.

Handling Comments: Slalom: Significant yaw delay makes quick transitions a challenge. Small, smooth steering inputs are the key. A real ride with ESC off! Skidpad: Just stomp and steer with ESC on. System does a fine job of tracking throttle against steering inputs. Difficult to match this performance with ESC off.

Gauges Come Alive

August 03, 2010

I thought you would like to see how the gauges of our long-term 2011 Hyundai Sonata come alive when you twist the key. Like everything else on this mid-size sedan Hyundai has done it right, with just the right amount of show to make the Sonata feel a little special.

Notice how the two small digital guages (coolant temp and fuel level) do a full sweep before settling in, while the larger analog dials (tach and speedo) don't. I also really like how the lighting kicks in after a few seconds for a little extra dramatic effect. And it doesn't come in all at once like someone crudely clicked a switch, instead it comes on slowly for an extra touch of upscale ambience.

Somebody at Hyundai is making good choices.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 3,080 miles

Road Trip Time

August 04, 2010

This is the view I'll have for the next day and a half or so. I'm driving our Sonata from Santa Monica to Vail, Colorado for a family vacation.

Google says it's 950 miles or so. I've done it in a day easy, but I figured it's a good time to take it slow and enjoy the ride. Should you have any questions that might be better answered by an editor who has been sitting in the driver's seat for hours on end, add them to the comments and I'll try to answer them.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, @ 3,100 miles

Road Trip Mileage

August 05, 2010

This is the only gas station I've visited since leaving Santa Monica for Vail, Colorado. It was in Cedar City, Utah, which is about 450 miles from home. Made it there no problem, gas warning never even came on.

The driving was mixed. When I started out in L.A. there was plenty of afternoon traffic that made it stop and go for the first 60 miles or so. From there on out, the speed limits were 70-75mph, so I just set the cruise control and kicked back.

When I filled up, the logbook numbers said I managed 31.1mpg for the tank. That might not sound very impressive, but keep in mind that when the speed limit was 75mph I usually set it at 80mph. That made the "ECO" light go out, so I figured it wasn't getting its best numbers.

I'll add up the mileage from the second leg shortly and provide some additional commentary on the car itself. First things that come to mind? It's very quiet, the nav system works when you're moving and the XM channels are hard to sift through.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, @ 4,082 miles

Damped Glove Compartment Door. Cool.

August 06, 2010

Another example of Hyundai sweating the details on the 2011 Sonata is the sedan's damped glove compartment door. Nice touch.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

This Sucker Has Serious Range

August 10, 2010

That's the trip meter on our Sonata after a run from Vail, Colorado to St. George, Utah. Not bad, especially considering that I was averaging around 75-80mph most of the time with the A/C on.

That, and I still had a gallon or two left as the miles-to-empty meter said I had another 60-70 miles to go before running dry.

It took 15.3 gallons of regular gas to go that far. That works out to 34.1mpg, a solid number for a midsize sedan going that fast. I'm guessing that with an average speed in the 65mph range the Sonata would easily pull high-30s and go over 600 miles on a tank.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, @ 4,749 miles

Notes From Somewhere in Utah

August 11, 2010

I've already covered the Sonata's impressive mileage feats during my recent road trip to Colorado. Here's what else I found during my extended drive.

The navigation system works great. It's easy to set a destination and it offers multiple routes to get there. I also liked the way you can easily pull up nearby restaurants and gas stations without cancelling the destination point. On top of all that, you can access all the options and menus while moving.

After several extended legs behind the wheel, the seats are about average. They are generally supportive and well contoured, but I did get uncomfortable after several hours. This is true of most seats actually, so I wouldn't consider it a major blemish.

You asked about the cruise control? It is indeed solid. The car's speed didn't fluctuate more than a few miles per hour over the various hills on I-70 and it's easy to set through the steering wheel controls. For the mileage minded out there, you can go up to 78mph and still be in "Eco" mode for whatever that's worth.

One minor gripe: the armrests aren't that soft. I'm talking the ones on the door and the top of the center console. My elbows were killing me after awhile due to the lack of cushioning.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, @ 5167 miles

Why Our Car Isn't PZEV Rated

August 12, 2010

When Hyundai introduced its new 2011 Sonata, it mentioned the car would be offered with Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (PZEV) certification in states with California emission requirements. Considering this as well as our Southern California office location, I had just assumed our long-term test car was a PZEV car. But when randomly checking our car's window sticker, I noticed that it had no more than a regular, 50-state emission certification. Hmm. Some investigation was in order.

The PZEV rating is the highest rating a regular gasoline-fueled car can earn for tailpipe emissions in California. It's not a federal rating and has nothing to do with greenhouse gas emissions, just those related to smog and pollution. Why PZEV exists and what it actually means is rather confusing, so if you're really interested I'll point you to a Green Car Advisor post that we did a few years ago. But in simple terms, a Sonata with a PZEV rating earns a federal emissions score of 9 (out of a possible 10) for having squeaky clean tailpipe emissions. Sonatas sold in non-California emission states have a score of 5.

The California state government's Drive Clean website says a PZEV Sonata will produce 360g of annual smog emissions. A regular 50-state car will have 1,502 grams worth of emissions. (For comparison's sake, I brought up a 2001 Ford E350 cargo van with the V10 engine; it's listed at 9,970 grams annually.) Because of the extra emission equipment, though, a PZEV Sonata is rated at slightly less power, with 190 horsepower versus a regular 198 hp.

Our long-term Sonata is on loan from Hyundai, so I asked our contact why our car wasn't PZEV rated. It turns out that there was a delay for PZEV-rated Sonata production until May of this year; our car was produced before then. PZEV Sonatas are now available in all California emission states (and possibly adjacent states as well). Hyundai says most new Sonatas found at dealers will be PZEV-rated, though regular 50-state cars will be sold alongside as well.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

That's a Big Trunk

August 16, 2010

A quick trip to the grocery store didn't yield much but look how much space I had in the trunk of the Sonata.

That's 16.4 cubic feet.

Is this class-leading?

I ran the Sonata through the Edmunds comparator. It offered up the following cars:

Vehicle Maximum Luggage Capacity
2011 Hyundai Sonata
GLS 4dr Sedan (2.4L 4cyl 6A)
16.4 cu. ft.
2010 Chevrolet Malibu
LS 4dr Sedan (2.4L 4cyl 4A)
15.1 cu. ft.
2010 Honda Accord
LX 4dr Sedan (2.4L 4cyl 5A)
14 cu. ft.
2010 Nissan Altima
2.5 S 4dr Sedan (2.5L 4cyl CVT)
15.3 cu. ft.
2011 Toyota Camry
LE 4dr Sedan (2.5L 4cyl 6A)
15 cu. ft.

My photo is pretty dark. Here's a better shot from Scott Jacobs our photographer.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Blue Lighting Still A Bad Idea

August 17, 2010

Blue-lit instrumentation was a bad idea in our Veracruz and Genesis sedan, and it continues to be so in our longterm 2011 Hyundai Sonata.

The reasons haven't changed and nor has Hyundai's implementation. Simply put, you can't turn down the brightness far enough when it's well and truly dark outside. Plus, since blue-lit text has crummy edge definition, the afflicted buttons are nigh unreadable. And you really don't want to crank up the brightness to compensate, else the speedo and tach end up blinding you.

Also, the PRND is way bright, too, even at fully dim.

Something tells me Hyundai is steadfast in continuing this silly lighting habit.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor


August 19, 2010

I have a litmus test for cars I've never driven before, a measure of their intuitveness, ease of use and control logic design.

You see, I have a 50-mile commute which demands between one and two hours each way to complete. So every time I get in a car there's a routine: Pair my phone and get my iPod to actually play through the car's audio system. That doesn't sound like a big deal, but every car is different. Every car has nuances and not every car has an owner's manual. I've struggled for 15 minutes trying to make both these things happen. And sometimes, I just give up and drive.

Last night, the Sonata, a car I've never before driven, set a new record.

Here's how it played out: About 90 seconds after jumping in the car I was rolling down the road fully connected and listening to my iPod. It's never happened faster.

The bottom line is that I didn't need an owner's manual and didn't have to wade through a pile of voice tutorials or nav-screen submenus. Nothing was more than a few intuitive levels deep. And, yes, I use an old school iPod shuffle with a generic aux connection. It shouldn't ever be hard to make that work. Certainly none of this should ever be hard — especially for someone with as much experience as I have.

But you'd be surprised. Ever try pairing your phone to a Honda Handsfree Link? I'm about 50/50 on those — even with an owner's manual.

But the Sonata? Two thumbs up.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

Yup, It's Got That Too

August 20, 2010

And it's done right. Need I say more?

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

I Never Noticed That Before

August 23, 2010

I'm not usually a passenger but as I was loading my laptop bag and other stuff into the passenger side of the Sonata this morning, I noticed this pocket. I like hidden stuff like this. OK, it's not exactly hidden but it is discreet.

It reminds me of when I was a kid and dreamed about secret passageways in the walls of my house. I used to create little hiding places all over, then I'd put silly stuff in them like notes or pictures or toys and wait for people to find them. This one would be more appropriate for a map or tissues or our fuel log.

Or I could hide my Stig doll in there and see how long it takes for people to notice him.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

A Macro Look at Interior Materials

August 24, 2010

It's no doubt that our 2011 Hyundai Sonata is a lonnng way off from the old cars I grew up with, my 1987 Excel and 1996 Elantra, but check out that interior. Several other shots after the jump. What do you think? Compare this to our Suzuki Kizashi which is about the same price.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 5,656 miles

The Seat's So High, Man

August 25, 2010

The Hyundai Sonata's driver seat is mounted too high — I'm practically staring at the visor when behind the wheel. It's a little like the old Ford Taurus/Five Hundred, which had an elevated driving position intended to be SUV-like but ultimately was just suited for little old ladies who'd otherwise have to rely on the Yellow Pages. If our Sonata had a sunroof, I'd imagine my hair would be grazing headliner.

It's not the sleek roofline either, the seat's just too darn high. I would like to see Hyundai lower its bottom-most travel, and increase the upward movement for the little old ladies.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 5,679 miles

Steal My iPod

August 26, 2010

Hyundai and Kia seem to think that keeping its auxiliary audio device connections out in the open is a good idea. While our Sonata has a nice little bin for the iPod to live, it's visible for all to see. As such, you'd need to unplug it every time you park in a public place. Of course, if you live in a civilized place, this is less of a problem. But in a big city like Los Angeles, hoodlums are rampant and you're a busted window away from a stolen iPod and whole heap of glass on your passenger seat. That's annoying.

The best place for such audio device connections is in the center armrest bin, so that it's secure and so that you can still easily access it should you use something other than an iPod (see Audi system which is secure, but you can't easily access).

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 5,700 miles

Who Still Uses Keys?

August 27, 2010

OK, sure, there's a trunk release button on our 2011 Hyundai Sonata's key fob but why not also put a trunk release button on the trunk lid itself? All we got here is...that key hole.

I complain because I had to pick up an editor from the airport. When I just pulled up to the curb and scanned around the dash and steering wheel for the trunk release button in the car, the editor impatiently tried to find it on the trunk lid itself. No go. So I just pressed the key fob button. Pfft!

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 5,736 miles

Stop It

September 10, 2010

And stop it does. Our Hyundai Sonata GLS has good braking power for a car in its class.

When you have a genius driving in front of you who decides to cut his freeway speed in half so he can finish his text, you really appreciate the confident feel of the Sonata's brakes. Good thing the cars behind me were paying attention, too. I'm sure it was a life-saving emergency text.

In our instrumented testing the Sonata's ventilated disc brakes brought the car from 60 to zero mph in 128 feet, without much fade after repeated stops.

Now if it only had laser cannons on the front a text message deactivation button.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Key Stuck in the Ignition

September 13, 2010

We have a problem with our 2011 Hyundai Sonata. Turn on the car, shift into drive and roll around town. No problems there. Shift back into park and try removing the key. There is the problem. It's stuck in the ignition.

When we shift into park the doors unlock as programmed. So it seems like the key should just pull out. But that isn't the case. Multiple shifts in and out of park eventually trigger the mercy switch and the car releases the key. Next stop, dealership row.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 5,741 miles

It's about Expectations

September 14, 2010

I rolled in our long-term 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS last night for the first time in a while: it's quite popular in the office. I was rather unimpressed.

You see, it's about expectations. Our departed long-term Hyundai Genesis had excellent interior materials and build quality and raised my expectations quite a bit. Adding to this is Hyundai's advertising onslaught comparing the Sonata to more expensive vehicles (including even the Benz CLS with regard to paint).

The Genesis gave you similar features and luxury as the competition at a lower price, but Hyundai has abandoned that strategy with the Sonata.

I found the interior disappointing. While the interior (and also the exterior) styling is quite dramatic and attractive, the materials are of mixed quality and the build is about the same as a Camry or Accord, i.e., not great. Check the two asymmetrical gaps in the top photo as evidence and the photos below. Also, the lower part of the IP and door panels is of a harder, shinier plastic compared to the top. Hyundai learned this cost-cutting trick from Honda and Toyota.

So what you get is the same build quality and materials as Accord and Camry for about the same price, but with a few more standard items like Bluetooth and Ipod jack, and nice styling. It's about the same dynamically, too.

Don't give up your Accord or Camry just yet.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 6,100 miles

The DQR Thing

September 15, 2010

This is not the front of the 2010 Hyundai Sonata.

Instead it's the front of the 2011 Honda Accord. It doesn't look too snappy compared to the Sonata, so maybe it's no wonder that Honda is a little sensitive about Hyundai's success of late. But what the Accord does have is DQR - the acronym that Honda uses to define durability, quality and reliability.

Hyundai has gone a long way toward building its own image of quality with its 100,000-mile warranty and a bright, glossy sense of style. And yet the prosaic Accord reminds us that the definition of quality also encompasses a feeling of substance, something that is beyond a simple count of things gone wrong or a guarantee of manufacturer backing in case a car goes bad.

Say what you will about the way that the 2011 Honda Accord looks (and I have a lot to say on that subject), yet it never gives you the feeling that it's been put together by Disney imagineers. This is a car that will stick with you for the long haul.

As polished as the Hyundai Sonata is in virtually every respect, it still needs some of that DQR thing to make believers of us all.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor,

Space Efficient

September 15, 2010

This a top view of the center console in our Sonata. Notice the packaging: Three small-items bins, two cupholders and a shifter elegantly organized into the available space. And this is in a car whose shifter moves laterally into a manual gate. Nice packaging, Hyundai. But why didn't you use the space behind the shifter?

Josh Jacquot, Senior Editor

Is this Ugly?

