If there's a single vehicle that distinguishes the new Hyundai from the old, it's the current-generation Sonata sedan. The redesigned Sonata debuted for the 2006 model year with relevant styling, class-competitive powertrains and a new feeling of refinement, along with every bit of the price-feature value that once was Hyundai's sole reason for being. Over the next couple years, though, the Sonata would begin losing ground in the segment as many of its best-selling competitors underwent complete redesigns. The sedan's passenger cabin became the greatest area of need, having been left far behind the competition in both styling and features. In updating its top-seller for the 2009 model year, Hyundai has certainly given the Sonata the attention it needed to be a true segment player.
YOU'LL LIKE THIS CAR IF...
We think you'll like the 2009 Hyundai Sonata if you're looking for a comfortable, roomy mid-size sedan that won't break the budget. The Sonata continues to offer almost as much as the competition at a lower price.
YOU MAY NOT LIKE THIS CAR IF...
If you want a family sedan with a sporty flair, you'll be better served by the Nissan Altima, Chevy Malibu or even the larger Honda Accord. The Sonata aims more at luxury than sportiness, though it lacks the chassis sophistication of the car that does this best, the Toyota Camry.
WHAT'S SIGNIFICANT ABOUT THIS CAR
The Sonata gets a comprehensive – and much needed – mid-cycle update for 2009. The architecture is the same, but it has a completely reworked interior, upgraded engines, minor exterior revisions, different spring rates and larger front and rear stabilizer bars.
On the road, the 2009 Hyundai Sonata is smooth and comfortable. Road and engine noise aren't very intrusive, but the Sonata isn't as quiet as the best in the class. The Sonata's road manners are similar to those of the Toyota Camry, which has the smoothest ride in the segment. It isn't nimble, though, not even the SE model with its stiffer suspension settings. In fact, we found the SE tended to pound over tar strips at low speeds, making it the model we'd least recommend. In all models, the steering is somewhat slow, but braking is predictable and worry-free. Both of the Sonata's engines are competitive. We feel the V6 is the best choice, but it isn't as powerful as the V6s offered by General Motors, Honda, Toyota and Nissan and we found throttle response to be a bit slow.
OUR FAVORITE FEATURES
One of our favorite features of the Sonata is its standard iPod Interface. A cable is provided to plug in your iPod and charge it, and you can control your iPod through the radio. Also included are a USB port and an auxiliary input jack to plug in other types of MP3 players.
Split-Folding Rear Seat
We also like the Sonata's standard 60/40 split folding rear seat. It expands on the trunk's already generous 16.3 cubic feet of cargo space and makes it possible to haul longer items like skis or snowboards.
Although the Sonata competes in the mid-size sedan category, the EPA actually groups it in the "Large Car" category due to its generous interior space. That means it has plenty of front and rear seat room, enough to carry four or even five adults comfortably. The rear seat is made even more livable by a standard fold-down armrest with two integrated cupholders. Up front, the environment is attractive and the materials are of a higher quality than buyers might expect. All of the controls are within easy reach, and the blue-tinted gauges are easy to read, though they can wash out in bright sunlight. We appreciate the fact that Hyundai has provided plenty of bins and cubbies to hold small items like cell phones and iPods.
When it comes to looks, the 2009 Hyundai Sonata is a fairly generic interpretation of the modern sedan. It is sized like most of its competitors, and it has a large greenhouse to accommodate a lot of interior space. Though not unattractive, it doesn't stand out on the road, although this year's design refresh of the grille, front and rear bumpers, headlights, taillights, and fog lights do help to give it a more distinctive look. The SE model features a rear spoiler and 17-inch aluminum wheels with low-profile performance tires. The Limited also has 17s, plus a chrome grille and additional chrome exterior trim.
NOTABLE STANDARD EQUIPMENT
One of the Sonata's key selling points is its impressive equipment list. The GLS model comes with air conditioning, cruise control, cloth upholstery, power accessories, CD stereo with six speakers, XM Satellite Radio, and 16-inch steel wheels. The sport-oriented SE adds leather upholstery with cloth inserts, fog lights, a rear spoiler, 17-inch alloy wheels, stiffer shocks and larger stabilizer bars. The top-line Limited is decked out with automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a sunroof, and an Infinity sound system with a 6-disc CD changer. All Sonatas have an admirable array of standard safety features, including dual front airbags, front side airbags, curtain side airbags, antilock brakes with brake assist, traction control, electronic stability control, and active front head restraints.
Options are few on the 2009 Hyundai Sonata, although much of the top-of-the-line Limited's equipment can be ordered for the lower line models. The only other notable options are a Bluetooth wireless cell phone link and a navigation system with voice control.
UNDER THE HOOD
The 2009 Sonata's base engine is Hyundai's second-generation dual-overhead cam Theta II 2.4-liter four-cylinder. A new intake resonator design and the addition of dual camshaft continuously variable valve timing (CVVT) raise horsepower from 162 to 175 and torque from 164 to 168 lb.-ft. It can be ordered with a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability. Also updated for 2009 is Hyundai's Lambda 3.3-liter V6. It also gets a new intake resonator design, which helps up horsepower from 234 to 249 and torque from 226 to 229 lb.-ft. This V6 is only available with the five-speed automatic transmission.
2.4-liter in-line 4
175 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
168 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/32 (manual), 22/32 (automatic)
249 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
229 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/29
The base 2009 Hyundai Sonata GLS costs about $19,000 when equipped with a manual transmission and four-cylinder engine, and $23,000 when outfitted with an automatic and V6. The SE in four-cylinder form costs about $21,000, and the SE V6 starts at less than $25,000. You'll pay just over $25,000 for the top-of-the-line Limited with the four cylinder and $27,000 with the V6. These prices are thousands less than a comparably equipped Toyota Camry, Honda Accord or Chevy Malibu. To find out what consumers are paying for the Hyundai Sonata right now, we suggest you check the car's New Car Blue Book Values before heading to the dealership. Although the Sonata offers an impressive amount of features for the price, this advantage is somewhat offset by its slightly below-average resale value after five years.