The Truth About Cars » Sonata The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 27 Jul 2014 14:03:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Sonata Google Debuts Android Auto During I/O Keynote Thu, 26 Jun 2014 10:00:10 +0000 Android Auto + Honda Civic

Google’s entry into the connected-car game stepped up to the next level this week when Android Auto was unveiled before the developers in attendance at the 2014 Google I/O Keynote Address.

Automotive News reports Android Auto — formerly known as Google Auto Link — will not be an embedded system, but “projected” from Android-powered smartphones through USB into the head unit. Its main feature is its voice-enabled operation, allowing the driver to receive and respond to texts, get directions to the nearest restaurant or fuel station, and dictate to-do lists for later reference, all without having to take their eyes off the road.

Android Auto was also designed for app developers in mind, simplifying the process of creating, distributing and updating their work without worrying if the embedded system will play nice with them by centralizing everything around the smartphone or tablet.

Though players such as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Volkswagen Group and Honda are among those on-board with Android Auto, Google did not say which of the members of the Open Automotive Alliance would be the first to bring the technology to the showroom. However, Hyundai product planning manager John Shon says his employer will be the first out of the gate when newer models of the 2015 Sonata arrive with both Android Auto and competitor Apple’s own CarPlay by the end of 2014; current 2015 models will receive both systems upon release.

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New York 2014: 2015 Hyundai Sonata Live Shots Wed, 16 Apr 2014 21:52:24 +0000 2015-Hyundai-Sonata-10

Unveiled in South Korea last month, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata made its United States debut during the 2014 New York Auto Show.

The sedan, set to roll out of Hyundai’s Montgomery, Ala. plant this summer, offers an improved ride quality thanks to a stiffer chassis and lower co-efficient of drag. Up front, either a 2.4-liter naturally aspirated four-pot or turbocharged 2-liter put less power to the front wheels than the previous generation of engines, with the former creating 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque while the latter churning 245 horsepower and 260 lb-ft torque. Both engines are forever linked to a six-speed automatic.

Those opting for the turbo-four can add the Sport trim to their Sonata, bringing bigger brakes, 18-inch alloy wheels, quad exhaust, and more aggressive bodywork to the package.

Stepping inside the sedan, those who test-drove the Genesis sedan may feel a sense of deja-vu thanks to the driver-oriented center stack. Meanwhile, Hyundai will be offering a number of safety conveniences for the Sonata, including blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and rear cross-traffic alert.

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Hyundai Sonata Fuel Economy Rating Found Lower Than Stated, Corrected Tue, 18 Mar 2014 13:40:58 +0000 2014 Hyundai Sonata

Hyundai announced a correction in the upcoming 2015 Sonata’s fuel economy upon findings showing the economy figures to be lower than originally stated.

Reuters reports the sedan claimed a 6 percent-climb to 12.6 kilometers per liter, a figure based on tests at the automaker’s research center. However, government tests returned a 2 percent-climb of 12.1 kilometers per liter than the outgoing model.

Analysts, including Korea Institute for Industrial Economics & Trade senior researcher Cho Chul, said the impact of the error and subsequent correction would be short-lived, having been announced prior to the new Sonata going on sale later this month in its home market:

This may have a short-term impact on its reputation. But for the longer term, it is better for Hyundai to take quick action before controversy erupts.

Both Hyundai and Kia are rebuilding their reputations regarding fuel economy after overstate figures in their respective lineups led to recalls and customer lawsuits, paying $395 million total in settlements in the United States in 2012 for over 1 million vehicles with erroneous mileage.

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2015 Hyundai Sonata Caught Nude In Home Plant Wed, 12 Mar 2014 18:37:20 +0000 2015-hyundai-sonata-lf-scooped-factory-3

New spy photos of the 2015 Hyundai Sonata have emerged showing the upcoming sedan fully nude in its home plant in South Korea.

The Korean Car Blog reports spy photographers have said the Sonata boasted a 2-liter T-GDI four-pot pushing 274 horsepower toward the front wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

The new Sonata will make its official launch March 24.

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Sonata Quality Issues Drag Down Hyundai, R&D President Returns Thu, 27 Feb 2014 13:54:37 +0000 2011 Hyundai Sonata

Just as J.D. Power ranks Hyundai fifth from dead last over quality issues regarding the 2011 Sonata, the automaker’s research and development president, Kwon Moon-sik, returns to the fold three months after quitting over a number of quality issues within the product line.

Automotive News and Reuters report Hyundai holds 27th overall on J.D. Power’s Vehicle Dependability Study, with 169 problems per 100 vehicles surveyed. Though nothing was specified for the 2011 Sonata or the 2011 Elantra — the other car from 2011 that brought down Hyundai’s rank — the industry overall developed issues with engines and transmissions tied to advanced fuel-efficiency technologies, including turbocharging. The sedan’s issues are magnified due to its groundbreaking design and said technologies, shaking up the otherwise conservative midsize sedan segment on its way to becoming Hyundai’s top-selling vehicle.

Meanwhile, Hyundai chairman Chung Mong-koo has rehired R&D president Kwon Moon-sik to help right the ship as the next generation Sonata prepares to make its debut in South Korea next month, as the automaker said in a statement:

Given his expertise, experience and leadership skills, we reinstated president Kwon to enhance quality and R&D capability from scratch.

Hyundai also said they expect their dependability ratings to improve next year when the 2012 models are evaluated, though it was “very disappointed” the results of this year’s study, and is “examining every component of the score to determine root-cause solutions” for improving their product line and services.

Kwon, along with two other R&D executives, quit three months earlier over quality issues — such as those affecting the 2011 models — that led to massive recalls in the United States, South Korea and other market. He was also one of the top aides to Chung’s son, Chung Eui-sun. His replacement, Kim Hae-jin, will return to heading powertrain development.

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Piston Slap: Overhyped Hybrid Analysis Paralysis? Tue, 28 Jan 2014 16:02:01 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

Mishie writes:

Hi -

I love your blog. Its been an invaluable resource in my efforts to purchase a car. I have a pretty long daily commute and I’m a bit of a greenie so I’m really interested in purchasing a hybrid. I’ve looked at a number of models including the new Honda Accord hybrid but I’ve hesitated in buying the model I really wanted – the Prius – because of reports of acceleration and braking issues. Do those issues still persist?

I’m also pretty partial to the Lexus RX450 but since its a Toyota, I’m guessing its plagued with the same issues. I’ve looked at the Ford Fusion (not entirely sold on its reliability), the Honda Accord (too new and no room for a spare tire), and the Hyundai Sonata (read about their braking issues also). Is there a reliable hybrid out there? I have very little aptitude for mechanics so feel free to respond as if I’m ten. LOL!