September 16, 2010

I'm the last guy on earth who should be judging color combinations. With a fashion sense that falls somewhere between that of the late, great Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, and complete indifference, I shouldn't second guess Hyundai's stylists on this one.

But I'm going to.

By saying that gray and tan just don't go together. The wife, who's been known to have a far better perspective on such things, agrees.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

Value Proposition

September 20, 2010

The Sonata has been a fixture on the best-seller list for the past few months — last month, it finished in sixth place, hot on the heels of the Camry and the Accord. When times are tight, there's nothing sexier that a great bargain, and the Sonata's success is proof.

Its base price is lower than that of many rivals, yet this Hyundai offers competitive quality and standard features (such as Bluetooth and satellite radio) that most do not. If I were shopping in this segment right now, that generous standard features list would definitely catch my eye.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

Recall and TSB

September 23, 2010

Last week we started having trouble with the key in our 2011 Hyundai Sonata. It had a tendency to stick in the ignition. So we dropped it off at Cormier Hyundai.

Our advisor, Steve, made us feel like he cared about fixing the problem. It was refreshing. Take our word for it, this is a rare quality in service advisors nowadays. He called to explain the issue with our car, "There was a TSB issued to address your problem. The shifter lever assembly experiences an internal failure. We actually don't repair them here. We remove and replace the entire assembly. I can get the parts sent overnight, but that means we have to hang on to your car overnight."

As promised, early the next afternoon our phone rang, "Your car is ready. We completed the TSB. And we also performed a recall (Campaign 097) that was just issued yesterday. It involves inspecting and retorquing the steering column shaft bolt. So when you get a recall notice issued in the mail for this, you can disregard it. We've already done the work."

Maybe this dealership wasn't very busy. Maybe these problems were quick-fixes. Maybe Steve was on top of his game. No matter how you slice it, this was a great service experience. I wish they were all so easy.

Days out of Service: 1

Total Cost: $0

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 6,606 miles

Got 'em all beat

September 28, 2010

Yep, we broke high-temp records all over Southern California yesterday and the official thermometer in downtown L.A. actually broke. I snapped this photo of 113-degrees in the Hyundai Sonata in Fullerton — beating Dan's 106 in neighboring Yorba Linda, and Kelley's 101 in Santa Monica.

I'm happy to report that unlike Mike's experience when he cracked open an already-nuclear Sonata, I was already traveling in a cool car as the heat rose. The HVAC had no trouble whatsoever keeping ahead of the ambient outdoor temps.

Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor

Nav-Traffic Scale

September 28, 2010

While I'm not a fan of the Volvo XC60's nav-traffic scalability, I do wish the Sonata's color-coded traffic legend would be available at a scale larger than 4-miles. I had to make a route decision based on traffic further down the road than what's pictured at this scale, but I couldn't. I had to use this scale and virtually jump around the region by tapping on the screen at those crucial locations — not very good for driver distraction.

Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor

"Other 2" Sucks

September 29, 2010

Sure, our 2011 Hyundai Sonata uses XM data for traffic, but there's more behind the innocuous (((XM))) DATA button than I ever knew — and some things I might not want to know.

Jump with me for the frightening "Other 2" category...

Within the Weather category (sorry about the fuzzy photo)...

There are three categories (again, sorry for the shaky hands)...

If you select the left box, you get a nice three-day outlook...

BUT, if you select the Warnings and Advisories box, and then the dreaded "Other 2" category...

I have no idea what "Shelter in Place" means, but if it's between Fire and Volcano, it must be bad.

Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor @ 7,110 miles

Throwing Up Big Numbers

October 01, 2010

While updating the Sonata's fuel log today, I had an eyebrow-raising moment. We all know that Hyundai has promoted the hell out of the Sonata's "35 Highway MPG" EPA fuel economy estimate. Even the notebooks they gave us at the Sonata's press event touted this best in class number.

But the more telling "Combined" estimate is the number I put the most stock in when comparing fuel economy estimates. I also tend to be very skeptical of our staff being able to hit that number — or any of the other numbers for that matter — given:

a) The ominpresent crush of the "worst in the nation" traffic.

b) Our staff's collective leadfoot tendencies.

Turns out Hyundai has very good reason to boast:
Against the EPA numbers of 35 highway and 26 combined, we've gotten a best tank (all highway) of 33.9 and are averaging an impressive 26.2.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 7,214 miles

Time and Temp

October 04, 2010

Are you like me: do you frequently like to know the time and ambient temperature? In some vehicles you have to look all over the place — in the Navi display, center stack, the multi-info display in the meters, etc. Some vehicles even make you dig through menus for this simple info.

In our 2011 long-term Hyundai Sonata GLS, the time and temp is at the top of the Navi/radio display, but the font is somewhat small.

Hyundai was quite thoughtful and provided a small switch in the upper left of the Navi bezel that when pressed let's you know that you're late and it will be a pleasantly cool evening in SoCal. I think this feature would be particularly useful for older drivers.

Once I discovered this switch, I used it quite a bit. But I still showed up a few minutes late to everything.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 7,330 miles

I just checked BP's Stock price

October 07, 2010

More XM Data at our fingertips: This time, a stock ticker and golf results. You can search, mark, and save your favorites for quick reference. Below are steps for finding BP's NYSE price (yesterday), as well as the results from the Ryder Cup Golf tournament on the other side of the world. There are also categories for MLB, NBA, NHL, NASCAR, tennis, and "other" (various college sports) that all contain live scores as well as final results.

Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor @ 7,685 miles

Ken Who?

October 07, 2010

I dove into our 2011 Hyundai Sonata's sound menu and found Ken C. Pohlmann's name on a screen. Who's Ken Pohlmann you ask?

No, his name isn't on this screen...

You must proceed to the Variable-EQ screen here:

And behold,

Like Acura's Elliot Scheiner-designed audio systems, and Lexus's Mark Levinson, Hyundai have teamed with Ken Pohlmann, a digital sound engineer to provide a digital sound processing for the Sonata's audio system. The left side of the screen doesn't respond to pressing, but the right side does.

Here's a screen describing the various output options.

Pretty standard stuff, but a nice little Easter egg in a car where you might not expect it.

You also might recognize Ken's name as a contributor to our recent Comparison Test of Six Budget Premium Audio Systems.

Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor @ 7,601 miles

Other 1 Isn't So Much Fun Either

October 07, 2010

In response to "ocramidajzj" (and what kind of screen name is that, by the way?) who submitted here that our 2011 Hyundai Sonata's warnings did not include earthquake, I give you the "Other 1" screen. Still no zombies, but below are more weather warnings, as well.

Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor @ 7,534 miles

Does a Heavy-Duty Dolly Fit?

October 08, 2010


I forget to bring the video team's heavy-duty dolly back with the Raptor on Tuesday, so I decided to see if it would fit in the Sonata. The pass through is not very big and it was just barely sufficient to fit the dolly through. Lifting it up without destroying something was tricky, but nothing appears to be destroyed. Doing this would've been easier with a hatchback, but a midsize sedan is what I had and it worked just fine.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 7,706 miles

(Not) Blinded by the Light

October 11, 2010

While running various errands yesterday (thumbs-up to the Sonata's spacious trunk that's earned kudos aplenty here), the sun attempted to play that annoying "peek-a-boo" game with my left eye. You know, where it zaps your peripheral vision through the upper, rearward portion of the driver's window. Usually you swing the visor over there to block it, only to discover it's not long enough and old Sol is getting the last laugh. Not so with the Sonata, which has extending visors with a generous range as seen above. Just like the standard Bluetooth connectivity, XM radio and iPod integration, this is another thoughtful feature that comes standard on this, the base Sonata.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 7,911 miles

Even the Base 4-Cylinder Isn't Bad

October 13, 2010

You may have seen our track tested piece on the Hyundai Sonata 2.0T with the company's turbocharged four-cylinder engine, It's numbers were quite impressive, certainly enough to make anyone wonder why to bother with a V6.

There's a reason many four-cylinder engines have gotten a bad rap though. More often than not, they are weak, noisy and generate plenty of vibrations. Clearly, a turbocharger helps to take care of the power problem, but what about the smoothness and refinement issue?

Well, Hyundai addressed that problem like many other automakers by adding a balance shaft to the Theta II engine. The engineers also added a fair amount of acoustic insulation in the engine bay. There's foam on the underside of the hood along with some fairly thick rubber gaskets around the perimeter.

So does it work? Sounds like it to me. I wind that little 2.4-liter out left and right and it rarely sounds harsh or even overworked. In fact, it's not only surprisingly refined, it's plenty powerful too. The six-speed automatic transmission helps keep it from getting bogged down, and when it's in the heat of its power band it pulls the Sonata along just fine. That 2.0T model looks great on paper, but the base GLS feels just fine on the road.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, @ 7,958 miles

Audio Review

October 13, 2010

Our long-term 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS has some cool standard tech features for a base-model car with a sticker price that starts at $20,195: keyless entry with pushbutton start, Bluetooth hands-free and audio streaming, USB port (although you have to buy a $35 cable that also plugs into the adjacent aux-in jack to get iPod integration). Pay an extra $1,700 like we did and you also get a navigation system with a 6.5-inch touch-screen display and XM NavTraffic, NavWeather and Sports and Stocks free for 90 days before having to shell out for a subscription.

And you get a premium Dimension 7-speaker audio system. Don't worry if you never heard of the brand because Hyundai just made it up. But sound-wise it can hold its own — and then some — with more familiar audio imprints.

The Setup
The Dimension Premium Audio System in our 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS consists of seven speakers powered by 360 watts. The speakers include a 6.5-inch midrange in each front door, a 1-inch tweeter in each corner of the dash, another 6.5-inch mid in each rear door and an 8-inch subwoofer in the rear desk. That's it — a simple but sweet setup.

The Sound
Per usual, I sound-checked the Sonata's system using musical tracks I've listened to in hundreds of cars to determine clarity/lack of distortion, tonal balance, timbre, tonal accuracy, soundstaging, imaging and dynamics. I also used several non-musical test tracks to gauge soundstaging and imaging, linearity and absence of noise. For more details on the testing process and tracks used, check out the article Sound Advice.

The Sonata's Dimension system is a prime example of how tons of speakers and the logo of a well-known audio brand gracing the components aren't required to get good sound. Admittedly, I use test tracks that highlight flaws in a system, yet I'm also continually surprised that I don't get burned out on the tunes and find myself getting lost in the music with the best systems. That didn't happen in the Sonata, but the system did play the test tracks without any major deficiencies and with a smooth, satisfying response.

Sure, the bass boomed a bit on certain tracks — and was good if not great with a rap track I use, Outkast's "Ain't No Thang," to test for low-bass extension — but it was never overly aggressively. And the high end was slightly harsh exactly in parts I expected it would be. But overall the tonal balance was smooth, with little distortion, and the system had a detailed, spacious and very dynamic sound. Timbre and tonal accuracy were largely faithful to the original recordings, although elements of the music, particularly vocals, had a somewhat artificial sound, which I suspect has something to do with the system's signal processing.

My colleague Chris Walton noticed that the system was tuned by noted audio expert Ken C. Pohlmann. (In the interest of full disclosure — and to brag a bit — Ken is a regular contributor to and recently helped with a test of six budget audio systems.) And the Sonata system includes three of Ken's "signature" EQ settings: Normal, Dynamic and Concert. I listened with Normal engaged since I typically try to turn off any processing to compare systems in two-channel stereo. But Pohlmann confirmed that this setting does still use some slight DSP, as do many OEM stereo systems.

The DSP is also what likely helps the Dimension system excel at soundstaging and imaging, which is all the more impressive since the system doesn't have a center-channel speaker. Plus, the dash-mounted tweeters are positioned far forward of the mids in the doors, which usually introduce phasing issues, but didn't seem to negatively affect the sound of the system.

The soundstage was extremely wide, high and exceptionally deep. While imaging wasn't spot on — center images were just a little to the left from the driver's seat — it was close enough that it took listening very closely to determine this, which most people aren't going to do while driving anyway.

This was all confirmed by the non-musical staging and imaging tests, and in my listening notes I scribbled "Wow ... and with NO center channel!" Linearity, a measure of how system response holds up at low and mid volume levels, was poor and fair, respectively. And the system passed a zero-bits test for absence of noise, which most usually do.

The Sources
The Sonata GLS has a single-disc in-dash CD player that also includes AM, FM, XM radio. The system has the side-by-side USB port and aux-in jack at the bottom of the center stack that are common in latest-gen Hyundai and Kia vehicles. But you need the aforementioned $35 accessory cable that plugs into both to hook up an iPod.

Once an iPod is connected, control is through the vehicle's touch screen and a menu with the usual playlists, artists, albums, songs and genres categories, as well as composers, audiobooks and podcasts. You get the same functions when you plug in any other USB-compatible music player or a USB drive loaded with MP3 or WMA music files. The system also has Bluetooth audio for wireless music streaming from a smartphone or other compatible device.

What We Say
The Dimension audio system shows that you don't need a recognizable logo on a speaker grille or head unit to get great sound, and that sometimes less is more when it comes to car audio. At $1,700 for the GLS Navigation Package, the price to get the system could be a lot less as well. But the car it comes in at least offers a lot of bang for the buck.

The Scores
Sound: A-
Source Selection: A
iPod Integration: A-
Cost: B-

Doug Newcomb, Senior Editor, Technology

Feels Good, Too, But in a Different Way

October 14, 2010

Yesterday, I talked about the suspension feel in the Honda Accord Crosstour. Last night, I drove the Hyundai Sonata so I could experience them back to back.

Compared to the Accord, the Sonata is a little softer, but not nearly as much as, say, a Toyota Camry. It is definitely stiffer than the previous Sonata.

The new Sonata falls somewhere between the Accord and the Camry.

The Accord Crosstour feels more stable around corners and driving in a straight line. It does a good job of handling bumps and road imperfections. The Sonata handles bumps, too, but does feel a little bouncier driving in a straight line. But then it surprises you as you go around a curve with the way it stays up. The Sonata cabin is also fairly quiet, which helps give you a more confident impression.

Have you driven a Hyundai Sonata. What do you think?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Back Seat and Cargo Area

October 18, 2010

Our Hyundai Sonata doesn't offer as much legroom as its nearest competitors, the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. With 34.6 inches of rear legroom, it falls third to Honda's 37.2 inches and Toyota's 38.3 inches. It has the same amount of rear headroom as the Camry at 37.8 inches. But both are less roomy than the Accords 38.5 inches.

The Sonata has the largest trunk of the three, though, with 16.4 cubic feet of luggage capacity. The Camry offers 15.0 cu.ft and the Accord only 14.7 cu.ft.

