Earlier on this year my wife and I went on a trip to Florida. On our arrival to the airport we proceeded to the car rental location which happened to be Budget. We had originally booked up a compact car and were told that it would be the Chevy Aveo! I am a big guy and decided that would not work so we asked to upgrade and they told us they had a 2009 Hyundai Sonata SE available! This was a car that my wife and I had discussed buying to replace our aging Impala so we decided to rent the Sonata to see how it fared, this review is based on the 12 days that we had the car!
In my opinion Hyundai is a car manufacturer that has come on in leaps and bounds in the last few years. When they first entered the American market their cars were inexpensive and not very reliable, and then came along the new Sonata and that history is now well behind them. The car we had was navy blue, a really nice deep blue that had a great shine to it.
The design of the car looks similar to that of the Honda Accord, the only main differences in the design between the two are the rear lights and the headlights, and otherwise aesthetically it is the same car. The SE model which we had comes standard with 17″ alloy wheels that gave the car a sporty look and feel, wing mirrors and bumpers were also painted the same color as the rest of the car giving a great look overall. Around the back of the car you will see a dual exhaust (on the 3.3 V6 Models) which again adds to the sporty feel of this car! The design of the car is very nice indeed.
The interior of the car is actually a little disappointing. It reflects back a little on the cheap feeling some people still associate with Hyundai. The materials look and feel a little cheap, lots of plastic, don’t get me wrong everything functions perfectly well i guess i was just hoping for a little more refinement. The seats were incredibly comfortable. We had cloth seats; i think leather seats are reserved for the limited editions.
The driver’s seat was fully electric and could be moved in any way so you can get that just right feeling for yourself! The steering wheel was leather wrapped that gave a little feel of refinement, the steering wheel actually felt great when in your hands. Located on the steering wheel you will also find the cruise control buttons as well as stereo controls. You can control the stereo without ever taking your hands off the steering wheel!
The dashboard is very well laid out and all of the dials were easy to read. There is also a trip computer that is located just beneath the speedometer. It can display local time; distance traveled, time traveled, average speed and average MPG! The various statistics can be changed with a little button that is located by the side of the steering wheel! The driver’s side door has all the usual controls one would expect to find. Electric window controls for all of the windows in the car, a window lock button, electric mirror control, door locks etc.
The layout of the main dash console is what disappointed me. The whole thing looks very 1983. The stereo is large with a garish green glow and a large LCD display. The plus side of the stereo is that is can play back MP3 Cd’s, so you can put a couple hundred songs on a cd and listen to your heart’s content. The stereo actually sounds great! The speakers deliver clean rich sound and they provide adequate bass response! It will not blow your socks off but it will certainly make listening to your favorite music pleasurable!
Then A/C and heater controls fall right below the stereo. The controls again are very large and look a little odd, but they feel sturdy and do not feel like they will break, again everything functions very well, i just wish that they had taken the time to make the controls a little more pleasing on the eye.
Beneath the AC / heater controls there is a fold down storage compartment for a cell phone or Ipod or anything else that you desire to hide in there. The cup holders are big, large enough to hold a couple of bug gulps side by side, which is always nice, especially when it is 100 degrees outside! Above the rear view mirror there is a fold down sun glass holder which is a nice touch as well; I did not know it is there, until i really started looking. This is great because you can hide your expensive glasses in there and no one will see them.
The Sonata is a very spacious car. I am 6’3″ And I had no problems whatsoever getting in and out in this car, not just in the driver’s seat but the passenger’s seat and the rear seats as well. The Sonata will comfortably hold 5 large adults and everyone will have ample room while in the car. The trunk is also large and spacious you could fit a whole ton of shopping back there, as i found out after the wife visited several shopping outlets. Overall the inside of the car is nice and comfortable and I have no major gripes apart from the retro 80’s looking main console layout!
How does this car perform I hear you ask? Fantastic is the answer! There are two engine models available. A 2.4 liter 4 cylinder that puts out 162HP or a 3.3 liter V6 234HP engine. The SE that we had had the 3.3 v6, and oh my does it want to get up and go! The 3.3 V6 is married to a 5 speed automatic transmission and in the SE you also have the option of controlling the gear shifting. When you look at the gear selector which is located between the 2 front seats you will see your usual suspects. P,D,N,R 1,2 but then to the right of those controls you will also see a + and a -. When driving you can manually shift the automatic gears, which is a great feature, one which is usually found on much higher end cars!
I cannot speak for the 4cyl but the V6 is whisper quiet when you start the car up. After positioning myself I was ready to take this car on the open road. The performance of this vehicle is quite superb. When you hit the gas the car really moves and there is a very satisfying roar that comes from the engine, almost sports car like! 0 to 60 in the Sonata takes 7.5 seconds which is faster than the newest Toyota Camry. The engine at cruising speed is still whisper quiet; the interior cabin noise is next to nothing which absolutely blew my mind. The automatic transmission shifts smoothly and seamlessly up through the gears, Using the manual shifter is also very satisfying in this car!
We took several long trips in this car while in Florida! One day we drove from Kissimmee to New Smyrna Beach, which is about 120 miles each way. I can honestly say that the whole driving experience was one of the best driving experiences that I have ever had! The ride quality is absolutely breathtaking; it almost feels as if you are driving on a bed of air! The car handles like it is on rails! The steering is sharp and very responsive giving the driver the utmost confidence in the cars abilities. The fuel efficiency of the Sonata is also a huge talking point. The 3.3 V6 does a respectable 23 / 24 MPG around town and 32 MPG on the interstate! I watched these numbers closely on the onboard computer while driving around Florida! These are very impressive numbers for quite a large engine!
Apart from the main dash console design which in all honesty, looks a little outdated this car is phenomenal! The ride quality rivals that of higher end luxury cars. The performance of the 3.3 V6 engine is breath taking and the fuel efficiency make this care an absolute winner. Hyundai wants to be the 5th largest car maker in the world by the end of 2010 and if they keep making quality vehicles like the Sonata then they will be well on their way.