Sajeev answers:

Don’t worry, there are no stupid questions…provided they aren’t addressed to Sanjeev. But I digress…

That said, drop everything and go buy a Prius now!  Are you letting recalls and the media frenzy around unintended acceleration stopping you?  If on the remote chance this happens, put the vehicle in neutral and regain your sanity.  Because unintended acceleration can happen to anyone.  Try to kill the panic as fast as possible, and get the car under control with a flick of the shift lever. Okay?

And what of the Prius braking problems?  Done.  Over.  They certainly replaced a bad part/design and “bled” the brake lines to make sure everything works correctly. For decades now, braking systems incorporate safeguards (like multichannel brake fluid distribution) to keep this from being a life threatening problem. And they don’t call it an emergency brake for no reason!

Stop worrying about problems commonplace in the car biz, or continue to worry and take the bus. Put another way: there are NO BAD CARS. Even the Smart Car isn’t necessarily bad. And while Land Rovers are unreliable wallet killers and Corollas are perfect to the point of boredom, the differences between a “good” car and a “bad” car are nearasdamnit to statistically insignificant.


Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Hyundai Slashes Sonata Production & Incentives Mon, 18 Nov 2013 13:30:52 +0000 Hyundai production line Alabama plant

The Hyundai Sonata is the oldest car in its segment and a new model is expected next year. Normally, when a car is about to be replaced by the next generation of that model, automakers usually start increasing incentives to move the metal. Sonata sales are down 11% from last year. Now, Hyundai has slashed production of its midsize car, allowing it to reduce incentives to the second lowest in the segment. Average incentive spending on the Sonata is down to ~$2,200. Only Honda’s Accord, with about $840 in incentives available is discounted less.
Production of the car is also down 11% through October. That has freed up capacity for the Elantra compact, whose sales are up 21% year to date. Both cars are assembled for the U.S. market in an Alabama factory.

An all-new Sonata is expected to be introduced next April at the New York Auto Show. The current model has been on sale since 2011.

Hyundai currently has a 42 day supply of the Sonata compared to the the segment average of 76 days.


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Hyundai to Introduce New Sonata, Genesis Models in U.S. in 2014, Fuel Cell Tucson To Follow Mon, 18 Nov 2013 11:00:48 +0000 Nanoscale-Device-for-Fuel-Cells-Can-Store-More-Hydrogen-Than-Any-Other-Material-2

At Hyundai’s technical center near Ann Arbor last week, the company’s CEO John Krafcik told reporters that the Korean automaker will introduce new versions of its Sonata and Genesis sedans to the U.S. market in the first half of 2014. The company will also launch a hydrogen fuel cell powered version of its Tucson crossover, sold in Europe as the ix3d, and it is expected to be unveiled at the Los Angeles auto show this week. The 2015 Sonata will likely be introduced at the New York auto show next April.

Krafcik also said that Hyundai plans to build 1,000 of the fuel-cell Tucsons by 2016, but if there is sufficient demand the company can build more. Acknowledging that fuel-cell technology is still in its infancy and “there’s no question the internal-combustion engine will reign supreme for some time,” Krafcik said that the company sees fuel-cell cars as potentially superior to battery powered EVs, with greater driving range and a shorter refueling time. Hyundai’s fuel cell announcement follows news that Toyota will be putting its FCV on sale in the not to distant future.


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Review: 2013 Ford Fusion SE 1.6L Ecoboost (Video) Sat, 22 Dec 2012 14:00:08 +0000

The 2013 Fusion is a critical car for Ford. Despite the rise of the Koreans, an Americanized Passat, refreshed GM and Chrysler products and a dip in Fusion sales between the 2012 and the all-new 2013 model, the Ford is still the fourth-best-selling mid-size sedan in America. Michael was invited to a regional Ford event in September where he revealed his opinions, but what most readers seem to recall is Derek’s proclamation that the 2013 Fusion is a “gamechanger.” To answer the question once and for all, Ford tosses us the keys to the volume-selling SE model with Ford’s recall-beleaguered 1.6L Ecoboost engine for a week.

Click here to view the embedded video.


No, this isn’t Aston Martin’s new mid-size four-door entry, although you could be forgiven for making the mistake. The new design is as shocking and striking as the old Fusion was bland and boring. Making your mass-market car over-styled is risky, but despite the Fusion’s rump being less daring than its schnoz, it manages to avoid looking cartoonish like the Sonata. The Aston mini-me styling is refreshing in a segment where “restrained” and “slab sided” are the mantra of the day. The new Accord is elegant for sure, but the large green house screams family sedan. The current Camry attempts to meld an edgy nose with refrigerator flat door panels. Even the stylish (in comparison) Altima looks far less exciting. Styling is subjective and I usually avoid commenting on design directly, but the 2013 Fusion is an exception. This Ford is quite simply the best looking sedan in America under $50,000.


What do the 2013 Fusion and the unloved 1995 Contour have in common? They are both Ford Mondeo world cars. (Thankfully that’s all they have in common.) After years of designing one sedan for America and one for the rest of the world, the company’s “One Ford” strategy put the Mondeo and Fusion back into the same breeding program. I’m not sure what Europe gets out of the cross-breed, but Americans will benefit from a level of refinement, parts quality and European design hitherto unknown to the Blue Oval on our shores. On the flip side this also means the Fusion’s interior is a study in black with most of the interior looking like it was carved out of a single piece of black plastic. Opting for the tan cloth or leather interior won’t avoid the black dashboard, but it does make the interior look warmer. Sadly this color option is limited to the Fusion S and SE only as the Titanium trim comes only in black.

Our Fusion tester impressed with buttons and parts-bin parts that felt more premium than the competition thanks especially to an all-new steering wheel. While the new tiller doesn’t get soft split-grain leather like the new Accord, Ford’s new button arrangements are easier to use, easier to reach and feel better built than the wheel in the C-MAX and Escape. Speaking of buttons and controls, our Fusion tester showed no signs of fine scratching on the control surfaces, a problem that the Altima, Accord and Camry all suffer from, despite having far more miles on the odometer than the Japanese trio we tested.

Front seat comfort is excellent although a step behind the 2013 Honda Accord which has the most comfortable seats in the segment. Unlike some of the competition, Ford’s tilt/telescoping steering wheel provides a large range of motion making it easy to accommodate drivers of different heights. The Fusion’s driver’s seat is 10-way powered in the SE and Titanium models and sports an optional three-position memory system (standard on Titanium) to speed driver swaps (or keep your better half from complaining). As you would expect, the passenger doesn’t get the same kind of seat-love with your choice of manual or 4-way power adjusting.

Rear seats are as low to the ground as any in this segment and far less bolstered than the front thrones. In a family sedan this is more a feature than a problem since it makes the middle seat a more pleasant place to spend your time. Despite the sloping profile I was able to fit my six-foot frame into the middle seat without issue, although the 2013 Accord offers noticeably more room in the rear. Because of the differing ways that manufacturers measure rear seat leg room, I recommend you take your whole family with you shopping, stuff them all in the car and see how comfortable everyone is at the same time. Want to know more about the seating and cargo room? Check out the video review.