Here's a chart to make it easier to view.

  2011 Hyundai Sonata 2011 Honda Accord 2011 Toyota Camry
Rear Leg Room 34.6 in. 37.2 in. 38.3 in.
Rear Head Room 37.8 in. 38.5 in. 37.8 in.
Luggage Capacity 16.4 cu. ft. 14.7 cu. ft. 15.0 cu. ft.
Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

View From My Window and Some News

October 19, 2010

If you have 30 seconds to waste, here is a video of my ocean drive on the way to work this morning. We just had thunderstorms, which are very rare around here. I expected the waves to be huge, but it was actually very calm. Just thought I'd share and give you a little atmosphere.

Some news:
I'm working on another Reader's Long-Term Car post for this afternoon, so be sure to check back.

Oh, and we just got another new long-term car for the fleet. Care to guess what it is? Here are a few hints: It's small, it's white, and it's made in Japan.

Go Phillies!

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 8,901 miles

Tastier Than Ever

October 21, 2010

We recently published a review of the new Hyundai Sonata equipped with the 2.0T engine. It's the Sonata that Hyundai Motor America's President, John Krafcik, said would be "delicious to drive."

It's 2.0-liter four cylinder engine with direct-injection and a twin-scroll turbocharger makes 274 hp @ 6,000 rpm and 269 lb-ft of torque @ 1,750 rpm. In our testing, it managed zero to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds. That's more than a full second quicker than our long-term naturally aspirated 2.4-liter Sonata.

You can read the full test of the 2011 Hyundai Sonata SE 2.0T here.

Tell us what you think.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

The Everyman Car

October 25, 2010

This weekend I was glad that I had our 2011 Hyundai Sonata as my companion as I had to go ALL over L.A. — Koreatown for the opening of an Oaxacan restaurant, Malibu for a schmancy food festival, Venice for yet another food festival and Hollywood to catch the latest horror flick. It had to lug everything from passengers to huge hampers of dirty laundry, negotiate congested city streets and tight parking situations and rainy canyon roads. It adapted pretty well to most all of my needs, even dancing around slow, distracted drivers — the scourge of L.A. streets.

Suffice it to say, the Sonata is utilitarian around the city but still does all right when driving leisurely on curvy roads. Not to say this is the car for enthusiasts but definitely for those who enjoy mountain roads for the view, not the curves. It's got a little more spice than that vanilla Camry.

What my passengers this weekend had to say about the car, after the jump...

My brother (34-year-old film editor), who's actually in the market for a new car: "This is a Hyundai? That backseat is huuuge. How much is this? $40K?"

John (40-something broker), who says he's an enthusiast but drives an F-350: "I wouldn't take this on Latigo Canyon [uber-curvy canyon road in Malibu] but it seems to drive pretty well and sound good for a four-cylinder."

Lindsay (30-something food writer/photographer), my friend who parked too far away from the Malibu event and was lugging bags while wearing uncomfortable shoes: "Thanks so much for picking me up! Ooh, it's nice back here."

PS: Yes, that's llama dung next to the front driver wheel. What happens when you park at Saddlerock Ranch in Malibu.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 8,506 miles

What Traffic?

October 26, 2010

A lot of really good things have been said about our Hyundai Sonata, and I agree with almost all of them. I think our Sonata is a great car, however while driving it recently it did let me down a bit. The nav system on the Sonata has a lot of short comings, specifically related to the traffic feature.

Chris Walton already wrote about the nav-traffic scalability, but this time it was a different issue, it was just wrong. Above is what i saw on the nav screen, notice all that green, and below is what I saw out the front windshield. I don't know for sure but that doesn't look to green to me.

Seth Compton, Field Producer @ 8,557 miles

SEMA Special

November 03, 2010

At SEMA (going on now) Hyundai Motor America has partnered with RIDES Magazine to pimp out a Sonata 2.0T, which is further affirmation of HMA's fixation on the Benz CLS (inspired by the CLS, they claim.) The press release mentions no mechanical mods, so what you see is what you get.

Anyway, I like this way better than our long-term 2011 Sonata GLS, which is B-O-R-I-N-G. But if you rolled in this SEMA special, ordinary traffic tickets would become felony stops ("lower your windows and get face down on the ground") and I suppose that could get a bit wearisome.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ ~8,700 miles

A Best Seller

November 11, 2010

Edmunds' monthly Top 10 list of best sellers is up and the 2011 Hyundai Sonata made the cut for October, coming in at #7 with 17,505 units sold. It's still behind best-seller regulars like the Camry, Accord and Altima but that's pretty darn respectable. I wonder if the Sonata will move up any higher. I definitely prefer it out of the practical sedans.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

Texture, Baby, Texture.

November 12, 2010

I've driven the Sonata for weeks without noticing this little detail. And then, last night as the sun was setting, I noticed it: Texture. Lot's of it. On the door panels and the dash. And when the light catches it just right, it's quite nice.

Subtle, but nice.

Josh Jacquot, Senior Editor

Useful Navigation Feature

November 15, 2010

I noticed this morning that our Sonata's navigation system offers the pictured warning of a "serious" accident clogging the freeway. And I mean that sincerely. This little debacle burned 40 minutes of my life — a waste I could have easily avoided by altering my route only slightly had I noticed it sooner.

Next time.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

10,000 Miles and Counting

November 17, 2010

We've passed the 10,000-mile mark in our Hyundai Sonata. It's holding up pretty well I'd say. I was a bit worried about the soft fabric on the seats but it looks the same as when we got it.

Outside of one little problem with the key getting stuck in the ignition, our Sonata has been reliable.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 10,102 miles

Not For My Commute

November 22, 2010

(Sorry, sorry. Another LT Intro shot. My camera still has not repaired itself. Soon, though. You still want to read what I write though.)

There's a dealership by my old house, on the East Coast — it's a series of dealerships, actually, but that's not the point — that is surrounded by the smoothest, most perfect asphalt (yes, it, California and your sub-par concrete) you've ever seen. It's like a black lake where every car rides like a luxury liner and there's not a decibel of tire noise. It's amazing and I've never known if it's intentional. If the dealership funded the repairs to sell cars. If not, well, lucky them. If so, well, good idea.

And so far none of this has anything to do with our Long Term Hyundai Sonata GLS. Except that it does.

You see, on a smooth road, or one with some serious curves, the Sonata's a great car: Smooth, composed, good handling / ride comfort balance. Trouble is, as soon as the road gets rough, the Hyundai gets thumping. It's not bad by any means, but it is louder than I prefer. The tires and the suspension are audible as the pavement gets cracked and lumpy. It never goes so light you cant steer over the big drainage whoops and it never crashes down, but you can hear the thunk, pong and psst of the suspension crushing down, the tire hitting and the shocks compress. It's a common ride quality in the newer Hyundais as they strive to hit some balance of luxury and driveability. Kudos for even trying and not going the Toyota uber-couch route.

But as much as I like the car on the open highway and back roads, I'm on them 1/100th the time that I'm on my daily potholed commute. The weighting isn't even close. (Takahashi — who commutes in an Elise00 will call me a wuss here.)

Driving a car on your real commute isn't something a lot of car shoppers look to do, but if you're having trouble deciding between A and B, it could be the deciding factor.

Mike Magrath, Associate Editor,

Pint-sized Navi Screen

November 24, 2010

The navigation system in our long-term 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS is quite good. The graphics are clear and attractive, the logic and screen flow are excellent, and the interface is the easiest to use touch panel.

However, the screen size itself is smaller than its competitors. I measured our Sonata's screen at 6.5 inches diagonally. The Camry's display is 7". One-half inch doesn't sound like much, but it makes a difference not only on workspace, but also on my first impression.

And that impression would be one of cost-cutting. Granted, it isn't postage stamped-sized like our MazdaSpeed 3's display, but when you're trying to go head-to-head with Camry and Accord, you'd best bring your Alpha game.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 10,300 miles

The Screen is Just Right

November 24, 2010

My colleague, Mr. Austria noted in his Sonata post that he thought the touchscreen display was less desirable because it was on the small side. I completely, but respectfully disagree. Allow me to explain...

To me, quality is significantly more important than quantity, and in this regard the Sonata handily beats the stalwart Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. In my opinion, the Sonata's display is as good as it gets in this segment and bests many systems found in more expensive categories. The on-screen controls feature large buttons and are labeled with legible typefaces. Furthermore, the menu organization is intuitive, with enough redundant controls to quickly find what you're looking for.

The Honda's, by contrast, requires the dial controller and the screen is set deep in a hood. To its credit, the Accord does have a very good voice activation system. When it comes to screen quality, though, it pales next the Sonata's. The new Honda graphics are a vast improvement over the last generation's, which looked like it was designed with Windows 95.

For me, the Camry's screen comes in a close second place to the Hyundai. In terms of screen quality, it's clear and well labeled, but the surrounding hard buttons look a little dated to me. More importantly, I think its placement — lower in the center stack — is a bigger problem. This requires a more distant glance away from the road.

But really, the screen is just the tip of the iceberg. Styling is subjective, but I think most shoppers prefer the Sonata's sculpted exterior and refined interior to the Accord and Camry. Then there's driving dynamics and the all-so-important feel behind the wheel. Not only do I think that the Sonata brought it's A-game, I think it's worthy of an MVP trophy.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. Drive safe.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor

Preconceived Notions

November 29, 2010

Overall, I think our Sonata scores well in all of the important categories, but definitely not in brand perception. Over the extended holiday weekend , that became very clear as I made the rounds.

Considering what I get to do for a living, friends and acquaintances tend to know me as "the car guy." My first stop for the holiday preparations was the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills. The owner saw me in the masses of shoppers and shouted out, "whatcha drivin?" My response, "Hyundai Sonata."

His shoulders slumped, facial expression went from interest to pity. "What'd you do, draw the short straw?"

"No," I replied, "it's actually pretty good." He didn't buy it.

Then when I pulled into the Thanksgiving dinner, I got the same question. Last year, I was lucky enough to secure a Panamera Turbo, and perhaps they were hoping for me to top that. When one of the dinner guests rolled up in a black 599 GTO, there was no chance of impressing the crowd. Granted, the Sonata isn't the type of car that impresses people.

I wonder what kind of response I would've received had I said I was driving a Honda Accord, Toyota Camry or Ford Fusion, though. I think the same. But I have a feeling that Hyundai, for all the good it's done in the last few years, is still fighting an uphill battle. For some people, it will always represent a cheap car from the 1980's. Too bad, they don't know what they're missing.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor @ 10,471 miles

Purchase Consideration

November 30, 2010

"Purchase consideration" is what guys say when they're trying to be smart about why some cars sell and some cars don't. What they're trying to say is that you've got to be on the list in order to get chosen.

All of us experience this when some non-car person asks you about some car they want to buy. It's like having your own personal focus group. People just walk up to you and tell you about cars they're thinking about. You learn a lot just from the list they have.

Just last weekend, I had someone at a Thanksgiving dinner ask me about the Hyundai Sonata. Totally a non-car person, as far from an early adopter as can be. This is totally not news except for the fact that I can remember when anything with the name Hyundai was not on the list - not a good list, anyway.

There's lots of talk by smart people about sales trends in the automotive industry and the Korean automakers always get a friendly mention about their improving results. I'd argue that the big breakthrough has come and that the Koreans are now front-rank players. It doesn't matter what kind of car you mention, there's a Hyundai or a Kia on the list.

I'm not sure you can say this about any other car brand in America, even formerly gold-plated ones like Honda and Toyota. In my own private focus group, the big news is that everyone — and that means totally everyone — is willing to talk about buying a car from Korea. And this makes Hyundai and Kia the most important car companies in America.

Now every other car-maker in America has to start figuring out what is it about Korean cars that puts them on the list.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, @ 10,532 miles

Up on the Housetop

December 01, 2010

Christmas is coming. And to celebrate, Hyundai Motor has teamed with youtube sensation(?) Pomplamoose to transform covers of three holiday favorites into Hyundai ads. "Deck the Halls" features the Genesis, "Up on the Housetop" with the new 2011 Sonata (just like our long-termer!), and "Jingle Bells" for three other Hyundai vehicles.

You never heard of Pomplamoose? Me neither; Drake and TI are more like it.
But check out the clip anyway. Because Christmas is coming.

[Bonus track: Hit the jump for Deck the Halls with the Genesis]

Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ 10,600 miles

Floormat Retention?

December 03, 2010

Here's how I found the Sonata's driver's floor mat earlier this week when I jumped in for the commute home. Not a huge problem as it's unlikely to create a stuck throttle in this position, but still unnerving.

Here you can see the back of the mat with a retention hole which mates to a hook on the floor. The hook is a good design which has a horizontal portion to keep the mat from slipping off under normal use. In other words, it's unlikely this is anything but the result of human error. I'm blaming the car wash on Monday.

Although it feels weird to push on the throttle with the mat partially overlapping its lower portion, I noticed no real detrimental effect. But I only drove about a quarter mile before it made me crazy.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

Genius Engineering

December 03, 2010

There's no question the 2011 Hyundai Sonata is a big improvement over the car it replaces, as well as a refreshing option within the midsize sedan segment. It's chock full of standard features and offers styling that helps it stand out from the crowd.

It also has a piece of fantastic engineering...

You see, many of the cars we drive these days at have keyless ignition with pushbutton starting. That's great, but since there usually isn't a slot for the key fob, it means I have to find a place to store the fob in the car since I don't like things in my pockets while I'm driving (BMW's new 5 Series is a rare exception with its key fob-holder). So what usually happens is the key fob ends up rolling around somewhere in the car; you can imagine how annoying this is at the track during slalom testing. I also sometimes temporarily forget where I put the fob: was it in one of the cupholders, the center console bin or the side pocket?

Well, Hyundai has solved the key fob-holder issue with its new Sonata GLS; check out the below photo:

Yes, that's right, those crazy Koreans designed a slot on the steering column where you can store the key while you drive. Genius! But it gets better. Not only does this slot hold the key, but as you put the key in the slot you actually turn it to start the car — all in one motion. Double genius!

I wonder how long it will take other manufacturers to catch on to this technological marvel?

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 10,809 miles

Still Need the Turbo?

December 06, 2010

Several weeks ago, around about the time the Sonata 2.0T was passing through our offices, I quipped to Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton that the Sonata Turbo pretty much made the naturally aspirated version pointless. Walton differed, of the opinion that the new 198-hp four-cylinder in the Sonata GLS was a great engine on its own and didn't need a turbo.

