2011 Sonata New Car Test Drive
The 2011 Hyundai Sonata is an all-new midsize sedan, completely redesigned and re-engineered. The 2011 Sonata comes a wide range of models, including a hybrid that can be driven at highway speeds in fully electric mode, and a turbo designed to deliver fuel-efficient acceleration performance.
The new Sonata Hybrid features a full parallel hybrid system allowing the car to be driven in zero emissions, fully electric drive mode at speeds up to 62 miles per hour or in blended gas-electric mode at any speed. The new Sonata 2.0T, meanwhile, uses a four-cylinder turbocharged engine that gets an EPA-estimated 33 mpg Highway rating while boasting 274 horsepower and on Regular gas. The 2011 Sonata lineup starts with the Sonata GLS, which retails for less than $20,000 and delivers more power than other cars in its class. No V6 is offered, as Hyundai is using turbocharged four-cylinders and battery assist motors to increase power.
A four door, midsize sedan that accommodates five passengers, the Sonata competes with Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, and Nissan Altima, to name a few.
In a head to head match-up with direct comparables of those five brands, the Hyundai Sonata models are more powerful, while hanging right in there with the other brands on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's fuel economy ratings. The base 2.4 liter engine delivers 198 horsepower (190 hp in states using California emissions regulations) or 200 hp with a dual exhaust system, which is substantially more power than what's found in the base models of the other midsize sedans. The 2.0T model's fuel economy on the highway is better than all but the Fusion. The Hybrid tops the Honda and Camry hybrids in EPA City and Highway fuel economy ratings and bests the Fusion's Highway rating.
That 2.0T turbocharged engine is Hyundai's more economical and more affordable answer to Americans' perceived need for speed. It's not only more powerful than the V6 that powered the 2010 Sonata and the competition's V6s, but also generally less thirsty, by almost eight mpg over the Malibu in EPA's Highway rating, to pick the best example. An extra bonus is that Hyundai went against the grain in its selection of transmission for the 2011 Hybrid. While the Fusion, Altima and Camry hybrids all have a gearless, continuously variable transmission, the Sonata gets a full-on, 6-speed automatic that drives and sounds like a car should, with actual upshifts and downshifts instead of virtual gear changes artificially created by computer software.
We're not sure the new Sonata is the sharpest looker in the class, but at least it's not a copycat of any of the other midsize sedans, a couple of which could leave a buyer confused were it not for the oversized, trademark logo in the grille or on the trunk lid. Inside, features, materials and fit and finish are as good as the best of those, and better than a couple, especially in quality and tolerances.
Buyers need not be limited to those seeking a daily commuter, either. The Hybrid covers the need for green-ness and the Sonata SE actually is fun to drive, especially the 2.0T, while the GLS handles interstates with ease and the Limited brings luxury. Hyundai has tuned the suspension calibrations differently for the different models, so each has its own character.
The 2011 Hyundai Sonata comes in GLS, SE, and Limited trim. (All New Car Test Drive prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include destination charge and may change at any time without notice.)
Sonata GLS ($19,195) comes with cloth upholstery, air conditioning, Bluetooth, AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 system (with three-month subscription to XM) with six speakers and iPod/USB and auxiliary input jacks, tilt/telescope steering wheel, steering wheel audio controls, trip computer, power door locks, power mirrors, power windows, cruise control, remote keyless entry fob, 60/40 split folding rear seat, P205/65R16 tires on steel wheels. The GLS comes with a 6-speed manual transmission or six-speed automatic ($20,195). The Popular Equipment Package ($750) upgrades with 16 inch alloy wheels, power driver seat and manual lumbar adjustment, chrome interior handles, faux leather interior panels (in place of the base molded, hard plastic), and automatic light control. The navigation package ($1,700) adds a touch screen navigation system and premium speakers pumped up with a subwoofer and an external amplifier along with everything from the Popular Equipment Package.
Sonata SE ($22,595) and Sonata 2.0T SE ($24,145) comes standard with the 6 speed Shiftronic automatic, steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, leather trimmed steering wheel, shift knob and seat bolsters with cloth inserts, eight way power driver's seat, automatic light control, faux leather door panels, front fog lights, P225/45R18 Hankook tires on silver alloy wheels, chrome tipped dual exhaust, proximity entry, push button start/stop, dark chrome grille with body color hood trim. The SE rear suspension gets beefier springs and a larger stabilizer bar. Options for the SE: a Navigation and Sunroof Package ($2600) that includes the touch screen navigation system, a power tilt and slide sunroof, and the speaker and amplifier upgrade.
Sonata Limited ($25,295) and 2.0T Limited ($27,045) upgrade with full leather seating surfaces, dual zone automatic climate control with outside temperature display and floor console mounted rear vents, Infinity audio system with in dash, 6CD changer, heated front and rear seats, turn signal indicators in the outside mirrors, dark chrome grille and hood trim, Piano Black or Woodgrain interior trim accents, powered tilt and slide sunroof, auto dimming rearview mirror with compass, and P215/55R17 Kumho tires on aluminum alloy wheels. The 2.0T Limited also has paddle shifters and an outside temperature display. Options are limited to the Navigation Package ($2,100) comprising the touch screen navigation system (which displaces the CD changer), an integrated rear backup video camera and top level Infinity speakers. HD radio technology is included in the 2.0T Limited's premium sound system.
Sonata Hybrid features and option list essentially mirrors that of the SE models, including the outside temperature display but excluding the paddle shifters.
Safety features standard on Sonata include front airbags; driver and front passenger side impact airbags; front and rear seat side air curtains; anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), and brake assist; electronic stability control with traction control; active front-seat head restraints; rear-seat child safety seat anchors; and tire-pressure monitors. The rearview camera that comes in the Limited Navigation Package can reduce the chance of running over someone when backing up.