Infotainment & Gadgets

All models come with the basic SYNC system which offers USB/iDevice and Bluetooth phone integration. As you would expect, power windows and door locks and a perimeter alarm are standard, but few will be buying the base S model since there are zero options. This makes the $23,700 SE model your real starting point with standard XM satellite ratio, six speakers, a power driver’s seat, auto headlamps, body-colored mirrors and the keyless entry keypad that’s been a Ford hallmark for ages.

We also need to talk about My Ford Touch, because if you want to check pretty much any other option box on the Fusion, MyFord Touch needs to be selected first. Want dual-zone climate control, a backup cam, blind spot monitoring, auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers, a 120V outlet, cross traffic alert, etc? The $1,000 MFT option (standard on Titanium) includes the 8-inch control screen in the dash, two 4.2-inch LCDs in the gauge cluster, dual-zone climate control and the backup camera. When MFT landed in 2010, the software had more bugs than a bag of 5-year-old flour. Thankfully, this latest version of MFT is more responsive and less problem prone. The competition has caught up however, with the Altima, Toyota and Honda systems delivering excellent USB/iDevice integration and basic voice commands without the lag and occasional software hiccups. Despite the system’s still-present flaws, MFT is still the sexiest system in this segment and the only one that brings the partial LCD disco-dash to the table. If you want the best in factory entertainment, you should know the 12-speaker Sony branded audio system is only available in the more expensive Titanium.

Automotive gadget dissemination follows a predictable path. The snazziest gadgets, safety features and entertainment concepts are first released by the big players in the luxury segment like BMW, Audi and Mercedes in their most expensive models. The next stop on the technology train is inevitable the mass-market sedan. It therefore shouldn’t surprise you that the Fusion can be had with an impressive list of options from an automated-parking system to adaptive cruise control and an innovative lane departure prevention system. Unlike most of the LDP systems up to this point, the Ford system doesn’t apply the brakes to one side of the car to get you back on track – it simply turns the steering wheel. The system is both slightly creepy and very effective. With the ability to apply more force to keep you in the lane than competing systems, the steering input feels more like a hand on the wheel than a gentle suggestion. If safety is your shtick, it’s worth noting that the Fusion and Accord scored well in the new IIHS small-overlap test while the top-selling Camry and Prius V “are the worst performers of the midsize group.” according to the IIHS.

As options lists go, the Fusion has more gadgets on offer than any of the competition – but it comes at a cost. The Fusion tops out at a fully-loaded AWD price of $38,170, $4,760 more than the most expensive Camry, $3,693 more than the Accord, and $5,730 more than a top-level Altima. As you would expect in such a cut-throat segment, comparing apples-to-apple,s the Fusion is priced very close to its top three competitors.


Compared to the competition, the Fusion has an oddly extensive powertrain lineup. There are four different engines, three transmissions, two hybrid variants and FWD or AWD to choose from. The base 2.5L four-cylinder engine and 6-speed automatic are largely carried over from the previous Fusion and good for 175 horses and 175lb-ft of twist. This is the sole engine in the Fusion S and base engine in the Fusion SE. We’re told by Ford that most 2.5L Fusions will be headed to fleets.

Next up is the new to America (and thrice recalled) 1.6L turbo direct-injection Ecoboost engine available with or without start-stop technology and with your choice of 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmissions. Proving yet again that turbos are the replacement for displacement, the 1.6L mill produces more power (178HP) and more torque (184lb-ft) at lower RPMs than the 2.5L while delivering 2 more MPGs in the city and 3 more on the highway.

The sporty option is the 2.0L direct injection turbo which takes the place of a V6 in the Fusion SE and Titanium. With 240HP and 270lb-ft of plateau-like forced-induction torque, you’ll never miss those two cylinders. Should AWD be on your must-have list, be ready to shell out $32,200 because it’s available only on the Titanium. Before you complain about the cost of admission, keep in mind your only other mass-market mid-sized AWD option would be a Subaru. Last up is Ford’s redesigned 188HP hybrid system sporting a 2.0L Atkinson-cycle engine, a Ford-designed hybrid CVT transaxle and your choice of regular hybrid or plug-in battery packs. With this much variety appealing to different shoppers, check back with us when we get our hands on the 2.0L Ecoboost and hybrid models.


The Fusion impressed during the photo shoot and looked unstoppable on the printed spec sheet but none of that would matter if it felt like a wet noodle out on the road. Despite having a decidedly American-sized 112.2-inch wheelbase, it’s obvious Ford’s European division took the lead when it came to the chassis. The result is a ride that is incredibly composed, tight in the corners and as communicative as anything with electric power steering. The surprises continue when you shift your right foot over to find linear brake feel, absolutely no Taurus-like brake fade and short stopping distances.

In an interesting twist, the 6-speed manual is available in the 1.6L Ecoboost equipped SE for the same price as the automatic. As you would expect, this is the same 6-speed transmission found in the Fusion’s Euro twin and has a distinctively German engagement and overall feel. Clutch feel is top-notch as well comparing with the liked of the VW Passat and Jetta. In addition, rowing your own doesn’t have a feature penalty allowing you to still check the self-parking and lane departure prevention option boxes. Don’t get too excited, you can’t get the stick with the 2.0L turbo and AWD and if you opt for MyFord Touch you get a tiny digital tach that’s practically useless. For shame.

The 1.6L Ecoboost engine is fairly smooth and quiet on the outside and, thanks to a dedication to sound proofing, almost unnoticeable on the inside. What you will notice however is the broad torque curve of the diminutive four-banger when passing or hill climbing. During a short drive with the 2.5L engine I was constantly annoyed by the transmission’s up-shift happy nature, but despite the 1.6L’s tranny being programmed the same way it didn’t bug me as much. Why? Because all 184lb-ft are available at 2,500RPM and, thanks to the hair-dryer, 90% of that twist is available from 1,500-5,700RPM. This broad torque curve makes the 1.6L Ecoboost Fusion feel faster than it is with our run to 60 completing in 7.9 seconds, about 9/10ths off my gut estimate. This is considerably faster than the Passat and Malibu but not as fast as the Accord and Altima with their efficient CVTs.

Our tester came with the optional ($295) start/stop system which Ford claims is good for a 10% improvement in city driving and results in a 1MPG improvement in the Fusion’s EPA scores bringing the 1.6L SE up to 24/37/28 MPG (City/Highway/Combined). Ford touts the system as smoother than BMW’s 328 start/stop system and they are right. Of course the reason has as much to do with the smaller displacement as the positioning of the engine (transverse vs longitudinal). The way a transverse engine and the vehicle’s suspension interact when cranking is just different. If you live in a particularly hot climate, don’t expect start/stop to save you much as the engine has to stay running to power the A/C. Unlike our stint in the C-MAX, our Fusion beat the EPA combined score by half an MPG over nearly a thousand miles of mixed driving. With excellent fuel economy, dashing good looks, a quiet cabin, good driving dynamics and the longest option list this side of luxury sedan, the Fusion is not just a viable alternative to the competition, it truly is a game changer. The only problem is the pesky (and seemingly frequent) 1.6L engine recalls. Is that enough for me to take the Fusion off my list? Probably not, but I’d buy the hybrid or the 2.0L Ecoboost model anyway.