Well, after spending a few days driving's long-term GLS, I have to agree with Walton (as much as I hate to admit it): the Sonata GLS is a pretty decent everyday car. Sure, I miss the turbo on occasion, for instance when trying to accelerate quickly up a steep hill. But in general the naturally aspirated Sonata should have adequate power for most drivers.

It appears you won't save much in the way of fuel costs over the Turbo, though: our Sonata GLS averaged 25.3 mpg for the month of November, while the Sonata 2.0T test car averaged 26.7 mpg in the, admittedly, much shorter period of time it was with us. For the record, the Sonata GLS's EPA numbers are 22 city/35 highway/26 combined, versus the 2.0T's 22 city/33 highway/26 combined.

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 10,902 miles

Poor Steering Feel and I Don't Mind

December 08, 2010

I've spent plenty of time in our long-term Sonata and there is little to complain about — provided you drive it with the right mind set.

Expecting a sliver of sportiness? Forget it, this car is the opposite. It is not fast nor particularly nimble, and the steering is utterly lifeless. But do I hate driving the Sonata? No, here's why.

Some enthusiasts crave performance in anything they drive, Jacquot for instance. Anything that doesn't measure up to guys like that is relentlessly annoying. For me, a commuter car like the Sonata or the Mazda 2 is completely different. Call it low expectations, but I think of it more like reasonable expectations.
Case in point, the steering in the Sonata. It offers very little worthwhile feedback. Low speeds, high speeds, it's all pretty much the same overboosted crap. A travesty in anything sporty, but in this car it's perfectly appropriate.

The average driver will find it quite pleasant, relaxing even. Wheeling the car into a parking space is about as low effort as it gets and when you're on the highway it doesn't twitch and roll with every bump in the pavement. Would more direct steering be appreciated? Sure, but it's not necessary, or at least not in this $23,000 family sedan.

Ed Hellwig, Editor,

PRNDL and Other Sniglets

December 09, 2010

Before I get lost in Sniglets, let me first explain what led me there. Last night I found the gear indicator (PRNDL - pronounced prehn-duhl), a little distracting. It's quite a bit brighter than the rest of the gauges and indicators. I fiddled with the illumination adjustments, but found it adjusted everything except for the PRNDL and the arrows on the AC's "mode man". Those lights only got brighter when I selected the maximum setting. If you drive with your hands at 9:00 and 3:00, your forearm will block the PRNDL, but I keep my hands lower to facilitate shuffle steering. I suppose that if I owned this car, I'd affix some dark window tint film over it and that'd be that.

On to Sniglets...

Back in the 80's, there was a show called Not Necessarily the News on HBO. If you remember it, congratulations, you're old. On the show, comedian Rich Hall had a recurring bit called Sniglets. A Sniglet is any word that doesn't appear in the dictionary, but should. PRNDL was one of the featured sniglets, and last night's bout of PRNDLitis got me thinking about other automotive sniglets. I present to you, a small sampling.

Aeropalmics - The study of wind resistance conducted by holding a cupped hand out the car window.

Carbage - The trash found in your car.

Cargument - when two or more people in a car have a serious disagreement and then are forced to sit in close proximity until they reach their destination.

Carnography - TV ads featuring impossibly shiny cars driven at impossible speeds down empty roads by gorgeous men with beautiful women looking on adoringly from the passenger seat.

Carstipation - When your car engine just about turns over and will not start.

Carthritis - Chronic mechanical malfunctions characterized by stiffness, inflammation, and sometimes destruction of ones car; automotive old age.

Curbswell - A seismic condition in which the curb on the passenger side of a car will rise and wedge a car door. The passenger must then climb out and stand on the curb until the swelling goes down.

EssoAsso - A driver that cuts through a gas station to bypass a traffic signal and other vehicles.

Fenderberg - The large glacial deposits that form on the insides of car fenders during snowstorms. (see also: Carbooger, Carsicle)

Ignisecond - The overlapping moment of time when the hand is locking the car door even as the brain is saying "my keys are in there!"

Impassenger - when you're in your car trying to unlock it for the passenger to get in and they're a little too fast and pull up on the handle while its still locked

Kawashock - the act of pulling into a parking space, only to discover at the last moment that a motorcycle has already taken the spot.

Lotshock - The act of parking your car, walking away, and then watching it roll past you.

Magnocartic - An automotive affliction ensures that a car will, when left unattended, attract shopping carts.

Pediddel - A car with only one working headlight. (Related to LEDDIDEP: a car with only one working taillight. )

Phistel - The brake pedal on the passenger side of the car that you wish existed when you're riding with a lunatic.

Rignition - The embarrassing action of trying to start one's car with the engine already running.

TADTS an acronym for "They all do that, sir," commonly uttered by Lotus mechanics to their customers.

Got any car-related Sniglets of your own?

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor

Digital Gauges

December 10, 2010

Here's a place that I don't mind a digital gauge. The temperature gauge on modern cars is essentially a warning light anyway. It might as well be a three-position indicator: Cold, normal or broken.

But there are other places where I want a real analog gauge.

And this is one of them. I need a real gauge here to judge the limits. Or at least a good distance-to-empty meter.

What about you?

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

Our Favorite Caption

December 10, 2010

Thanks to technetium99 for this week's favorite caption.

Here are the others that made us sing:

Good grief! Good car! (ergsum)
The Seouler Express (ergsum)
Sonata Claus (ergsum)
No comments from the Peanuts gallery. (lowmilelude)
Hey Schroeder, is that Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata? (blackngold1000)
O Hyundai Night! (thegraduate)
Christmas Seoul (jacton)
All I want for Christmas is my two liter turbo. (robert4380)
Ralphie finally gets his Red Rider. (ergsum)
The "Peanuts" gang visits Spike in California. (teampenske3)

What was your favorite?

To the winner:

You can select one of these three prizes:

- BMW X messenger bag

- set of mini cones (for your own autocross)

- Audi Q5 model car

Send your choice and your address to dderosa (at)

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

You Write the Caption

December 10, 2010

This house in my neighborhood decorates for Christmas with the Peanuts characters. I can't think of a better way to spread Christmas cheer.

One of my favorite lines from the Charlie Brown Christmas Special is from Lucy: "It's too early. I never eat December snowflakes. I always wait until January."

Here's a closer shot (click to enlarge):

What's your caption?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Family Truckster?

December 13, 2010

Why, yes, that is an eight-foot-tall Grand Fir on top our long-term Hyundai Sonata. I'm glad you asked. The Sonanta did the requisite Christmas tree shopping with my family yesterday. Turns out it's a fine machine for hauling a large tree away from The Home Depot.

Sure, I wasn't as cool as this guy or this guy (same guy, actually), but the tree-laden Sonata proved stable at speeds up to 50 mph.

Of course, we didn't try this or this — either of which would certainly have upped the cool factor.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor.

Scrolling Satellite Radio Display

December 14, 2010

Here's one way Hyundai got it right in its display of XM radio data. Both the Name field and the Title field of the XM station currently playing are able to scroll to display data which won't fit in the available space.

Hit the jump for more.

In the first image, the Title field can't display all the information. But here, after it began scrolling, you can see that this song was performed on 3/13/94 in Chicago. Chicago is still partially cut off — perhaps the provider (XM) has a character limit, but that's rarely the problem. Many carmakers make no provision to see all the available information, so there's usually far less than this. And with live performances — like this one from Pearl Jam — it's good have all the information.

It's a nice touch that makes a big difference.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

The Styling

December 16, 2010

Since everyone seemed to get so fired up on Monday about the Sonata's styling versus other entries in the segment, I figure adding fuel to the fire is a good thing. Here are some detail shots illustrating the Sonata's more dramatic elements.

What say you?

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

Next North American Car of the Year?

December 17, 2010

Photo by Scott Jacobs

That's right, the 2011 Hyundai Sonata just may be the 2011 North American Car of the Year. It's going up against the Leaf and the Volt. Do you think it has a chance? Place your bets. The winner will be announced at the Detroit auto show on January 10.

FYI, the five past winners of the award are: Ford Fusion Hybrid (2010), Hyundai Genesis (2009), Chevrolet Malibu (2008), Saturn Aura (2007), Honda Civic (2006).

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

The Little Things

December 20, 2010

My parents were in the market for a new car and in the end decided to go with a Honda Accord. They got it loaded up with all the bells and whistles, including a nav (my dad loves this feature the most). Suffice it to say they're very happy with their purchase. But now that I've lived with our 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS this weekend, I can't help but wish that my folks had seriously considered it before they made their purchase.

The Sonata has all these small conveniences and thoughtful touches that my dad, a man who loves technology but still uses AOL, would have appreciated, like that directional man for climate control. Press the areas where you'd like some heat or cold. Easy! Or the dedicated time/temp button, for a quick peek at what the weather feels like outside. I mean, come on.

And I know he'd have loved the following.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 11,607 miles

Interior Design Critique

December 21, 2010

I like our Sonata's interior. From the organic shapes to the praiseworthy materials, I think Hyundai did a great job. The controls are well placed and the buttons have a good solid feel about them. If I were to buy one, however, I'd pick a different color scheme.

In my opinion, there are few cars that can pull off a two-tone color interior. This isn't one of them. It just seems to throw me off a bit, like when someone wears brown shoes with a black suit. Over the weekend, my girlfriend test drove an R-Spec Hyundai Geneis Coupe that had a red and black interior. That suited the car just fine. The red and black color scheme also showed up in a BMW M Coupe that used to occupy my driveway. That too, worked.

For me, the only black and tan I like includes Guinness and Bass. For the Sonata, I'd go with the standard black interior. Boring? Maybe. But the black seats will probably age a lot better than the lighter seats (which are already looking a little scruffy). On the plus side, I like the brushed dark metal trim. I've rarely been impressed by wood trim — real or simulated.

What do you think? Fashion hit or miss?

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor @ 11,656 miles

Rainy Night Blindness

December 22, 2010

Want an adventure? Drive our 2011 Hyundai Sonata during a torrential rainstorm at night. Something that never really was an issue prior to driving in the rain is its poor headlights which, it turns out, don't cast much more than a dim blob of light. Combine that with the windshield wipers which seem to smear and streak on the windshield and it's a dicey proposition. Of course that streaking goes away after a few blips of the cleanser but it all still makes me reluctant to go out at night in our Sonata.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor


December 23, 2010

I'm not an early tech adopter and I'm not a Luddite. So I suppose that means I'm one those people who can be a little daunted by the latest and greatest digital doodad but who sooner or later gets into the swing of things. Usually about the time the Next Big Thing arrives.

I haven't been that anxious, for instance, to pair my iPhone with one of our Long Term Road Test cars for hands-free Bluetooth dialing. And it hasn't really been necessary, since I typically just have a car overnight. Meh, I say to myself, I'm just going to drive and not futz around with the tech.

But I'm driving our 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS over the long Christmas weekend. Somewhere between trips to Trader Joe's, Nordstrom Rack and Bristol Farms, I figure I'm going to need to make a phone call. And although I think Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood might be a little fanatical on the subject of in-car tech, I do think it's unsafe to dial and drive.

For once, I did not tap my in-house iGuru (All-Tech Alec, let's call him) for a pairing demo. I headed out to the car with my iPhone, a commuter cup of French roast and the Sonata's Digital Navigation System manual. It has a 13-page "pre-overview" section, by the way. Not a good sign.

But miracle of miracles: About three minutes after getting into the car, I was making a hands-free call. A minute after that, I was streaming Aterciopelados' latest album through the Sonata's sound system. The instructions were very clear, both in the book and on the screen.

Had I read Josh Jacquot's post from last summer on the Sonata's iPod integration, I would have had a hint that things might go this way. But I did the phone pairing cold, and by the book (literally), for a reason. If I could do it this easily, any user could.

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @ 11,712 miles


December 23, 2010

Sixteens. That's the wheel diameter we have on our long-term 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS.
And that's perfectly fine for the Sonata you will pick up at LAX on your next visit to Hollywood to check out celebrity cement hand prints. Sixteen-inch wheels were probably also on your ex-girlfriend's Toyota Echo — Roxy Edition.

But I went to "I-Like-Big-Wheels Prep Academy" in Jersey City, so I prefer the Eighteens available on the Sonata SE and 2.0T Limited. Even tiny cars like our long-term VW GTI have 18s.

The Sonata with 18s looks good, and my first thought isn't "Hertz Number One Club."

Merry Christmas!

Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ 11,700 miles

Unnecessary Extra Done Not Badly

December 24, 2010

Here's an random, inconsequential observation prompted by our longterm 2010 Hyundai Sonata's volume display. Really, it's about volume displays in general. Many many many manufacturers include them nowadays. They're nothing new. Turn the knob and a meter/number/both pops up and tells you how loud the audio system is, as if you couldn't hear it.

What are these displays good for? We're talking about an audio system here — turn the knob until your ears are happy. So what possible purpose does a visual representation provide? Deep thoughts.

The only thing I can think of pertains to satellite radio. Example, you get in the car and you're in a satellite dead zone, so there's no sound whatsoever. You turn up the volume, nothing. With the display you can pre-emptively turn it down to some known level using the numbers so as not to have your trousers blown off when the satellite reconnects and the compression wave hits because you've inadvertently cranked the knob to 13. Pretty lame rationale, but it's all I've got. What's your theory on why these volume displays exist?

Anyway, questions of actual usefulness aside, Hyundai's implementation of the volume display is actually thoughtful since the readout resides in an otherwise unused corner of the screen so it doesn't obscure information that is actually useful. Our longterm GMC Terrain, Chevy Cruze and Suzuki Kizashi are three random cars I checked (the keys were nearby) and those volume displays obscure otherwise useful information, and do so for 3 seconds (GMs) and 2 seconds (Zook) before the volume display times out. Yes, I actually timed them. I have no life.

But seriously, who needs a volume display? Deaf people?

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

Homing In

December 28, 2010

My optometrist moved from an office park in a part of Irvine that I know well to one that I don't. It seems so far away to me that it might as well be in San Diego. But the navigation system in the 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS had no trouble getting me there.

Later, I spent some time surfing the system's points of interest menus, which include categories like travel and shopping. I can see that having categorical information could be handy for road trips. The system offered me every permutation of the name of Long Beach's airport, for example, including LBG and Daugherty Field. If I had been an out-of-towner, I could have used any of those names and found what I needed. The POI menus might be a bit of overkill for local use. Take Costco, for instance. I think could get to this one blindfolded.

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @11,840 miles

Smooth or Finger-Contoured Wheel?

December 30, 2010

The Hyundai Sonata has some of the most pronounced built-in finger contours of any steering wheel I've used. I think I prefer a smooth rim as it slides through my fingers easier while shuffle steering. Even better is the GTI's trim, which is smooth, but shaped in a way that better fits your hand.

