2011 Hyundai Sonata Long Term Road Test - Introduction

Long-Term Test: 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS


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.

Leave a Comment

Past Long-Term Road Tests