Ford provided the vehicle, one tank of gas and insurance for this review

0-30: 2.6 Seconds

0-60: 7.9 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16 Seconds @ 88.5 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 28.5MPG over 960 miles


2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Side 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Engine, 1.6L Turbo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Engine, 1.6L Turbo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Engine, 1.6L, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Engine, 1.6L Turbo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Center Console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Infotainment, MyFord Touch Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 147
More Car, Less Filling: Hyundai Makes Sonata Lite Tue, 31 Jul 2012 14:00:36 +0000

What do you do if you lose market share and can’t stand it anymore? You deliver what the market wants. Hyundai is trying to make up for losses in China with a (so far) China only car that slot between the Elantra and the Sonata, says Reuters.

People who know the world’s largest car market will tell you that “Chinese want big cars with small engines.” They want roomy cars that signal that the owner has been prosperous; the engine however should be small enough to deliver a miserly consumption of gas, or “oil” as they say in China.

Hyundai will deliver just that. It will shrink its Sonata, and will power it with a 1.8 liter engine, and possibly a 1.6 liter turbo-charged engine. As Nissan has shown with the Sylphy (an overgrown Tiida,) big car with small engine is the key to Chinese hearts and wallets.

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New or Used: Avoid “Titanium” Grade Depreciation Wed, 14 Dec 2011 16:37:28 +0000


Shawn writes:

Hey Sajeev and Steve,

I recently asked the Best and Brightest for help regarding my friend’s car buying dilema, but now I’m in one of my own! I am looking to get rid of my 2006 Mazda5 GT, which has been quite problematic. I can no longer tolerate the frequent trips to the shop. Its got about 125,000km on it, and I’ve been getting offers ranging from $6000-8000 for it on trade. The cars I am considering are in the compact to mid-size class, but there are benefits to each car, and I can’t seem to make up my mind. I am seeking a car with decent fuel economy that is fairly engaging to drive. However, I DO NOT want a harsh ride. The GTA is filled with pot holed roads, and I know the stiff ride would get tiresome. Manual transmission is preferred, but not necessary. I do carry four people occasionally, so cross out any coupes. On the Mazda I’ve taken quite a hit in the residual value, so this time around, I am looking to buy something that is a couple of years old. That way, someone else takes the largest depreciation hit. Here is the list so far:
  1. 2007 or 2008 Acura CSX w/premium package and manual tranny: Essentially a Civic with a nicer front and rear end, leather, a bit more sound deadening, and the motor from the RSX. Really fun to drive, but the manuals that I’m seeing in the GTA carry a price premium… The 2008 that I test drove with 58,000km is going for $18,900. At this point, does it not make sense to just buy a brand new one for $23,000?
  2. 2008 Honda Civic EX-L w/ manual: The CSX, while it only has 15 more hp, does feel noticeably more powerful than the Civic. My main problem with the Civic is that it feels a little gutless on the highway. However, it does deliver great fuel economy. Going in the $15-17,000 range.
  3. 2007 or 2008 VW Rabbit: These are surprisingly cheap in the GTA… There are quite a few 2007 and 2008s with low mileage going in the $12-15,000 range. I don’t find this car as engaging to drive as the Acura, and the VW shifter just doesn’t compare to the Honda’s. I do love the “solid” VW feel, but I am concerned about the reliability of the Volkswagen. Fuel mileage is also disappointing. Jettas carry a price premium and I prefer the hatch.
  4. 2007 or 2008 Ford Fusion SEL: This is the lazy commuter choice. It was surprisingly good to drive, but I am not a huge fan of the looks, which I find to be a little bland and cheap looking. I would be looking at a 4 banger with auto in this case, because the manuals are just about impossible to find. Quite cheap as well, with low mileage examples going in the $13-16,000 range. Not the greatest on gas either.
  5. 2007 or 2008 Honda CR-V: In Canada, only the LX was offered with front-wheel drive. If you step up to the EX, you need to get AWD, which I am hearing is a little problematic. Apparently, there is a grinding issue in reverse? Either way, I had this car as a rental for a week when the Mazda was in the shop and found it to be quite easy to live with. The steering and brakes were just right and the car was roomy. Downsides? LOUD on the highway, and the ride is a little harsh. Fuel mileage is so-so. Holds it’s value really well, so we’re talking $18-24,000.
Lastly, 2012 Ford Focus Titanium: Ford has really outdone themselves with this one. I found that the car felt like it was worth the admittedly steep price tag. The car has a refinement to it that is not matched in the compact class, and I found the MyFordTouch to be pretty easy to use. Downsides? Rear seat legroom is a joke. Also, I am assuming that this car is not going to hold it’s value well, since most Fords do not. Probably best to wait a couple of years for a lightly used one?
Well, Best and Brightest? What to do? Am I forgetting something that I should be driving? I have intentionally left out the TSX and GTI as I do not want to purchase a vehicle that takes premium when regular is already at $1.38/L.  Help Sajeev and Steve!

Steve Answers:

I used to live in upstate New York which also has rather nasty roads. So I can appreciate your desire to couple comfort with sportiness.

Back when I lived there in the early 90′s, the car to bridge both divides was a Volvo. 240, 740, 940, etc. All those bricks were underpowered. But they offered excellent durability in a nasty climate and a feel for the road that was unique unto anything short of a Mercedes W124.

So what up today? It depends on where your comfort and sportiness intersect. Everything you mentioned would be brutal for me after 50k miles. I would opt for a midsize vehicle that can offer a nice thrust of acceleration, a healthy level of comfort, and a good feel for the road.

My choice? 2007 Honda Accord EX with Leather, V6 and a five-speed. If you can’t find a good one (and yes, that is a tough find in this market), I would just enjoy a four-cylinder version. The Acura versions are overpriced and the price for Subaru Outbacks and Foresters in the northern country makes them poor values compared to a new purchase of the same model.

If you are willing to buy new… ask Sajeev. That’s his domain.

Sajeev Answers:

I can see why you’d want the Focus Titanium, but depreciation on a top drawer compact (just about ANY of them) will be worse than a middle of the road unit. So you should steer clear of Titanium, wait a couple of years for them to show up on the used car market. A new Focus SEL is a wiser move, and you should also test drive the Hyundai Elantra and Sonata…just for funzies!