So tell us, do you prefer a smooth or finger-contoured wheel?

James Riswick, Automotive Editor

Hyundai Sundai Fundai

January 04, 2011

So there's the latest addition to my driveway. Over the New Year's break, my girlfriend bought a Genesis Coupe to replace her Mini Cooper S. We trekked up to Glendale, CA in the driving rain to pick up this 2.0-liter turbo base model. I was half hoping that pulling up in our Sonata would help grease the wheels of commerce. Not so much.

There was an available $1,000 cash incentive for current Hyundai owners, but since the Sonata belongs to Edmunds and I wasn't listed as a co-buyer, we were stuck with my limited bargaining skills. In the end, we got the car for $24,600 out the door, which is about $600 under Edmunds TMV. Not bad, I think.

Funny side note: the sales manager was "Bobby Bluetooth" fromTop Gear USA episode 7. Not so funny note: we were there for about three hours.

There are a lot of similarities between the Sonata and Genesis Coupe. Both are comfortable, with well-placed controls and surprisingly good fit, finish and materials. The Genesis, though, is quite a bit louder than the Sonata. Not in terms of road or wind noise, but rather, engine noise. Which is fine, since this is supposed to be sportier than the Sonata. When it comes to styling, I think both are fairly attractive cars that share just enough Hyundai design DNA to know that they're related, but not so similar that you can't tell them apart (I'm looking at you, Audi).

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor @ 11,990 miles

Sad Trombone

January 10, 2011

So the 2011 Hyundai Sonata was beat by the Chevrolet Volt for 2011 North American Car of the Year. The Volt won with 233 points, the Hyundai Sonata had 163 and the Nissan Leaf electric 94. Surprised?

Apparently the Volt won because it "seamlessly bridges the gulf between today's liquid fueling infrastructure and the plugged-in electric future," according to juror Lindsay Brooke of Automotive Engineering International.

Last month, when I asked you guys to place your bets on who would win COTY there wasn't one clear-cut favorite but a lot of argument over the niche cars versus vanilla family sedans. But commenters greenpony and dg0472 called it by saying the Volt would win this. Everyone buy them a round of drinks.

"Considering how hard it is to make any headway in such a crowded segment, the Sonata is a clear cut favorite to win the award." — tjpark01

"Personally, I think the Leaf should win. It's been overshadowed by the Volt so much that a lot less people know about it." — adavis2493

"Considering how plebian the previous winners are, the Sonata has a great shot." — emajor

"This award does not seem to be given to the best car, but simply to the car that has the most buzz." — ed124c

"What's so special about the Sonata that it deserves such an honor? The award has to go to the Volt or the Leaf; the Sonata deserves no consideration." — greenpony

"My vote would probably be the leaf.... partially because my best friend has an '11 Sonata and would shove it in my face." — isend2c

"who cares about double priced electric cars with uncertain life expectancies." — billt9

"I'd vote for the Volt and think it will win, too." — dg0472

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

Really Liking It

January 11, 2011

The more I drive our long-term Sonata the more I like it. This would be in contrast to two of our most recent big-name family sedans, the 2008 Honda Accord and 2009 Mazda 6. Neither never really grew on me. The Accord was just a bit too big and, well, not Accord-y enough. The Mazda, perhaps through its styling, just seemed like it was trying too hard.

The Sonata? I like the look and quality of the interior. I like that it has cloth, not leather, yet still has a navigation system. I like the power and fuel economy from the 2.4-liter engine. In general, I'm happy to just hop in and doing the things family sedans are supposed to be used for, like run errands, commute and take the kids to school.

I do prefer the related Kia Optima for its styling. But either way I'd buy one.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 12,357 miles

Show Me The Pressure

January 12, 2011

So the Sonata's low tire pressure warning light has gone off. You never quite know what the story is going to be — do I actually have a puncture, or has pressure dropped just enough past the programmed threshold to trigger the warning? Since the first time the light fired off was on a cold morning, I guessed the latter. But I still had to check each tire with a gauge since the Sonata's TPMS just tells you the pressure is low and not which tire is low or by how much.

Yeah, this is a petty complaint. But I know the information is somewhere in the Sonata's computer; so why not just tell me? A lot of General Motors vehicles have individual tire pressure readouts, and it's greatly appreciated.

Edit: Our Director of Vehicle Testing, Dan Edmunds, helped clarify TPMS operation to me. There are generally two TPMS systems used, a "low-line" system and a "high-line" system. Both meet the federal safety mandate. And both are equally accurate in measuring tire pressure at each wheel. However, when the low-line system gets a low pressure reading, it doesn't actually know which tire it is coming from. A high-line system gains additional hardware that allows it to determine which tire the low reading is coming from. Condering the Sonata, it's probably a low-line. As to why an automaker choses to go low or high, Dan says "cost and having the necessary dashboard real estate" to display pressure info are the obstacles.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Long Distance Compendium

January 14, 2011

We've covered the Sonata's long-distance ability in a variety of posts but thought I'd sum up some thoughts.

Ed noted that it's got serious range (perhaps more than 500 miles to a tank) and is reasonably comfortable in terms of seating. Donna and I commented previously that it's pretty quiet (here and here), which is nice since it's got an impressive sound system. There's lots of interior storage to store your stuff. The ride quality is indeed smooth, though Mike noted it's not Camry smooth, and I'd agree; if the road is rough, the Sonata's responses seem just a bit too harsh. And I also agree with Ed about the lifeless steering. Although, personally, I think it makes a difference as it just makes the car less enjoyable to drive, even on the freeway.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Seeing A Few More On the Road

January 17, 2011

Now that the latest Sonata has been on sale for a while, I've started to see more of them on the road. Thanks to the distinctive styling (whether you like it or not), they're pretty easy to spot. And I was a party over the weekend and met a guy who had a silver 2011 Sonata — although it turned out his was a rental. I'd be curious to know how much Hyundai is pushing the new Sonata for sales to rental fleets since the domestic automakers have traditionally embraced fleet sales and Toyota and Honda have typically shied away from it.

Anyway, Hyundai sold 196,623 Sonatas in 2010. Here are a few other hand-picked family sedans for comparion.

Camry: 327,804
Accord: 311,381
Altima: 229,263
Fusion: 219,219
Malibu: 198,770
Legacy: 38,725
Mazda 6: 35,662

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @12,502 miles

Like The Air Vent Placement

January 20, 2011

It's been chilly in the mornings recently and one nice thing I've noticed is that I can position the driver-side air vents to blow heated air right on my hands to warm them up if I'm holding the steering wheel at 9 and 3. It's sort of like a poor-man's version of a heated steering wheel. I mention this mostly because I can't always do this (or do as well) as I can in the Sonata.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

10 Things I Like About You

January 25, 2011

Not in any particular order:

1. smooth four-cylinder engine
2. strong brakes
3. Venetian red paint
4. Unfussy center console
5. Quiet cabin
6. Plenty of interior storage
7. Scrolling audio information display
8. Spacious trunk
9. Simple gauge cluster
10. Long range on one tank

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

The Ah-ha Moment

January 26, 2011

Finally I've had my Ah-ha Moment with the Hyundai Sonata. It's that miraculous instant when things inexplicably come together and the universe suddenly makes sense.

Naturally it happens in a gas station, which is possibly the only place where car people engage their higher order thinking skills.

I've just finished filling up the Sonata, and it didn't take that much, maybe a bit more than a half tank after the usual weekend of pointless stop-and-go traffic around Los Angeles. So I'm scrolling through the tripmeter information on the instrument display so I can properly complete the blanks in the fuel log, as always fearful that should I make an error, Managing Editor Donna DeRosa (She Who Must Be Obeyed) will be after me with her schoolteacher's yardstick of discipline.

So I scroll through the info and enter the trip mileage info (it's not that far, really), and then set the trip computer to Distance to Empty (DTE). And that's when the universe makes sense.

The DTE info reads, "410 miles."

Want to know why Hyundai equips the Sonata only with a four-cylinder engine even as assorted know-it-alls rattle on about the superiority of a V6's power and refinement?

410 miles.

Want to know which parameter of performance really matters to you when you undertake the refueling of an automobile? It's not speed, trip mileage or exterior temperature.

410 miles.

DTE has a magical allure to many of us, something that Hyundai apparently understands. When you fill up at a gas station after a half tank of the usual inefficient, gas-swilling, urban stop-and-go traffic at an average speed of 35 mph and the tripmeter tells you that you still achieved sufficient mpg to expect the kind of driving range you get only in fuel-sipping freeway cruising, well, the Ah-ha Moment comes to you.

You say to yourself, "Ah, now I get it."

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor,

All the Time Left

January 27, 2011

Our Hyundai Sonata is pulling left. Hard.

Time for an alignment.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 13,365 miles

Touchscreen Interface Looks Better Than Those Seen in Some Luxury Models

January 28, 2011

One of the things I love about the Sonata is how colorful and elaborate its touchscreen interface is. You've got your blues, you've got your reds, you've got your grays, you've got your greens. You've got your sharp resolution. The interface is lively and engaging and as far as I'm concerned, it really illustrates care and attention to detail on the part of the manufacturer.

It's interesting that manufacturers like Hyundai and Ford have surpassed even certain luxury-car makers on this front. The touchscreen interface shown below is from Lexus' flagship model, the LS 460. As you can see, the color palette is limited and the resolution ain't so hot.

What do you think of your car's interface, if it has one?

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

Beige Seat Fabric Impervious to Editorial Grime

January 31, 2011

The editorial staff here has been criticized by some of you, our gentle readers, for not treating the cars in our long-term fleet with the proper amount of care. The implication is that our editors are masters of disaster, cutting wide swaths of damage and destruction fueled by negligence, carelessness and just plain stupidity as we drag our knuckles from one hapless car to the next. And hey, maybe there's some truth to that.

Which is why it's so surprising that our Hyundai Sonata's beige seats are still spotless after seven months and over 13,000 miles. Pristine. Unblemished. And did I mention that they're beige? We had a Hyundai Azera with beige seats a few years back and it didn't take long for them to take the shame-walk from unsullied to soiled. I blame denim jeans, which, I suspect, somehow bled into the seat fabric.

Anyway, we're still wearing denims but this fact hasn't defiled our Sonata's pure beige butt-cradlers - not yet, anyway. Perhaps Hyundai has learned a thing or two about seat fabrics since our time with the Azera.

What kind of luck have you had with your car's seat fabric?

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 13,197 miles

Automatic Climate Control

February 01, 2011

Our 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS test car has the following options:

Sixteen-inch alloy wheels; power driver seat; driver's lumbar support; automatic headlight control; chrome interior door handles; leatherette interior panel door inserts; navigation system with high-resolution touchscreen display; dimension AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 audio system with seven speakers and external amplifier (360 watts); 90-day complimentary subscription to XM NavTraffic, XM NavWeather; XM sports and XM stock), Carpeted Floor Mats.

For more than 13,000 miles, I've been so blinded by all of these great features, I failed to notice one simple thing it was missing:

Automatic climate control.

Not that the boatload of other standard and optional equipment on the GLS isn't awesome, but seems auto climate control would be a basic luxury that would come before the fancy high-res nav system.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 13,316 miles

Suspension Walkaround

February 03, 2011

Truth be told, I've been sitting on the suspension photos of our 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS for some time. You know, things get busy around the office, a Leaf shows up, there's a hot story or three, and if you're not careful six months go flying by.

No more. I'm blowing the cobwebs off these ancient stills and trotting them out for all to see.

Why am I telling you this? I dunno. I guess I wanted to let you know why the Sonata's suspension bits and pieces look so sparkly and clean in the following pictures.

To the surprise of no one, the front end of the Sonata is propped up by MacPherson struts.

As with nearly all front-drive cars with transverse engines, the Sonata's steering (green) acts behind the front axle centerline.

A direct-acting stabilizer bar is used, so named because the drop link (yellow) attaches directly to the strut housing.

The Sonata's hollow lower control arm is made from a pair of welded steel stampings and its longer leg stretches forward. Three easily accessed bolts make ball joint replacement a simple task.

Here's another shot of the forward leg of that lower control arm. You can see how it's shaped to provide tire clearance at full steering lock.

We've stuck our head under the dashboard for this shot and we're looking straight up. The white arrow is pointing out the face of the brake pedal, and the green arrow is pointing off-screen toward the steering wheel.

Between them is the electronic power steering unit (yellow), a so-called column mounted unit because it's located under the dash in the steering column. Column-mounted EPS works in lighter cars, but not in a heavier vehicle like the Ford F-150, which uses rack-mounted EPS.

Why? The power steering unit of course adds muscle to your steering input. If you add that power-assist torque within the column, upstream of the steering rack & pinion gears, those gears have to be strong enough to handle the extra load.

That's OK in lighter applications, but something like a 4x4 truck needs much more steering assist, and a suitably-powerful column-mounted EPS unit might apply too much load to the pinion gear. Therefore, in heavier applications you won't see the EPS unit here; instead it will reside on the rack itself, downstream of the pinion gear.

As expected, the Sonata's front brakes consist of single-piston sliding calipers and ventilated rotors. But the calipers themselves are a little unique because the sliding half is made from two pieces that are bolted together. To the right of the split line, the hydraulic side that houses the piston is made of aluminum. To the left, the fingers that wrap around and clasp the opposite pad are made of cast iron.

The rear half of our Sonata sits on a multilink setup that's a bit more interesting.

A single trailing arm (black) locates the wheel in the fore-aft direction. Farther aft, the upper link (yellow) and lower link (white) define the camber angle as the wheel moves up and down. Finally, the stubbier toe-link (green) holds the wheel and tire at the desired toe setting throughout its travel.

Here's another look from the front, with the trailing arm's forward mounting bushing in the foreground.

We have a better view of the lower link (white) which is made of aluminum, carries the spring and has an eccentric inner mount for camber adjustment. Above it are the upper link (yellow) and the toe link (green), also with an eccentric adjustment for toe-in on its inside end.

Even though it's dark in color, the rear upright (yellow) is in fact made of aluminum. The shock absorber bolts directly to it, so its motion ratio is a straight 1-to-1. Meanwhile, the stabilizer bar sits far inboard at something like a 0.45-to-1 motion ratio and the spring, slightly further outboard, appears to be sitting at 0.65-to-1.

In other words, the apparent spring rate at the wheel, the wheel rate, will be about 65% softer than the spring rate itself. If the spring's stiffness was 200 lb/in (I have no idea - this is just an example), then the wheel rate, the one that really matters, would be 130 lb/in. Motion ratios closer to 1-to-1 allow softer (and lighter) springs to get the same job done, but packaging constraints don't often make that practical.

