Review: 2011 Hyundai Sonata

Hyundai already made their statement when the Genesis hit the road. The press release should have said, “Stop the Pony jokes. That car sucked, we know that. That was over 20 years ago. Look at this car. We know how to design and build an exceptional vehicle now.”

And it is an exceptional vehicle. The Genesis made people double take – a first for any Hyundai model – and won Canadian Car of the Year. Now, the Korean automaker is applying that same winning formula – a phenomenal design that’s reliable for a great value – as they roll out updated versions of existing models.
The new Hyundai Sonata meets those criteria dead on. So this isn’t “statement car” for the automaker, rather it’s a continuation of what they’ve already started.
The backend is vaguely reminiscent of a BMW 5-Series and the beautiful arching line that falls under the door handles has a slight resemblance to Mercedes’ C-Class. The front grille is simple and strong – three thick chrome lines in a soft V-shape. The middle portion sticks out as the raised part of the hood slides into the grille. It’s a clean look that adds a level of elegance.

Inside the Limited with Navigation trim level (the top-of-the-line Sonata offering), leather seats, power everything and an incredibly easy to use function layout highlights the interior. The entertainment and navigation controls are straightforward – a big dial to scroll through menu options with function-specific buttons surrounding it. And Hyundai took a page out of Volvo’s books with their climate control. It’s a large button of a person sitting down – just touch the button where you want airflow. This should be cloned and used in every vehicle.

So, the vehicle looks impressive – easily the best looking family sedan on the road right now – and its interior matches what’s seen from the outside. Unfortunately, the driving experience lags when compared to the Sonata’s classy design. The four-cylinder engine packs 198 HP – more than other four-cylinder competitors (including the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Suzuki Kizashi, Nissan Altima and Ford Fusion) – but it takes a while for that power to come through. The ride is very plush, which is nice for highway commuting, but handling is tepid and steering is a bit soft. However, with Hyundai about to unleash a turbo version of the Sonata, there’s a good chance most of these drawbacks will soon disappear.

The Sonata begins at $22,649 and tops out at $30,999. It is a must-see for anyone looking for a new family sedan.

–Travis Persaud