More to the point, anything can be fun with a touch of aftermarket suspension bits. Sure, the last-gen Focus is fairly hideous, but all the SVT/aftermarket goodies just bolt right up! Ditto a non-SS Chevy Cobalt with all the suspension bits from that “Hot One.”Relatively speaking, of course: none of these modifications will hurt the ride enough to upset your commute to work. Probably.

Well, that’s only food for thought. Also consider the Mazda 6, last generation. They aren’t the best on gas, but I truly enjoy driving them. You might too.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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New or Used: Fahrvergnügen Incarnate? Tue, 12 Jul 2011 17:33:06 +0000

Joana writes:

I am sure you get this all of the time…my apologies in advance. I am replacing my VW Passat 2003 GLS. It was fun to drive, but had its issues as we all know. No sludge thank goodness. Several leaks! I would like a car that is comparable in drivability, (I have a manual but will buy an auto this time), but better in reliability, and perhaps greener. Tell me what to buy please! I have read the reviews, but they are all over the place….I wish you had a favorites list! Thank you.

Sajeev answers:

Telling you what to buy is never a good idea, recommendations followed by ample amounts of test driving is the only way to go. Any of the following cars will be more durable/reliable and cheaper to fix than your current ride, so no worries there. And probably my favorite “sleeper” for a displaced Passat nut is the Toyota Camry SE, it’s quite a well sorted sedan in a place you’d never expect. Obviously the V6 is the best for acceleration but not for fuel economy, and no love for the LE or XLE’s suspension tuning.

The Mazda 6 is another perennial favorite ’round these parts, and its not impossible to have fun in a Ford Fusion “Sport” or maybe even the Nissan Altima. But, at the end of the day, the first car I’d drive for a Passat replacement would be a Sonata: SE Turbo, in this case. Aside from the sweet performance, stellar warranty and decent price, the Turbo SE Sonata has something very VW about it: arguably the best interior appointments in its class and maybe the most impressive style for any family sedan. And it could be Fahrvergnügen incarnate!

Steve answers:

Sajeev pretty much nailed it.

I will add that a well chosen set of tires can go a long way towards making this ride a keeper. I’ve had some plebian rides in my younger days (1990 Geo Prizm anyone?) that all of a sudden felt that much more crisp and sporty thanks to investing in top of the line tires. Most tires from the factory wear out in about 20k to 30k. So you may want to keep an eye out for what other owners of your model do to make their ride more of a driver’s car.

The Hyundai SE Turbo is a top consideration. I’m not much for the Mercedes-esque cocoon like design. But it is definitely a strong value in the midsized market. The Camry SE is a bit too large and stale for my tastes. The Mazda 6 is kinda caught in your cross hairs and the Subaru Legacy is another entry that fits the bill of a ‘sporty’ midsized vehicle. We can throw in the Fusion SE into this mix as well. All of these vehicles will make you happy.

You’re pretty much buying an ‘interior’ and ‘driving feel’ in this segment. The best? More than likely it’s the Sonata Turbo. Good luck!

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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Piston Slap: The Sonata’s Ideal Coda? Mon, 13 Jun 2011 17:39:15 +0000

Mark writes:

We will be buying a new car soon and that will leave us with an extra one. My experience selling a car myself makes me think we don’t really have the motivation to do it ourselves this time around.

The car is located in CT and is a White 2007 Hyundai Sonata SE with ~73k miles on it.  The only option is the Sunroof.  For whatever reason the side mirrors seem to attract having the outer housing broken, they are still functional but the housing rattles. I’ve replaced one, unpainted grey, and will be replacing the other shortly.  There are no other issues with the car as I can tell.  The emissions test is due next month, so I’ll have to have that done.

I need your advice on the easiest way to sell used car. Thanks.

Sajeev answers:

That’s pretty cut and dry: trade it at the dealership where you buy your new ride. Depending on your region’s tax code, the trade lets you avoid capital gains taxes when your car turns into a pile of cash. My only concern is when would-be buyers mention their trade in during the negotiation. And never discuss monthly payments: focus on the purchase price of the vehicle first. Which leads me to another point.

Consider getting an “offer letter” from another dealer, especially the big-box chains like Carmax. It’s a good number to fall back on after negotiating a sale price. If the selling dealer offers you almost nothing for your trade, it means they want to get some money back after making you a smokin’ deal on your new car.

At the end of the day, this quandary comes down to the level of convenience versus the amount of cash in hand.   From your interest level and description of the Hyundai, my guess is that trading in the vehicle as-is, with no reconditioning is the best way to save money on taxes, repairs and save a ton of headaches.

Best and Brightest: share your stories for and against my position. That’s how we all learn!

Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Volt COTY: Korean Paper Calls B.S. Mon, 17 Jan 2011 08:57:56 +0000

„The naming of the Chevrolet Volt as the North American Car of the Year at the Detroit Auto Show last week is sparking some controversy,” reports the Chosun Ilbo from Korea. “The main reason for the skepticism is that the Volt has sold only some 300 units since its launch a month ago. It is the first time that a car with such limited sales has won the award.”

The real sales could be less. “A GM source at the motor show admitted that the Volt’s sales were refigured at the last minute for the award,” writes the paper. What really bothers them: ”Hyundai’s new Sonata, one of the finalists for this year’s award, has sold some 202,000 cars in the U.S. and Canada.”

Without outright saying it, the Chosun Ilbo calls shenanigans. Amongst the 21 contenders, there were 10 Asian and six European nameplates. When the field was whittled down to three contenders, left standing were the Nissan Leaf, the Hyundai Sonata, and the Chevrolet Volt. That the Volt won against all odds doesn’t surprise the paper: “The North American Car of the Year award recently has been disproportionately won by U.S. vehicles.”

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Review: 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Wed, 01 Dec 2010 20:22:41 +0000

Though an upcoming 429-horsepower 5.0-liter V8 might suggest otherwise, Hyundai intends to lead the industry in fuel economy. As recently as 2005 this would have seemed a pipe dream. That year’s Hyundai Sonata automatic managed fuel economy ratings of only 19/27 MPG from the EPA (2008+ system), well below the 21/31 achieved by the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. The 2011 Sonata does far better: 22/35. But the glory, of course, goes to hybrids, and so the Sonata will soon be available in hybrid form. The projected EPA numbers: 36/40. Is Toyota’s hybrid leadership in danger?

By arriving late to the hybrid party, Hyundai had ample opportunity to learn from others’ failures. One lesson: car buyers expect a hybrid to look different. Hyundai’s solution: graft an exceedingly ugly nose, complete with an XXL hexagonal lower grille, onto the Sonata. LED tail lamps take the other end of the car up a notch. Exhaust is the opposite of green, so the pipe is concealed. The exterior tweaks aren’t solely for aesthetics: they also reduce the drag coefficient from an already Volt-beating 0.28 to a Prius-tying 0.25.