The stabilizer bar drop link has this big bar code sticker on it, making it a bit hard to follow the link from the bar end to the place where it bolts into the aluminum lower link.

The lower link connects to the upright via a pillow ball for higher lateral stiffness than one could get with a rubber bushing. It looks cockeyed because the suspension is at full droop. Things square up better when the suspension settles to ride height.

The toe link passes through a gap in the trailing arm to connect directly to the upright. Of course the toe link is still shorter than the other links so it can induce a stabilizing dose of roll understeer as the outside tire loads up in corners.

Just like the front, the rear sliding caliper uses a two-piece design, with aluminum on the inside and cast iron outside.

Our Sonata GLS rides on aluminum alloy wheels, 6.5 inches wide, 16 inches in diameter and with a 43 mm offset, as you can plainly see here. Wrapped in P205/65R16 Kumho Solus KH25 all-season rubber, the mounted assemblies weigh 44.5 pounds apiece.

The sportier Sonata 2.0T looks much the same underneath, but nearly-invisible things like spring rates and internal damper settings in the struts and shocks will differ according to its slightly different mission. Similarly, the EPS calibration under the dash is also set to generate a bit less assist so the steering doesn't feel quite so light as this. Much more visible are the tires, which can range up to 245/45R18.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing

Thinking About It

February 03, 2011

The 2011 Hyundai Sonata has only three real faults: 1) Light and languid steering. 2) An abrupt throttle delivery just beyond tip-in, and 3) The automatic transmission's lack of throttle blippage in manual mode to smooth downshifts.

Despite those glitches, the Sonata stands as a competent, flashily-styled, value-riddled midsize sedan with a lengthy warranty, the last letting you drift off to sleep easily each night.

Now if Hyundai could improve upon these areas, the Sonata just might provide some driving enjoyment, as opposed to being merely an appliance for getting from Here to There, and back again.

It's something to think about.

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 13,479 miles

DTE 435 Miles

February 07, 2011

Why is this a big deal? Because nobody likes to go to the gas station.

It has been seven days since the Sonata has last been to the gas station. And when we filled up, the Distance to Empty tripmeter told us that it might be as many as 435 miles before we'd visit one again.

We couldn't be happier. After all, it's not like the 1950s, when gas stations would be giving away S&H Green Stamps so you could trade them in for some home furnishings, maybe a nice lamp or something.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, @ 13,669 miles

Gas Station Focus Group

February 08, 2011

"Well, they're mostly like Honda people."

There I am at the Shell station in town, and my friend Mitch is playing the usual game of gas station focus group with me. That's where you make generalizations about what's happening in the world of cars from the people you meet and the things you see at the gas station.

Only Mitch is way smarter than most who play the game, partly because he owns and runs Plaza Automotive — which is a very smart, very good automotive repair business that caters to a very large cross-section of people in my town — and partly because Mitch is a very smart and very thoughtful guy about the car business in general.

We're talking about Hyundai owners, because Mitch has noticed (just like all of us) that there are a lot more of them than there used to be.

"When the Sante Fe first became popular," he says, "Hyundai people reminded me of Toyota owners. They just wanted a car that wouldn't break and that was about the end of it. Dependability and reliability, and they wouldn't have to think about it ever again. The 100,000-mile warranty.

"But now they're more like Honda owners. Smart people who want to be smart consumers. They're more in tune with the total on the gas pump after they fill up. They're maybe not drivers like you and me, but they're engaged with everything an automobile can do for them. They want good service, and they know when they're getting it.

"If you want to know what's happening with Hyundai, it's the way the owners are getting smarter."

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor,

Avoiding the Straight and Narrow

February 09, 2011

Our Sonata has never been much for steering feel. It's tuned for typical drivers, you know, the ones who would prefer that it was easy to park above all else.

Now, however, the steering had developed a slight pull that would upset any driver. And I mean pull, not subtle drift. Let go of the wheel in the fast lane and you'll be in the wall like Jimmie Johnson on a bad day. Maybe someone hit a curb, or the tires need to be rotated, we'll see soon enough.

Ed Hellwig, Editor,

Fluid Design

February 15, 2011

When I walked out to the Sonata this morning, I was struck by its many complex curves and the way the reflections danced on the surfaces. I started tracing the lines and realized why I'm so drawn to it over the competing midsize sedans. There's a cohesive flow to these curves.

Some curves, like the prominent character line that runs through the doors (shown below as a red line), connects to the trunk lid, continues over the roof, cascades down the hood, frames the bottom of the grille and circles back around the other side. Then there's the greenhouse (shown in green), which starts from the base of the A-pillar, arches back to form the windows, carries back forward as a chrome accent strip all the way to encircle the headlight.

It was only when I started to study these lines that I really began to appreciate the Sonata's design philosophy. When I look at the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, they look boring by comparison. It's as if I was looking at a generic interpretation of a midsize sedan. The Ford Fusion has a bit more going for it up front, but the view from the rear three-quarters is just as boring as the rest. Mazda has a similar fluid design direction, but I think the execution falls short.

Between the Sonata and the Kia Optima, though, I'd prefer the Kia. It's a tidier design with a hint of aggression. On design alone, what would be your pick?

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor.

Thanks For Not Listening

February 15, 2011

The focus group; the bane of good taste and style everywhere.

Car companies use/abuse them with every little step. Rather than entrusting their designers, professionals who were hired because of their background, education and proven ability to put the correct style into play no matter what the situation, car companies second guess their own employees by bringing in, and averaging the opinions of the unwashed masses.

Do a lot of cars look the same to you? What about headlights - when they're off, can you tell them apart from 50 yards? What about tail lights? There's a reason for that. Car companies are listening to the wrong people.

The Hyundai Sonata does not look like an Accord, or a Camry or a Malibu. You will never lose it in a parking lot. And when so many other manufacturers are styling out style to make for happier focus groups, Hyundai went grabbed a second helping of it and piled it on the Sonata.

You might hate it. You might like it, but I bet you're not indifferent to it. And that was the point. Strong, considered style provokes an opinion. The Sonata looks like nothing else in its class - and not much else on the road for that matter. And for that, I say thank you to Hyundai. Thank you for not listening to focus groups.

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 13,950 miles.

Addressing an iPod Connection Complaint

February 16, 2011

This post is really for my friend Matt. He was complaining how Hyundai doesn't allow for people to hook up their iPhones/iPods to their cars. I was showing him our 2011 Hyundai Sonata long-termer and he listed examples how a Tuscon he rented in Arizona last year didn't allow him to connect his iPod Touch and how his brother's Elantra didn't either. "It doesn't even charge your phone," he complained.

To verify this, he plugged the charging cable that came with his iPhone into the USB port of the Sonata. Sure enough, it didn't even register. No charging and no music. It wasn't until the next day when I was digging around the car that I found the appropriate charging cable that came with the car.

Yup, after plugging in my iPhone, it was charging up and playing music. But Matt does bring up a good point. Why not allow iPod users to use the charging cable that came with their device? Everyone has that cord. I carry that cord with me everywhere just in case I have to charge up my phone while I'm out and about.

But I guess it's not too big of a deal since the connector is standard equipment and if you lose it, it'll cost you about $22 to replace.

Anyway, Matt, there you go.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

Perceived Quality

February 17, 2011

Perhaps you tuned in last week for the perceived quality blog on our long-term Nissan Juke, which has a bad case of wibble wobble in its HVAC and audio-control knobs.

This week, it's the Sonata's turn.

The Sonata's shift-release button and the shifter itself provide a solid side-to-side movement and resonate a quality feel. Both controls hit their stops with a deliberate and well-damped thud rather than a hollow plastic clank (Juke, anyone?).

These are the little things you'll notice every time you drive a car. And they matter.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

Great Ride

February 18, 2011

I have speed bumps in my neighborhood. They're the low and wide variety. When I drive my personal car over them, it really upsets my suspension. No, I'm not gassing or driving grandma style. My Mazda 3 just can't handle them.

However, last night in our long term Sonata, driving the same way I always do, a completely different story. Like they weren't even there. No, our Sonata doesn't have a floaty suspension, just a very well sorted out one.

Beyond the bumps, our Sonata remains a very well composed car. So far, I'm very impressed with this Hyundai.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

Sturdy Center Console Bin

February 23, 2011

Like a stout Amish lass, our Sonata's two-tiered center console bin is no slouch when it comes to milk-fed sturdiness. The bins of some cars in this price range have a flimsy, slapped-together feel — like they're afterthoughts, almost — but that's not the case with this one.

All parts involved feel solid and hefty and the floor of the bin is carpeted — and it's the kind of lining that stays put, not the sort that slides around like a slippery bathroom rug. I remember driving a Volkswagen Rabbit a couple years back and being impressed with its bin for the same reasons.

A well-constructed bin is a little thing, no doubt, but it communicates — for me, anyway — refinement and quality. Touches like this and the car's durable, stain-resistant seats leave me thinking that our Sonata's in it for the long haul.

The center console bin can be a heavily used part of a car's interior. How's yours holding up?

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ ~14,100 miles

Sedatives and Stimulants

February 25, 2011

I got back into the Sonata after spending some time in the 2011 Camry. The thing that struck me most is that both cars don't seem to be vying for the same shopper; they seem to have completely different ideas of what their buyers want.

Nowhere is this reflected more clearly than in each model's center stack.

The Sonata's center stack (shown above) is a fitting match for its more connected handling and ride quality. It's lively and engaging — check out that bold-ish design and all those bright colors clamoring for your attention on the display screen.

The Camry (above and below) takes a more sedate approach. Monochrome grays and a clean layout. It's a design scheme that asks very little of you and doesn't impose — just like the car's ride and handling.

At night, the Camry lights up in the gentlest shade of blue. Dull? Well, yeah, but I appreciated the soothing nature of it all while cursing at gridlocked traffic on my way home from work.

If I had to choose one over the other, I'd go with the Sonata, hands down. But I can understand why the Camry is popular with so many buyers.

"Soothing" certainly has its place.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ ~14,110 miles

No Need for the Turbo?

February 28, 2011

In general, I operate on the idea that too much power is just enough. Our Sonata might have me rethinking this, though.

Over the weekend, I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of L.A. traffic and had plenty of opportunities to open up the Sonata on the highways. Climbing the onramps proved easy, blasting past slower drivers without having to floor it. Highway passing was just as easy, too.

And that got me thinking, "is it really worth it to get the turbo version?"

On paper, the $1,500 premium you pay for the turbo will get you to 60 mp in 6.7 seconds while the normally aspirated engine takes 8.2 seconds. That's a significant difference, I know, but I felt that the turbo's lack of low-end power didn't present a big enough enticement. If anything, I thought the turbo Sonata just pulled harder higher in the revs.

Personally, I'd pass on the turbo. The regular Sonata is just fine for the vast majority of drivers.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor

Bite and Bind

March 03, 2011

Another moisture front passed through Los Angeles last night, dropping not enough to decrease our current rainfall deficit (-3 inches), but just enough to inspire standard Angeleno highway idiocy. If it's not a terrified 45-MPH moving obstacle, it's ripper Rodney in his beatsauce '98 Civic, exploiting conditions and advancing a few car lengths by carving up the buffer zones. This probably happens in many metro areas. I think it's more pronounced in La Ciudad, given how rarely we have to cope with wet roads.

Donna noted the Sonata's braking ability several months ago and I'll +1 her sentiments, especially for its performance in the rain. The Sonata's snappy binders came through big for me a couple of times, and gave me confidence and a wide margin the rest of the way.

In our testing, we've stopped the Sonata from 60 mph in 127 feet. On paper, that's not all that impressive. It's better than our GTI, same as our new TSX wagon, and much better (nearly 10 feet better) than an Accord SE we tested.

But its falls behind our Kizashi, and even the heavier Kia Optima turbo and Sonata 2.0 turbo models that we've tested. Regardless, the pedal feels firm and the single-piston calipers grab the 11-inch steel discs with authority. Don't know if the Kumho Solus 205/65's deserve much credit - nothing special about these all-seasons - but good to think (imagine?) that DNA from the company's very-capable road racing tires gets infused into the passenger variety.

The Sonata is obviously doing a few things right. I spotted three current models on the drive in this morning. It looks good in black. Hyundai has sold nearly 30,000 of them so far this year, constituting just shy of 40 percent of the product portfolio. That's still shy of 38,000 Accords that Honda has moved so far in 2011, or the 45,000 Camrys that Toyota has sold.

Still, people are clearly — as Hyundai's marketers have asked — thinking about it.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

Material World

March 07, 2011

Ahh, look how nicely textured that seat fabric is.

Recent time spent in a certain top-selling midsize sedan (for an upcoming Edmunds road test) has left me with new appreciation for the thought and care that went into choosing the materials seen in our Sonata's cabin.

Things I like:

1: Seat fabric that looks and feels like it aspires to be more than that circa-1992 velour stuff seen in, ahem, certain competitors.

2: Nicely grained plastics.

3: That panel (the one surrounding the interior door handle — dig that texture) on the door.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 14,497 miles

Commuter's Companion

March 11, 2011

In the real (in L.A. anyway) world of a 45-minute, six-mile drive home from work, the Sonata stands as a smart pick for me when the clipboard comes around. Even this base (GLS) version of the Sonata comes standard with three upscale features that go a long way towards making the commute more bearable: iPod hook-up, satellite radio and Bluetooth (with automatic phonebook downloading).

Being able to listen to music of my choosing free of obnoxious commercials (and yammering DJs) and being able to make/take some calls while blazing along at an average speed of 8 mph are great for one's sanity.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 14,602 miles

Tire Cost

March 14, 2011

No, our 2011 Hyundai Sonata doesn't need a new tire, but after helping a friend shop for four new ones this weekend, I wondered what it would cost to replace our Sonata's all-season Kumhos through TireRack.

Kumho Solus KH25: Grand Touring All-Season: Blackwall: 205/65R16 94H = $98.00 each

Not including shipping/handling, mounting/balancing.

I'm driving the Sonata again tonight. Hope I didn't just jinx myself.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 14,679 miles

Like the Drivetrain. A Lot.

March 17, 2011

Last night, our long-term 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS and I came to an understanding during a 50-mile freeway drive: I still don't care for the way it rides or steers, but I completely respect it in the powertrain department.

I really dig this direct-injected, 2.4-liter inline-4, because unlike the engines in the previous two generations of the Sonata — and I'm including the optional V6s — this four-cylinder has enough torque for any normal driving situations. Peak torque is rated at 184 pound-feet at 4,250 rpm, but that doesn't tell you much about the nice flat torque curve.

