Review and photos by
Paul Williams, CanadianDriver.com
Although many Canadian consumers are moving to compact sport utility vehicles, the midsize family car is still the workhorse of choice for a large segment of the buying public.
Over the years, these vehicles have become bigger, better equipped, more fuel efficient and safer, but some might say they’ve also become a little bland.
Hyundai thinks it has the remedy for that with the 2011 Sonata sedan, available in GL, GLS, Limited and Limited with Navigation. Our $24,249 GL test car is the “base” Sonata model, and as such it excludes items like leather interior, alloy wheels and premium audio.
However, unlike many vehicles we test, this model has no options added to the standard specification. In other words, all GL models with automatic transmission are equipped like this one, with remote keyless entry, front side and front and rear curtain airbags, four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock and electronic brake force distribution, electronic stability control, traction control and active front head restraints.
Additional standard equipment includes heated power exterior mirrors, air conditioning, cruise control, trip computer, Bluetooth, front heated seats, AM/FM/CD player with auxiliary and USB/iPod inputs, steering wheel mounted audio controls, power windows and telescoping steering wheel.
Under the hood is a 2.4-litre, direct-injected, four-cylinder engine that makes 198 horsepower at 6,300 rpm, and 185 pound-feet of torque at 4,250 rpm (there is no longer a V6 option for the Sonata). The engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission (there is a six-speed manual option with the GL only) and the car rides on 16-inch steel wheels with wheel covers.
Fuel consumption is estimated as 9.4/5.7 L/100 km, city/highway.
Apart from all the standard equipment, it’s the styling that’s most likely to catch your eye with the 2011 Sonata. Swoopy and elegant, its lines recall the Mercedes-Benz CLS, or, at a lower price-point than the Mercedes, the Volkswagen Passat CC. Some might say the car is actually a little overstyled, but most, I think, will appreciate the Sonata’s expensive and tasteful profile.
Inside, the high-style continues. The design is pleasing, the colours tasteful and components look and feel like quality items.
Front occupant headroom and legroom is generous at 1,015 and 1,155 millimetres respectively, compared with a Toyota Camry, for example, at 986 mm and 1,057 mm. However, the Camry equals or exceeds the Sonata in rear seat headroom and legroom.
With 464 litres, the Sonata’s trunk space exceeds Camry (425L), Accord (397L) and Malibu (427L). The trunk uses exposed hinges, rather than the superior struts found on the Malibu, for example.
On the road the powerful four-cylinder engine has plenty of torque to quickly move you from a standstill, and passing power is also more than sufficient on the highway. Cruising is quiet and smooth, and the transmission moves up and down through the gears without drama.
Instrumentation is clear and comprehensive; the gauges easily readable during the day, with controls that are straightforward to operate. Bluetooth easily pairs your phone, downloading your directory so that you can dial people by name.
The driver’s seat caused me some grief due to its lack of lumbar support and excessive bolstering under the thighs. Taller drivers will be happy, though, as the seat can be lowered considerably if desired.
Visibility is good all around, although the windows are a bit short and the mirrors could be bigger. Storage space within the cabin is plentiful, the large front-centre armrest doubling as a large storage box if required.
While the ride is smooth, the suspension can become harsh on uneven surfaces. Its abruptness on broken pavement got my attention on a few occasions, but otherwise the ride was very comfortable.
The long, low front of the Sonata can pose a challenge when parking, as you’ve really no idea where the front of the car is. However, the turning circle is on par with the Honda Accord, if a bit bigger than the Camry’s.
One question you may have is, “Will I miss a V6?” I don’t think so. The four-cylinder engine is powerful and smooth (much more powerful than many V6 engines only a few years ago). Many midsize cars are now moving to powerful four-cylinder engines as an acceptable replacement for the V6 (Chevrolet Malibu, Volkswagen Passat, for instance) and with future fuel efficiency requirements become more demanding, we’ll see more four-cylinder engines become the standard engine for larger vehicles.
My fuel consumption result on the highway, by the way, was 6.2 L/100 km at a steady 115 km/h. A 565-km trip from Ottawa to Niagara cost $40, at the current price of $1.00 per litre.
Hyundai is now well and truly a contender in all segments of the market. The brand is confidently moving up-market, now offering superb sports and luxury vehicles to its line-up. The 2011 Sonata should be on your list if shopping for a midsize car. It’s another major step forward for the brand.
Pricing: 2011 Hyundai Sonata GL
Paul Williams is an Ottawa-based automotive writer and senior editor for CanadianDriver. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).
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