The interior is standard stylish Sonata, with a few notable exceptions. An “eco guide” replaces the tach. The trip computer receives a mild upgrade. The optional leather upholstery gains perforations. The optional sunroof gains a rear panel—an odd choice since this should reduce efficiency by adding weight and increasing the load on the AC. And a surprise: the HVAC airflow control is properly three pieces rather than one, so it provides the function as well as the form of the Volvo control that clearly inspired it. As in other hybrids, trunk space takes a hit, dropping from 16.4 to 10.7 cubic feet.

For their hybrids, Ford and Nissan followed the Toyota HSD model. Hyundai has taken a different route. Where HSD employs a planetary gearset CVT, Hyundai retains the regular Sonata’s six-speed automatic—but not quite all of it. Unlike in the late, unlamented Honda Accord Hybrid, which similarly sandwiched a (much weaker) electric motor between a conventional gas engine and a conventional automatic transmission, there’s no torque converter. Instead, the electric motor handles transitions to and from a dead stop. The Sonata Hybrid’s engine also receives one substantial modification. As in the HSG, the 2.4-liter four runs through an Atkinson cycle to virtually lengthen the ignition stroke and so squeeze a bit more energy out of each cycle. The cost of closing the intake valves part way through the compression stroke: 29 peak horsepower (now 169).

The innovation that makes this unique powertrain possible: a clutch between the engine and electric motor. The Honda Accord Hybrid’s engine could not be declutched from the rest of the powertrain, so that car could not run on electric power alone and had to retain the inefficiencies of a torque converter. By declutching the engine, the Sonata Hybrid can (allegedly) cruise up to 62 MPH on electric power alone.

Finally, Hyundai opted for a lithium-polymer battery rather than the NiMH batteries employed by the others. The lithium-polymer batter is more compact and lighter. Partly as a result the Sonata Hybrid weighs only 3,457 pounds, over 200 less than the Camry and Fusion. Downsides? Hyundai isn’t suggesting any, but the newer technology is less proven and can’t be cheap.

How does it behave? Total gas-plus-electric power output is a little higher at the peak, and notably higher at low rpm, where the 40-horsepower electric motor contributes 151 pound-feet of twist. So, like its direct competitors, the Sonata Hybrid feels plenty quick. The drivetrain sometimes plays a touch rough at low speeds—perhaps the clutch engaging and disengaging—but otherwise behaves well. The conventional automatic feels so much more normal than a CVT—it can even be manually shifted—that the deleted tach is actually missed.

So what’s not to love? Fuel economy. I barely touched 40 in a largely highway stint. When did 40 become disappointing? When the 274-horsepower Sonata 2.0T achieved the same. In suburban driving, I managed “only” 31.3 despite a very light foot. The 36 promised by the EPA numbers wasn’t happening. And while electric-only operation might be possible up to 62 MPH, it doesn’t actually happen unless you’re extremely light on the gas. A tailwind and/or a downhill slope might also be required. The Toyota-type system seems to have a clear advantage in city and suburban driving. In these conditions the Ford Fusion Hybrid tops the Sonata by about 10 MPG. Drive the Sonata Hybrid aggressively, and suburban fuel economy falls below 20. A Ford Fusion Hybrid still managed 27 when subjected to my lead foot.

Better driving aids might help, or would at least be more entertaining. Toyota, Ford, and others have been providing ever more precise and detailed feedback to help drivers adjust their driving style to maximize efficiency. In contrast, the Sonata Hybrid’s “eco guide” is little better than the MPG gauge BMW has been offering for decades. A vine that grows and loses leaves against a background that changes color, both based on your driving style, can be summoned up, but it’s as useless here as it is elsewhere. Sought but not found: some indication of the limits of the regenerative braking system, beyond which the conventional brake rotors cut in to convert kinetic energy into heat.

With curb weight up just a couple hundred pounds, and with the steering electrically-assisted in both cases, the Sonata Hybrid steers and handles much like the regular Sonata. Meaning better than average, and bordering on fun to drive, but not as taut as the Fusion Hybrid. With the optional 17-inch wheels the ride is more jittery than the Sonata Limited’s. The likely culprit: while the tire size is the same, 215/55VR17, the Limited wore Hankook H431s while the Hybrid is shod with Kumho Solus KH25s. Even so, the ride-handling balance could be the best in the segment, with sharper handling than the Camry and a smoother ride than the Fusion.

Taken by itself, the 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is a very good, even excellent car. But, even more than most hybrids, it makes little rational sense. Despite the lofty promise made by the EPA city figure, the hybrid system doesn’t seem to improve fuel economy nearly as much as the Toyota-type system in city and suburban driving. It fares better on the highway—40 MPG for a roomy, semi-lux sedan is certainly admirable—but must then contend with the regular Sonata, which does nearly as well, even with the 274-horsepower turbocharged engine. Pricing for the Hybrid hasn’t yet been announced. If Hyundai charges $2,500 or less extra for the hybrid bits, which will be cut in half by a $1,300 tax credit, and the technology turns you on more than the front end turns you off, then by all means go for it. Otherwise, the regular Sonata is a better bet.

Hyundai made this vehicle available for review at a ride-and-drive event.

Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive reliability and pricing data.

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Review: Hyundai Sonata Turbo Sat, 27 Nov 2010 01:35:58 +0000

Review any car priced between $18,000 and $28,000 lately, and someone’s bound to comment, “I’d much rather have a $20,000 Hyundai Sonata.” This hasn’t just been talk. Sales of the 2011 Sonata have exceeded Hyundai’s most fanciful expectations, leaving the car in short supply. Now, to add fuel to the fire, you can get the Sonata with a turbo. Should you? Well, it depends.

The Sonata with a turbo looks exactly like a Sonata without a turbo, with one minor exception: the Limited 2.0T wears the SE’s 18-inch alloys in place of the 2.4’s 17s. Those who expect a more powerful car to look more powerful, or at least different, will be disappointed. Others will see a swoopy sedan that’s far more stylish than the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Some of the new has worn off since the Sonata’s spring debut, but it will still be a year or two before key competitors can possibly catch up. The most immediate aesthetic challenge will come from a redesigned Kia Optima, which shares the Sonata’s platform and powertrains but has even more dramatic (if also more disjointed) styling.

The Sonata’s interior is similarly unaffected by the powertrain upgrade. As such, it’s among the segment leaders in terms of styling, materials, room, and comfort. Anyone seeking performance-oriented bits like a boost gauge or aggressively bolstered buckets won’t find them.

The normally aspirated 2.4-liter engine’s 198-200 horsepower is plenty powerful for the great majority of midsize sedan buyers. But some people “need” more grunt, and a number of others—perhaps a quarter of the total—will pay for more even if they’ll rarely if ever actually use it. Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Ford, Chevrolet, and Mazda offer such buyers a 3.5-or-so-liter V6. Hyundai has taken a different route by offering a turbocharged 2.0-liter four instead.