Getting on the freeway, passing a truck, shooting into a gap to get your exit, the grunt is there and it's delivered so easily and smoothly in the Sonata, you barely notice it.

The six-speed automatic does a nice job, too, shifting smoothly under heavy throttle and generally not making a big, dramatic show of how many forward gears it has. I'd make an exception to my three-pedal policy here and choose the automatic over the six-speed manual. The manual gearbox is just kind of there in the 2011 Sonata, offered to get the price down in dealer advertising and to appease that mythical fringe buyer (who also doesn't want A/C, a backseat or glass windows).

The automatic is the transmission you're supposed to get, and in our long-term Sonata, it suits me just fine.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 14,795 miles

15,000 Miles Strong

March 23, 2011

Our 2011 Hyundai Sonata crossed the 15,000-mile threshold a couple of days ago on my way to the airport. It was only sitting idle at Wally Park a couple of days — it wasn't out of the rotation for very long.

I'm home now. Check the IL headlines to see where I was and what I was doing.

Anywho, this means the Sonata is due for service. Nothing drastic, just and oil change and tire rotation. Mike will pass along the cost breakdown when it's all over.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 15,104 miles

15,000-mile Service

March 25, 2011

We dropped our 2011 Hyundai Sonata off at Cormier Hyundai for its 15,000-mile service. Our Sonata doesn't have a maintenance warning light, so we had to pay attention to the odometer the old fashioned way. This visit calls for an oil and filter change, the usual inspections and a tire rotation. We hope the tire rotation remedies our pull-to-the-left problem. We'll let you know how it goes.

Oh yeah, see the red arrow? That's a ZR-1. And it's not alone.

That is cool.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 15,173 miles

Service Complete

March 28, 2011

A few hours after we dropped our long-term Sonata at Cormier Hyundai, the service writer called to say it was ready.

The service included an oil change and tire rotation, which we know was completed because we marked the two front tires before we left the car.

Good news: The simple tire rotation seems to have corrected the left-pull problem.

Total bill: $88.32.

And a big shout-out to world's most polite service staff who each apologized individually when we had to wait about 3.5 minutes to pay our tab because their credit card machine was down.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 15,352

Dinner Carpool

March 31, 2011

Last night, four of us piled into the Hyundai Sonata to meet an Audi executive for dinner. It was a five-mile drive which took 45 minutes in rush hour traffic. Between alternating groans and heavy sighs, editors Erin Riches and Michael Jordan made the following comments:

Riches, right rear seat: I've always thought the Sonata had a busy ride (where I would feel every little bump in the road), and with the car loaded up with 4 adults, it was pretty uncomfortable in the backseat. Also, the vents invariably blow right in my face, whether I'm driving the car or sitting in the backseat. Still, at least I had plenty of legroom.

Jordan, right front seat: This is such an American car. Big enough for all of us, and it's quiet at idle or while cruising (though not between, which means it still needs development). But it's also American because it seems like a rising tide of crumminess is threatening to engulf it. Now it seems more and more like the last Sonata long-term car we had, a great value but not a great car.

Meanwhile, on the left side of the car, I sat behind Scott Oldham, threatening the whole ride to flick him in the back of the head.

What can I say, we each do our job in different ways.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 15,489 miles

Doing the Lumbarda

April 01, 2011

I recently spent several hours in the last row, middle seat of a United Boeing 757, universally acknowledged as one of the worst spots you can get on the plane. No surprise that my back's been slightly tweaked since then.

When I got into our Hyundai Sonata yesterday, I tried an experiment. I punched up the lumbar support for part of the drive home, backed off it for a while and then expanded it again. And repeated that every few miles.

While amped-up lower-back support is certainly no replacement for a hot stone massage and sauna/steam at my favorite spa, I feel better today because of it.

How do you like your lumbar?

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @ 15,544 miles

Flawed Gem

April 04, 2011

There I was, reveling in the Sonata's pristine beauty in the morning sun. (As Donna DeRosa has noted, the Venetian red is really eye catching.) Alas, I had my bubble burst at the car wash minutes later when the check-in guy told me that there is a tiny ping/ding/pebble-created divot in the windshield. And he's right. (For the record, it didn't happen on my watch. I didn't hear it happen, anyway.) You can see it after the jump.

Such things are inevitable, I guess, given the amount of stuff that flicks up from the road and flies off trucks. The wee chip is now on our fleet's watch list. We'll see how long it takes to go 100 percent failure.

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @15,605 miles

Great Expectations

April 05, 2011

For the $23,465 sticker that accompanies our long-term Sonata, you sure do get a lot of stuff. It seems like it's only been five or so years ago when many of the features in the Sonata were either in a higher price range, and option or not available at all. And that got me thinking, "What do you expect for your money nowadays?"

So I put together a quick list of popular features and how I think they fall into today's price structure. Red signifies not available, Yellow denotes an option and green means standard. Note: this is just my take on this, feel free to comment on what you think should or should not be changed.

If you drop the Sonata into the $20 - $30k range, a whole lot of those yellow dots go green. That, to me, says it's a good deal.

In another five years, how many of these dots will change? What new features do you think will show up that aren't on this chart?

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor

Still No Honda When It Comes To Resale Value

April 07, 2011

Today Edmunds announced the winners of its 2011 Best Retained Value Awards. These awards recognize the brands and models that have the highest projected residual value after five years, expressed as a percentage of their True Market Value (TMV).

As you'd probably expect, Honda was all over this like spandex on a Tour de France cyclist. The manufacturer is the big winner for non-luxury makes, with an average projected retained value of 50.4 percent. Our awards are based on the average five-year retained value of the carmaker's 2011 models that hit the market prior to the end of 2010.

The cars with the best projected resale value in the "Sedan Under $20,000" segment are the Honda Civic, the Mazda 3 and the Honda Fit, while the top picks in the "Sedan Under $30,000" are the Honda Accord, the Toyota Camry and the Subaru Impreza. Hyundai models like the Sonata may be winning praise from journalists and consumers but the manufacturer still isn't setting the world on fire when it comes to resale value — not yet, anyway.

In the minivan segment, the Honda Odyssey takes the top prize, with the Sienna earning an honorable mention.

Interestingly, our data team also points out that certain options can have a positive impact on resale value. Amenities such as a power sunroof, leather seats, and DVD entertainment systems can improve long-term value; safety features, however, typically have no impact.

Is projected resale value a deciding factor for you in new-car purchases?

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

Beats Walking

April 11, 2011

I just spent a few days in New York City, where no one but the taxi commission owns a car. I used to live there ages ago and thought nothing of walking and taking public transportation everywhere. But now that I'm a Californian I've gotten soft.

I remember when I first moved here, I used to walk about six blocks to a bus stop and then take the bus to the office. I was saving up for a car purchase but thought nothing of the commute. Everyone who I worked with thought I was nuts. Walk? Are you crazy? We don't even have sidewalks everywhere in L.A. This is true. On part of my walk I had to cross the street to be able to walk on a sidewalk and then back to the other side to continue on.

So, here I was in NYC, no car and plenty of places to go. Instead of buying a Metro card, I walked everywhere. My ankles still ache. But it was nice to get a feel for the city again. When I got back, the Hyundai Sonata was waiting for me at home. It felt strange to be behind the wheel of a car. But the Sonata is such an easy car to drive. It's comfortable, has an automatic transmission, and not too many gadgets that I have to RTM. No heated seats but it does get the Broadway channel.

The Sonata was a nice friend to come home to.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Smooth Freeway Ride

April 15, 2011

After you viewed the Mitsu Outlander GT bounce its way down the freeway yesterday, you asked to see something else from our long-term fleet on the same stretch. Herewith we present our Hyundai Sonata GLS after the jump...

Oh, and apparently, this guy feels so strongly about his grill that he actually pays an annual fee to tell us all about it. Hm.


Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 15,883 miles

Late Apex Banked Sweeper

April 18, 2011

I'd like to know who is responsible for inputing racetrack data in the Hyundai Sonata's navigation system and buy him/her an adult beverage of his/her choice.

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton

Range o' Plenty

April 18, 2011

I filled up the Hyundai Sonata GLS this morning, thinking that I was being brave by waiting until the trip meter read, "416.8 mi." So I flipped through the fuel log to see how many other fills were done with 400 or more miles on the clock. It turns out, at least a third of us have driven this far on a tank and one of us went 522.1 miles on a tank. That's some serious range, like L.A. to San Francisco without stopping sort of range. Wow. I'm not so brave, nor so efficient after all.

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 15,937 miles

The Value Of The Dollar

April 19, 2011

You could get a brain aneurysm trying to pick a car in the midsize-sedan segment. There's just so much talent there. The Fusion really engages on the road but I like the Kizashi's refinement. And you can't ignore the lively Mazda 6.

I was thinking about this as I was driving the Sonata home last night. The sedan delivers in most of the areas that people in this segment care about — decent ride quality, nice-looking (and durable) interior, great fuel economy. But it's swimming with some pretty ruthless piranha.

Then I remembered: Oh yeah, there's its price. And all the standard features that come with that price. The Sonata (along with the Optima, another strong candidate) is thousands cheaper than a comparably equipped Kizashi, the car that's my fave in this segment. Would that sway me? It might.

How much of a factor is price when you're making car-buying decisions? And how much of a price advantage would it take to steer you toward a particular car? Couple hundred bucks? Couple thousand?

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 15,956 miles

Protecting the Beige

April 25, 2011

For the long weekend I had our 2011 Hyundai Sonata, a fact that made me nervous because of dog + beige seats = disaster. I had to drive my dog down to Long Beach for a play date and was really concerned about how to transport her without harming the near-pristine state of the Sonata's beige seats. After all, editor Warren had blogged about how good a job they were doing resisting our editors' grime. I didn't want to be the one person to dirty them up.

So not only did I put down a blanket for the dog in the backseat, but I also made her wear a doggy diaper to be extra safe. Yes, there is such a thing; it has a cut-out for the dog's tail. And no, I didn't want to post a picture of her wearing said diapers because no one should be shamed in public like that. In any case, we made the trip without incident.

It wasn't until this morning after I took the car to the car wash and inspected the backseat that I noticed the telltale signs of dog: gray fur! I guess that stuff doesn't come off with just a vacuum so now I'll have to see if I can borrow some of Takahashi's extra-strong tape that he uses to get cat fur off his motorcycle suit on those seats. Unless, you guys have other fixes?

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 16,069 miles

Hyundai Tops Kia Here

April 26, 2011

I noticed Donna's post about the poor design of the Optima's shifter and iPod cable. So I took a look at our Sonata to see if Hyundai did it any better. Sure enough, the Sonata's setup is ever so slightly improved, at least in my eyes.

For one, the shifter itself is slimmer, taller and has the button on the backside so it doesn't look so clunky. Also note that because our Sonata lacks the seat heater/cooler switches on the console, there's an extra slot to hold an iPhone after plugging it in. I don't remember the exact action of the lever in the Optima, but the shifter in the Sonata is light yet precise. In other words, a solid setup. Funny how two cars that are so alike can feel so different.

Ed Hellwig, Editor,

Yes! (Essentials)

April 27, 2011

A few people here have noted that the beige seats in our long-term 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS are quite stain-resistant.

Now I know why. The seats in our Sonata feature Yes Essentials fabric, which they claim are spill-, odor-, bacterial-resistant, etc.

But they didn't mention anything about dog hair, so I guess if that happens again we'll have to bust out the super tape.

Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ 16,200 miles

Making Moms Happy

April 29, 2011

"Why don't you call us more often?" my mom would always ask me. Argh. The fact is I'm not much of a phone person anyway so she really shouldn't take it personally. I rather use text messaging and emails for casual communication. That way I don't interrupt the recipient of said messages in the middle of their day and they can get back to me whenever. Plus, I'm not big on chitchat. In any case, I realized that thanks to cars like our 2011 Hyundai Sonata with its Bluetooth hands-free ability, I do call my mom a lot more now.

I know this isn't something that's special only to the Sonata but I came to the above realization when I was driving the Hyundai the other day. It was an especially heinous rush hour and with nothing to do but stop and go, I decided to call her up again, even though I had just spoken with her the day before when I was in the Kia Optima. Needless to say, she was delighted.

Now regarding pairing my iPhone with the Sonata, editor Carroll Lachnit blogged how she had no trouble at all connecting her phone to the car, while I actually did. No biggie, but I just didn't find it as instantaneous as she did. First the car has to be in Park, not just in Drive with your foot on the brake. Yes, that means, you can't even save time by having your passenger do it for you.

In any case, my iPhone had trouble locating the Sonata signal. It wasn't til I gave up after four tries that I just decided to make the phone call using my phone (still parked). But when I initiated the call, that's when the Bluetooth picked it up and suddenly I was now connected and talking through the car. That may have just been a fluke, however, since Carroll had not problems like that.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

New Sheriff In Town?

May 03, 2011

So the Sonata had another good month in April, with sales up 17 percent year-over-year. Still, that wasn't enough to make it Hyundai's biggest hit last month — that honor went to the Elantra, which sold 22,100 units to the Sonata's 21,738. According to Hyundai, the Elantra "is outselling all other 40-mpg compacts by a margin of six to one."

April's sales performance represents a first for Hyundai: It stands as the first time the manufacturer has sold more than 20,000 units in the same month of two different models. Nice going.

Do you think the Sonata is destined for life as, uh, number two or is the Elantra's current dominance merely the result of short-lived panic regarding high fuel prices?

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 16,251 miles

Not quite 35 mpg

May 09, 2011

I took our 2011 Hyundai Sonata on a quick weekend get away, and I was both impressed and disappointing at the same time. Like Chris Walton, I was impressed with the range of the Sonata. I was able to drive 464.8 miles on a single tank, not a record for our Sonata but not bad either.

The disappointment came when I calculated the mpg for that tank of gas. It came out to be 29.6 mpg, which is a little short of the estimated 35 mpg highway the Sonata claims to get. I know that driving style and conditions can play a big part in fuel consumption but this trip happened to be about as perfect driving condition as one is going to get in the real world. The trip was virtually 100% highway driving, little to no wind, mostly straight, and the cruise control on at 70 mph the entire time.

Don't get me wrong 29.6 mpg is still quite good, it's just a little disappointing when the estimate is 35 mpg.

Seth Compton, Field Producer @ 16,716 miles

Low Maintenance and Repair Costs

May 13, 2011

Our data team recently put together a list of the cars with the lowest maintenance and repair costs (more on that to come on Straightline), and the Sonata finished in second place. Our wonks estimate maintenance and repair expenses for the Sonata to total $2,495 over the car's first five years of ownership.

