2013 Sonata New Car Test Drive
The four door Hyundai Sonata accommodates five passengers in fine style and more than holds its own with the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion and other mid-size sedans. Sonata delivers excellent quality in all of its iterations, with great manners, fuel efficiency and features, all at a competitive price. Sonata was completely redesigned for the 2011 model year.
The 2013 Hyundai Sonata gets an updated navigation system and slight adjustments to the standard feature list, depending on the model. The biggest news may disappoint driving enthusiasts, however: Unlike last year, the 2013 Sonata is not offered with a manual transmission.
The 2013 Sonata comes in four models, including a hybrid that can be driven at highway speeds in full electric mode and an available turbocharged engine that is one of the most powerful in this class but still delivers excellent fuel mileage.
Sonata's styling is busy for our taste and not as clean as its corporate sibling, the Kia Optima. Many other critics have praised Sonata's look, however, and if it's confused with any other sedan, it's more likely to be mistaken for a Lexus or some other luxury model than for another mainstream mid-size.
Inside, features, materials and fit and finish are among the best in the class, especially in build quality and tolerances.
The 2013 Sonata lineup starts with the Sonata GLS, which retails for about $21,000 and comes with a full complement of power features, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity and more power than other cars in its class. Another $825 adds heated front seats, automatic light control, fog lights and 16 inch alloy wheels. The mid-range Sonata SE satisfies sporty tastes with a firmer suspension and sharper steering, while the Limited comes nearly loaded, with full leather, dual-zone automatic climate control and audio upgrade, starting at about $26,000.
Sonata's standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder delivers 198 horsepower (190 hp in states using California emissions regulations), or 200 hp with a dual exhaust system in the Sonata SE. It's substantially more powerful than the base engine in competitors, but it runs neck and neck in the Environmental Protection Agency's fuel economy ratings, matched to a smooth shifting, well programmed 6-speed automatic transmission.
Sonata's upgrade engine led a trend in this class, eschewing a larger V6 for a smaller, efficient turbocharged four-cylinder. The 2.0T, as Hyundai calls it, satisfies America's perceived need for speed with 274 horsepower and excellent acceleration on regular-grade gas. Yet it's EPA-rated 33 mpg Highway.
The Sonata Hybrid features a full parallel hybrid system allowing the car to be driven on its 40-hp electric motor at speeds up to 62 miles per hour. While such an occurrence will be rare in the real world, the Hybrid's blended gas-electric operation still improves fuel economy, with higher mileage ratings than similar hybrids from Honda and Toyota. Moreover, while the other hybrids in this class have a gearless, continuously variable transmission, the Sonata Hybrid gets the same 6-speed automatic as the other Sonata models. It drives and sounds like the cars most of us know, with actual upshifts and downshifts instead of virtual gear changes created by computer software.
The 2013 Hyundai Sonata sedan comes in standard, sporty and luxurious trim levels, with a choice of two four-cylinder engines and a standard 6-speed automatic transmission. There's also a Hybrid model.
Sonata GLS ($20,885), the standard trim, is powered by 198-horsepower, 2.4-liter inline four with direct fuel injection, though peak power decreases to 190 hp in California and several Northeastern states. The GLS is equipped with air conditioning, a full complement of power features, 60/40 split-folding rear seat and a six-speaker, 104-watt audio system with single CD and satellite radio with a three-month subscription. The standard wheels are 16-inch steel with plastic covers. The GLS Popular Package ($825) adds a power driver seat with manual lumbar adjustment, faux leather door panels (in place of the base molded, hard plastic), heated front seats, automatic light control, fog lights and 16 inch alloy wheels.
Sonata SE ($23,435) is the sporty model, with a firmer suspension, a manual shift feature with wheel mounted paddle shifters and 18-inch alloy wheels. It comes standard with the contents of the Popular Package, as well as leather trimmed steering wheel, shift knob and seat bolsters, and proximity key with push-button start. The Sonata SE can be upgraded with a 274-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four ($1,550) and equipped with a Navigation and Sunroof Package ($2,900), which includes touch screen GPS navigation, a rearview camera, power tilt and slide sunroof and an audio upgrade with eight speakers, subwoofer and 360 watts of power.
Sonata Limited ($25,485) is the most luxurious model, and it's available with the standard or turbocharged engine ($1,750). Limited comes standard with dual zone automatic climate control, rear console mounted vents, full leather seats, the 360-watt audio, heated front and rear seats, turn signal indicators in the outside mirrors, Piano Black or Woodgrain interior trim accents, sunroof, auto dimming rearview mirror with compass and 17-inch aluminum wheels. The Limited Navigation Package ($2,900) adds navigation, rearview camera, a panoramic sunroof and Hyundai's top level Infinity audio system.
Sonata Hybrid is powered by a more fuel efficient 166-horspower version of the 2.4-liter engine and a 40-horsepower electric motor. EPA mileage ratings improve, and Hyundai claims the Hybrid can run at speeds up to 62 mph on electric power alone. Hybrid features and options essentially mirror those of the SE model.
Beyond the packages, options are limited to dealer-installed features such as remote start ($350), rear spoiler ($250) and rearview mirror with Homelink garage-door control ($250).
Safety features standard on all models include front-impact airbags, driver and front passenger side impact airbags, front and rear seat head-protection curtains, anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and brake assist, electronic stability control, active front-seat head restraints and a tire-pressure monitor. Hyundai's Blue Link crash-reporting telematics system comes standard, too, with a temporary subscription to basic services. The rearview camera that comes with the optional navigation package can help the driver spot a small child behind the car when backing up.