Fortified with direct injection and a twin scroll turbocharger cast integral with the exhaust manifold, the Hyundai engine manages a few more horsepower than any of the sixes (for a total of 274) and ties the stoutest (Mazda’s 3.7) for peak torque (269 pound-feet). Typical of a turbo, the torque peak arrives early, at 1,750 rpm. Curb weight, 3,338 pounds for the SE 2.0T and 3,452 pounds for the Limited 2.0T, is among the lowest in the group, so the specs promise thrillingly strong performance.

Well, the turbocharged engine delivers strong acceleration, but without much in the way of thrills. The turbo 2.0 is a little louder than the normally aspirated 2.4, but is otherwise refined and revs with the same general lack of drama. The additional noise is mostly mechanical. There’s none of the exhaust roar / drone present in Hyundai’s previous-generation 2.0-liter turbo, still offered in the Genesis Coupe. The main aural shortcoming: even a very good four never sounds nearly as sweet as a decent six. At low rpm there’s little lag. At higher rpm there’s none. As with many boosted engines that employ the latest technology, the power curve is exceedingly linear. There’s no strong shove at low rpm (despite what the torque peak might suggest), no sudden surge of power in the midrange, no zing in the final rush for the redline. Also very little torque steer.

The mandatory manually-shiftable six-speed automatic transmission behaves well enough. The Limited 2.0T gains the SE’s shift paddles. These permit a little more involvement, but are no substitute for the manual transmission not offered.

The biggest upside surprise with the 2.0T: fuel economy. The EPA rates the 2.0T for 22 city / 33 highway, compared to the 2.4’s 22/35. In the real world, I observed as low as 11 in full hoon mode. But in casual driving the trip computer’s numbers easily exceeded the EPA’s, with the average even touching 40 MPG during one stretch of semi-rural byway.

Handling is also much the same. The Sonata’s steering is considerably firmer than a Camry XLE’s, but still isn’t especially sporting. The chassis feels composed and balanced in casual driving but, typical of a mainstream-oriented front-wheel-drive midsizer, understeers when pressed. The 18s lifted from the SE sharpen the Limited’s steering a bit, but also add some thumpiness to the ride and some tire noise on concrete. As with the 2.4, the top trim level is the way to go, though its additional features (leather upholstery, sunroof, 360-watt audio system, automatic climate control, and so forth) do inflate the base price. The SE’s firmer suspension unsettles the car’s ride more than it improves the car’s handling.

The $1,750 price bump for the turbo, which includes the shift paddles and larger wheels and takes the Limited to $27,765, suggests a healthy bang for the buck.

But with the Sonata’s character hardly affected, much less transformed, by the addition of boost, those who think Evo and STI (or at least 2005-2009 Legacy GT) when they hear “274-horsepower turbocharged four” are bound to be disappointed. The Sonata 2.0T simply wasn’t developed with enthusiasts in mind, likely because there just aren’t that many of them. It was developed to compete head on with the V6-powered Camcord crowd. And that’s what it does. Expect the Sonata 2.0T to be in short supply for the same reasons the 2.4 has been. It delivers what the mainstream buyer wants, just a little more quickly.

Hyundai provided this vehicle at a ride-and-drive event.

Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive reliability and pricing data.

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Braking Down The Hyundai Sonata Wagon Thu, 28 Oct 2010 14:34:14 +0000

TTAC’s own Israeli man of mystery, Tal Bronfer, has been busy with non-TTAC related work this summer, but he’s just checked in from the Alps with brand new images of the Hyundai Sonata Wagon (known in Europe as the Hyundai i40) brake testing on Austria’s Grossglockner High Alpine Road. Tal was blasting through the Grossglockner in some rapid Teutonic metal (let’s just say it has at least one “R,” and one “S” in its name, and a review is forthcoming) when he smelled brakes. Naturally, his first thought was to check his own, but the culprit was this lightly-camouflaged wagon “slowly, braking downhill all the way from the top of the mountain.” Another Sonata Wagon was tow-testing.

What these pictures reveal is that the Sonata Wagon is not a simple sheetmetal job, as the elongated roof falls away gracefully towards the rear of the car, and appears to offer integrated roof rails. It’s a Euro-style “sport-wagon” in the mold of the European Accord rather than a US-style “cross-wagon” like the Venza or Crosstour, which indicates that it won’t come to the US. After all, with the Mazda6 and Subaru Legacy wagons discontinued, the mass-market station wagon seems all but dead. On the other hand, the Sonata has been punching above its weight since it debuted, and with the Euro-Accord wagon coming stateside as the TSX Sportwagon, and a Buick Regal wagon rumored, the i40 may yet come to the states as a Sonata Wagon.

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Review: 2011 Hyundai Sonata SE Mon, 11 Oct 2010 17:53:02 +0000

Chatting with frequent flyers provides a unique context to mainstream vehicles, especially with recent changes at the rental car counter. That’s because the 2011 Hyundai Sonata arrived and she’s all that with a bucket of awesome. Renting one is like an extra $50 Per Diem, or a “suite” upgrade at the Hilton. After spotting a Sonata SE on the showroom floor, I’m wondering if the same applies for retail buyers with a need for road holding and toddler hauling. Because the Sonata is certainly a nice car.

Something’s afoot when Hyundai brochure photography mimics the minimal, high contrast punch of a luxury brand. The Sonata isn’t the second coming of the Chrysler LH cars, as the cab forward A-pillar needs a hunk of black plastic to give an essence of sleekness, without actually doing so. But a gen-u-wine window, not a plastic plug, accents the Sonata’s C-pillar slant. Add the chrome-accented beltline running from the fenders to the C-pillar for more proof of Hyundai’s lack of beancounting. Like the outgoing Mercedes CLS, the Sonata is downright gorgeous from some angles, plump and tall from others.

But aside from the pulled back headlights (that look like my dog’s eyes when pushing her forehead rearward) and the grille’s XXL orthodontics, there isn’t an offensive or derivative line on this body. I could elaborate, but will close with the Sonata SE’s smoke-toned, 18-inch rims and punchy dual exhausts (worth an extra 2hp, dontchaknow) for maximum visual punch.

For the $23,800 as-tested price, there’s much to appreciate inside: richly grained wheel with multiple elements working in striking harmony, a Lexus-worthy center stack and clean (but functional) multi-screened gauges. Combine the dash with door panels that look too good for its class, and I wonder if Hyundai is engaging in price dumping: the Sonata is just that frickin’ classy.

More proof: upscale chrome accents surround the driver like a Cadillac CTS. Options like sat-nav, moonroof and high-wattage audio are worthy upgrades, since the stock audio system has all the gadgets (Bluetooth, USB, XM, 6-speakers) but needs more defined imaging and a subwoofer for maximum bump. Aside from the need for piano black trim (a la Sonata Limited) the SE’s guts are damn near impossible to fault.