Under maintenance costs, the data team considered both scheduled and unscheduled maintenance. Under repair costs, they considered repairs not covered by the vehicles' manufacturer warranties, assuming 15,000 miles are driven each year.

Are you surprised at the Sonata's strong showing?

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

Road Trippin' to San Francisco

May 16, 2011

Last week we asked you which long-term car I should take on a road trip to San Fran and back. You overwhelmingly voted for the Infiniti M56, which is a great choice. But I've decided to take our Hyundai Sonata instead. Whoa, don't hate. I have two very good reasons for taking the Sonata.

One: Its 12 Month Test is over in about three weeks and I haven't taken it on a road trip yet.

Two: Its 12 Month Test is over in about three weeks and the Sonata is in danger of not making 20,000 miles. That's right, we've got some driving to do. This puppy needs some miles.

I hit the road north this morning. I'll return Wed. Hopefully I'll have something interesting to report when it's all over.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 17,079 miles

Road Trip Fuel Economy

May 19, 2011

On Monday I drove our long-term 2011 Hyundai Sonata from Los Angeles to San Francisco. On Wednesday I drove it back. It was an 820.6 mile road trip that includes a fair amount of grades, including the dreaded Grapevine (Google it.), during which the Sonata drank 25.8 gallons of regular.

That's an average of 31.8 mpg.

So, are you impressed, disappointed or just not interested?

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 17,854 miles

Visiting James Dean

May 20, 2011

I wish I had some revelation for you. Some insight you haven’t heard before. But I don’t.

I drove our long-term 2011 Hyundai Sonata 820.6 miles in two days and all I have for you is more praise. It was the perfect car for the trip; quiet, extremely comfortable and very fuel efficient. It had plenty of power when I needed it and it covered 517.6 miles on the first of its two tanks of regular. Unlike the Volt, which I also drove to San Fran and back last month, the Sonata didn't need a gas stop until Salinas on the way back.

And its navigation system is fantastic. One of the easiest to use I've ever used. Sure the screen is a little small, but it’s accurate and extremely simple to program. I never had to RTFM. And not once did I get frustrated with its interface.

I drove Interstate 5 on the northbound leg, so I changed routes on the way home, taking 101 South to 46 East to 5 South.

State Route 46 is the road James Dean was killed on back on September 30, 1955, at the intersection of Route 46 and 41 just east of Cholame. His “Little Bastard” Porsche 550 Spyder was hit by a black-and-white 1950 Ford Custom Tudor coupe, driven from the opposite direction by 23-year-old college student Donald Turnupseed.

Today a monument to Dean stands in Cholame and I couldn't resist stopping to take a few photos of our Sonata at the famous intersection and at the momorial. Next time maybe I'll drive our 911 up there. Seems more fitting.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

A Loss for Words

May 23, 2011

Our long-term Sonata is approaching its one-year anniversary with us. Inevitably, that means I'm running out of things to say about it. Overall, I like it and wouldn't hesitate recommending it to car shoppers. But I've said that all before. It seems like everything about this car has been flushed out in the last 10 months, so rather than meekly posting some inane comment on the exhaust bearings or checking the horn fluid levels, I'm going to turn it over to you, our readers. What do you want to know about the Sonata? I'll be checking in regularly to answer your comments and I encourage my colleagues to chime in whenever they see fit, too. The floor is yours.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor

Cat-Calls from Construction Workers

May 30, 2011

The other morning I was walking to where the Hyundai Sonata was parked on a side street. There was a small army of construction workers nearby, completing some residential road work.

As I approached the Sonata, I heard one of the guys whistle. Secretly, I was pleased.

Until he yelled, "Nice car!"

I'll miss the Sonata when it leaves our fleet. But maybe not the competition.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor

No Shade

May 31, 2011

One year in the hands of our thirty something editors doesn't give any car much shade from the hard light of reality. While it might not uncover failures that can only happen after seven to ten years, 20,000 miles in our hands is nothing to scoff at. This weekend, I reached the conclusion that the 2011 Hyundai Sonata is nothing to scoff at either.

It's a solid car, and a solid choice.

We dropped nearly 900 miles on its head over the past three days - on only two tanks of gas mind you - and I was surprised at this car's all around competency. The strength of the Sonata on this trip was the smoothness and isolation of the drivetrain. It made me forget, not only my elevated speed, but that the Sonata is powered by a four cylinder engine. This is the same engine got us from Mill Valley (north of San Francisco) back to the South Bay (south of Los Angeles) without stopping for fuel. It never lacked for power or composure.

Here's the fuel economy for the trip. Note that each tank had one leg of the highway trip plus a few miles driving around town. We made no attempt to hyper-mile nor did we shy away from mashing the accelerator to floor to merge, or pass, traffic.

Tank one - 422.8 miles on 14.777 gallons for 28.61 mpg

Tank two - 452.0 miles on 14.801 gallons for 30.54 mpg

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 19,021 miles

Skip the Tan

June 06, 2011

I'm not a fan of the two-tone camel colored interior in our Hyundai Sonata. I'm not a fan of tan interiors in general, but the camel color of our Sonata is too bright for my tastes. I prefer the black interior with the gray trim. However, if you want the car in Venetian Red, like our Sonata, the dark interior is not an option. If it were my money, I'd get the car in Phantom Black Metallic with the black interior.

Which interior do you prefer? There's a photo of the camel interior after the jump.

Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate @ 19,558 miles

So Close and Yet So Far

June 07, 2011

We aim to drive 20,000 miles in our long-term test cars within their year of residence. Some cars get plenty of road time and have no problem making this mark. They are chosen for road trips and vacations.

Our Hyundai Sonata will be about 400 miles short of our goal when it leaves us in a day or two.

It's always sad to see a car leave the fleet. I wonder why we couldn't quite make the 20,000-mile mark on this car. It was a nice car. It's comfortable. It has an automatic transmission. It gets good gas mileage. Sometimes, it just doesn't happen. Any ideas?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 19,600 miles

Last Commute (Video)

June 09, 2011

The Venetian Red 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS has left our offices, and on its last night in our fleet, I mounted a camera in the car, hit "record" and set out on Interstate 10. What follows after the jump is sure to be among the most riveting 9 minutes and 59 seconds of your life. At the 6:17 mark, I gently pass a Tacoma PreRunner.

Or not. Actually, if you get carsick easily, don't watch it. I mounted the Kodak ZX3 camera on the rear passenger-side window, bracing it against the B-pillar to minimize shake. And indeed shake is minimized, but instead of a head-on view out the windshield, you're kind of looking at the driver askance as if you were in the passenger seat... while enjoying a view of the LA skyline at dusk.

You'll get a taste of the engine noise during merging and passing from the first 60 seconds of the video. It's hard to get a feel for road noise from a lo-fi video, but my ears tell me it's moderate in the Sonata, and I think that's more or less appparent in the video — you can follow the play-by-play for Tuesday's Angels/Rays game on the radio.

I've wasted no love on our Sonata GLS over the last year, and this last drive didn't change my opinion of the big sedan's underdone suspension calibration. However, I enjoyed the low-cowl feel of the Sonata's dash (it reminds me of the cab-forward Intrepid), its comfortable driver seat, and its bright, clear displays. And though I don't like the sound of the direct-injected 2.4-liter Theta engine, I always like the mid-range torque. Yep, I'll probably keep recommending this car, just won't buy one.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 19,655 miles


Our First Drive of the Sonata began, "That a Hyundai can compete at levels of world-class accomplishment is news. It's now clear that Hyundai is leaving no stone unturned in its quest to dominate the segment in every category, both objective and subjective. Our first brief fling with the Sonata suggests that it has the measure of the segment." We had witnessed the Hyundai's development through the years. But what did the future hold?

Next Hyundai told us V6s are dead. And for 2011 it planned to convince us by bolting a four-cylinder engine to every variant of its most popular sedan. The base 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS had a normally aspirated 2.4-liter version. The Sonata Hybrid paired its 2.4-liter to an electric motor. The Sonata 2.0T utilized forced induction for its 2.0-liter inline-4. This was a strategic move Hyundai hoped would pay off across the board.

Why We Got It
The Hyundai Sonata was completely redesigned for 2011. Left behind was the predictable, uninspired family sedan styling adopted by all others in the segment. This new Sonata looked like nothing else in its class. Meanwhile, the lack of change from some competitors gave the appearance they were content simply with being good enough.

In addition to the new look, there was an upgrade under the hood for the 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS. Its previous-generation 175-horsepower inline 2.4-liter received some attention. The new 2.4-liter direct-injected four-cylinder upped its rating to 198 hp and 184 pound-feet of torque. Gone was the five-speed automatic available last year. In its place was a new six-speed automatic transmission that sends power to the front wheels.

We had mixed impressions regarding how the Sonata drove. We generally agreed that our early fears of life with an underpowered, fuel-sipping GLS were unjustified. The 2.4-liter was quite a decent little engine. Even our full test of the Sonata 2.0T wasn't enough to win us all away from the normally aspirated four-cylinder as a commuter. We also agreed that while the steering was utterly lifeless to an enthusiast, it was perfectly acceptable for a $23,000 family sedan. But we had some ride quality disagreements.

Senior Editor Erin Riches did not care for the ride. "Specifically, the dampers are derelict in their duty. Even when I'm just driving around town there is far too much suspension movement over garden-variety bumps, ruts and seams, and it doesn't get any better on the freeway. Ultimately, you get a soft ride with the Sonata, but there's too little control for my taste. Mazda 6, please."

Senior Automotive Editor Brent Romans disagreed. "Erin wrote that our Sonata's ride quality wasn't to her liking. Normally, we come to pretty similar conclusions on cars, but this time my opinion differs. I certainly don't think our GLS rides too softly. It seems about right, actually, given the car's family sedan mission. If anything, I could see people asking for the ride to be softer than it is. I've noticed the suspension lets too many short, quick impacts from rough pavement into the cabin."

Inside the cabin the Sonata had a lot going on. On one side of the coin were questionably supportive seats, hard plastics and the less-than-desirable tan-on-gray color combination of our tester. Our GLS was wrapped in beige cloth, which had proved disastrous in prior durability tests. Not this time. The YES Essentials fabric seemed to be the difference maker. No spills, stains or odors, regardless of how many slobbering dogs or children traipsed across the backseat. On the shinier side was the usable voice navigation system, which allowed full use of navigation controls even when the car was in motion. All automakers should take note.

Our 2011 Hyundai Sonata was not without its problems. At 5,700 miles it happened the first time. Shift to park. Turn off the car. Remove the key from the ignition. Remove the key from the ignition. The key was stuck. Thankfully fate pitied us. Our impromptu series of grunts, flailing arms and ultimately sighs, released the key the times it did stick. But we didn't press our luck, scheduling a dealer visit promptly. The entire shift lever assembly was replaced per an open TSB and the problem solved. At the same visit our dealer retorqued the steering column shaft bolt, thereby addressing an open recall for that issue as well. Regularly scheduled maintenance at 7,500 and 15,000 miles marked our only other dealer needs.

Total Body Repair Costs: None
Total Routine Maintenance Costs (over 12 months): $130.79
Additional Maintenance Costs: None
Warranty Repairs: TSB for shift lever assembly, recall for steering shaft bolt
Non-Warranty Repairs: None
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 2
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: 1
Days Out of Service: 1
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None

Performance and Fuel Economy
We first track tested the Sonata with 1,000 miles on the clock. Just prior to returning the car to Hyundai, we repeated the process. As always, the goal was to compare the two and record any performance changes over time.

Instrumented testing showed some variation. The quarter-mile remained 16.1 seconds at 88.3 mph even though the 0-60-mph time (with rollout) improved from 7.9 to 7.7 seconds. Slalom tests reflected an improvement from 64.5 mph to 66.0 mph, a result we attribute to improved grip from older, worn tires. The tires helped considerably less on the skid pad. Here the Sonata improved by 0.01g, generating 0.77g of lateral force.

One test showed clear degradation by year's end. We could only speculate as to why the brakes required 138 feet (an additional 10 feet) to reach a stop from 60 mph. Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton attempted to explain. "Good initial bite, medium-firm pedal, with a bit of a plateau in the middle and then back to normal decel. Perhaps worn tires are causing near lock-up in the middle where ABS releases pressure, then reapplies it?"

Fuel economy was where we expected the 2011 Hyundai Sonata to leave its impression. EPA estimates rated the GLS at 22 city and 35 highway mpg, averaging to 26 mpg. Our average after 19,000 miles was just that, 26 mpg. We never quite met the highway figure, as our best single tank was 34 mpg. But fuel range was the X-factor here. We joined the 500-mile club several times over, 522 miles being the farthest on one fill-up of 87 octane.

Best Fuel Economy: 34.4 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 15.8 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 25.6 mpg

Retained Value
One year ago we added a 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS to our long-term fleet. At the time it had an MSRP of $23,465. We added more than 19,000 miles to the odometer and plugged it into Edmunds' TMV® Calculator. Based on a private-party sale the GLS depreciated just 21 percent during our ownership. This is noteworthy.

Past long-term tests of Hyundai products told a different story. No matter the quality or performance improvements, resale value was predictably poor. Look no further than our own fleet for evidence. Over one year our long-term 2006 Hyundai Sonata depreciated 30 percent, while the comparably equipped 2007 Toyota Camry (26 percent), 2007 Nissan Altima SE (26 percent) and 2008 Honda Accord (20 percent) lost far less value. Depreciation of 20 percent on a year-old vehicle is reserved for the elite. It is a distinction Honda held for years. Now Hyundai is closer to achieving the milestone than ever before.

True Market Value at service end: $18,638
Depreciation: $4,827 or 21% of original MSRP
Final Odometer Reading: 19,655

Summing Up
Hyundai has spent years working on brand recognition. First it was the company that sold affordable cars with a great warranty. Improved build quality came next, followed by public recognition as a true competitor against established nameplates. The introductory chapter was over. With its eye on the family sedan segment, Hyundai honed the Sonata.

When we look back on this test a few items stand out. First, this may be the most durable beige interior we've seen after a 12-month barrage of test filth. It looked as good with a year behind it as the day it arrived in our garage. Second, a 500-mile-plus range is a quite a feat, even in these days of fuel economy. But there is another, more significant reason this car made such an impression on us. Resale value.

Hyundai's resale value strategy seems to be paying off. Our 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS retained far more value than any other long-term Hyundai product we've tested. Not only does it compare favorably to prior Hyundai products, but to the competition as well. This Sonata depreciated as little as the last long-term Honda Accord we tested. And Honda has ruled the used car lot for years. If you haven't paid attention to Hyundai yet, the Sonata might change your mind.

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.