2009 Sonata New Car Test Drive
Hyundai Sonata gets a host of revisions for the 2009 model year. Already on our list of best commuter cars and many high-value lists, the revisions should solidify its standing. Although you can't see many of them, more than a thousand parts have been changed for the 2009 model year.
The Hyundai Sonata is a four-door, five-passenger sedan priced at the low end of the mid-size market, where it competes primarily against the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Chevrolet Malibu, Kia Optima, and Ford Fusion. Despite moderate prices, every Sonata comes with a full slate of safety equipment and none is optional; it has earned the federal government's five-star crash-test rating for front and side impacts, the highest awarded.
Sonata is big inside, with so much interior volume it the EPA classifies it as a large car. It's roomier in almost every dimension than most of its mid-size competitors, many of which are larger outside, and it offers a full-size edge in creature comfort.
For 2009, the Sonata is perhaps one percent heavier and prices have gone up, some by $1500. However, the new models come with more standard equipment such as the sunroof on the Limited model, so the relative value remains high.
Instead of spending a lot outside Hyundai kept all the sheetmetal and merely updated lights and trim.
On the inside, however, they've improved the seats for 2009 and added an entirely new dashboard/console layout and introduced a voice-operated navigation option.
Under the hood each engine remains the same size but makes more power on less fuel, and the four-cylinder has been upgraded from an optional four-speed automatic to a five-speed automatic. Last but not least, the suspension has been retuned to deliver the same good ride with better precision and driver involvement.
The most-expensive Sonata will set you back less than $28,000 with navigation, but you can get a comfortable, efficient commuter like our test car for about $21,000. You'll be hard-pressed to find more room with that economy for anything near the price, and it won't have Hyundai's warranty package.
The 2009 Hyundai Sonata comes in three trim levels. A 175-horsepower four-cylinder engine comes standard (168 hp in PZEV states at no extra cost), a 249-hp V6 is optional. The four-cylinder is available with a five-speed manual or a five-speed Shiftronic automatic transmission ($1200); the latter is standard on V6s.
Sonata GLS ($18,120) is the base model. It comes with cloth upholstery, air conditioning, cruise control, power heated outside mirrors, power windows, central locking with keyless remote, AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with six speakers, XM Satellite Radio, tilt steering wheel, 60/40 folding rear seat, and 215/60R16 tires on 16-inch steel wheels. The four-cylinder automatic ($19,320) is similarly equipped, while the V6 automatic ($21,570) adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel, solar control glass and chrome dual exhaust tips. The Popular Equipment Package ($650) adds automatic headlights, chrome window belt moldings, upgraded interior accents, power driver seat with adjustable lumbar support, steering wheel audio controls and a trip computer. The same package is available with a power tilt-and-slide sunroof ($1,550).
Sonata SE ($21,720) and SE V6 ($23,170) come with leather-bolster/cloth-center seats, five-speed automatic, larger disc brakes, 17-inch alloy wheels fitted with 215/55VR17 all season performance tires, firmer suspension, eight-way power driver's seat with adjustable lumbar support, leather-wrapped shift knob, tilt-and-telescope leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, solar control glass, fog lights, automatic headlights, chrome window moldings, rear spoiler, and a trip computer. The Premium Package ($1,650) for SE adds an upgraded AM/FM/XM/6CD/MP3 audio system with six speakers, subwoofer and component amplifier; power tilt-and-slide sunroof; and an electrochromic auto-dimming rear view mirror with HomeLink and a compass.
The Limited ($23,970) adds leather seating surfaces, heated front seats, automatic climate control with filtration, the top-line audio system, electrochromic auto-dimming rear view mirror with HomeLink and compass, door sill trim and a sunroof. A chrome grille, chrome-accented exterior door handles, and bodyside moldings identify Limited from the outside. Wheels and tires are the same size as those on the SE, but use a different tread pattern. The Limited V6 ($25,670) is similarly equipped. A new voice-activated navigation system is available ($1250).
Safety features on all Sonatas include dual-stage front-seat airbags; front-seat side-impact airbags for torso protection; and full-coverage side curtain airbags designed to provide head protection. Antilock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with traction control also come standard, as does a tire-pressure monitor.