It’s all in a package that provides reasonable trunk space (with easy to close, bean counter approved, dog-leg hinges) comfortable seating for five and unique leather and cloth seating for the Sonata SE. The latter is a wonderful throwback to 1980’s euro pocket rockets, though lateral support isn’t up to yesteryear’s specifications. Yet the grippy yet supple coverings symbolize the SE’s need to provide luxury where you need it, performance where it matters. While the turbo model has yet to hit the showroom, there’s one convenient truth to the 200hp, direct-injected, twin-cammed, four-cylinder motor: it has entry-level sedan economy with most of the performance desired from a top-drawer V6 upgrade.

Mash the throttle on the Sonata SE and there’s no torque steer, but plenty of torque for sane drivers. Midrange thrust is distinctly V6-like, without the price or economy (35MPG) penalty associated with a larger motor. The SE’s flappy paddle shifters are like grade school relationships: she won’t let you kiss (the rev limiter) but she’ll make you squirm (in top gear with no revs) until you downshift on your own.

And holding gears to one’s satisfaction is very much appreciated, considering the SE’s steering and suspension upgrades. Much like the SE-fettled Camry, the Sonata has reasonable feel with nicely weighted boost, flat cornering to mild understeer at the limit. It’s a fun sedan that “feels” better after finishing said hoonery, looking at the nearasdammit luxury car surroundings and pondering the asking price on the sticker.

Then again, the Sonata isn’t the second coming of the Model T: it has competition. And the SE’s NVH controls are distinctly lacking on highway trips, as tire howl from the 18” wheels merited extra stereo gain to silence the rumble. And I still “felt” the howl. Add the slightly choppy ride of this sporting sedan and perhaps either of the other Sonata models is a wiser choice for most Americans. Plus, the Sonata Limited’s upscale options (rear heated seats, side mirrors with turn signal duplicators) make for a convincing case in upselling.

Plus, Hyundai’s loony 10-year warranty: which kept me thinking that, aside from these tires, the Sonata SE is a cheap and cheerful high-performance import sedan from yesteryear, with more modern luxuries than any (non-Phaeton) VW. Somehow, the Hyundai Sonata raised the bar for this class. And to every new family sedan waiting in the wings: match this car’s interior content, direct injected performance and upscale options, or go home.

Readers who follow TTAC on Facebook had the opportunity to ask questions about the Sonata SE. If you would like to ask questions of reviews in progress, check out our Facebook page. Fans, here are your answers.

T. Redfern, S. Chandrashekar: after sampling the Camry/Sonata SE, the only thing going for Toyota is the quieter tires, I suspect the non-sport Sonatas will clean house. R. Lauder: stacking up to the Accord, Camry, Fusion and Malibu is tough to say without a comparo test, but it smells like a home run. D. Thuma: it’s a stylish car with *stunning* attention to detail and respectable performance. R. Aucoin: No clue if a steering shaft recall was performed, but the steering gear didn’t pole-vault me down the highway. M. Singer: Yes, but I think the “eco” light goes away when you have the fuel economy gauge activated.

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Sales Chart: The “Big Six” Midsize Sedans In 2010 Fri, 02 Jul 2010 19:34:26 +0000

These six sedans are the fleshy part of the American car market. Big-name D-segment sedans sell like crazy, and pretty much made Honda and Toyota what they are today. Their dominance of this segment, often called “Camccord” after their two best-sellers, remains unchecked as each has spent three months on top of the chart. But there’s danger down below. Hyundai’s Sonata has been making steady progress all year (June excepted), and the Malibu has enjoyed more modest, but equally steady growth. Altima all but matched Camry in February, and gave Accord a scare in March. There’s still a tight pack of four nipping at the heels of the big dogs. Time to start coming up with a new nickname for the D-Segment?

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Comparison Review: 2011 Hyundai Sonata Versus 2010 Toyota Camry XLE Wed, 21 Apr 2010 16:24:25 +0000

Driving enthusiasts love to hate the Toyota Camry. Yet, despite the company’s current troubles, it remains the best-selling car in the United States. Hyundai would love to steal the crown, or at least tens of thousands of customers. So it recently launched a totally redesigned 2011 Sonata and will be advertising it heavily. Should Toyota be concerned?

Both the young (my kids) and the old (my parents) were captivated by the beauty of the Camry. Not the sheetmetal, mind you. They probably didn’t notice the shape of the car. The bulbous exterior was a great leap forward for a Camry four years ago—engineers might have designed the previous generation sedan—but at this point it is a generation behind current automotive fashion. The good angles it does possess (not the front view even with this year’s redesigned grille) have been overexposed through its omnipresence. And the XLE’s small, multispoked alloys don’t flatter the car—the SE looks considerably better. Rather, my family was captivated by the paint, a highly metallic dark green.

The Sonata’s paint options are relatively ordinary. But its swoopy exterior design marks a sharp departure from that of the handsome but utterly forgettable 2006-2010 Sonata. What the Mercedes-Benz CLS did for luxury sedans—bring coupe-like style to the segment—Hyundai hopes to do for midsize family sedans. Some resemblance can be seen to various luxury sedans (CLS, A6, ES), but Hyundai has also taken far more risks here than with the Genesis. An arching roofline, a couple of strong, curving character lines, and a ribbon of chrome trim that connects the beltline to the headlights could have combined in the side view to form a complicated mess. And yet these design elements manage to form a whole that is both cohesive and distinctive, and at once upscale and sporty. Even the fashionably oversized grille works. Most important of all: unlike the Genesis sedan, the new Sonata stands out on a crowded road—even without fancy paint. In comparison, the Toyota looks stodgy.

Upholstered in light gray leather, the Camry XLS interior includes nothing analogous to the exterior’s paint. Its design is thoroughly conventional circa 2006. One exception: the audio controls to the right of the nav screen are a bit of a reach, a common sin these days.

As with the exterior, the new Sonata’s interior is much more up-to-date and stylish than the Camry’s. The instrument panel includes some artful curves, but is cleanly designed. All of the buttons are easy to reach, and they helpfully vary in shape and size. As with the exterior, Hyundai appears to have benchmarked luxury sedans rather than other family sedans. Controls beneath the nav screen mimic an Infiniti’s, while the climate controls mimic a Volvo’s. The anthropomorphic control for directing airflow is just a single button rather than the three found in a Volvo, though, so it captures the Swede’s style more than its functionality. After sampling all three trim levels—cloth GLS, cloth/leather SE (sport), and leather Limited, the last is easily the most attractive. For those who want an escape from black, gray, and beige, wine-colored hides are offered.

Interior materials are of similar quality in both cars: not bad, but you’re clearly not in a luxury car. The Toyota has higher-quality switchgear, but its glossy “wood” is too obviously plastic and the silver-painted trim covering the center stack doesn’t even pretend to be aluminum. Perhaps because it was tailored for the European market, the interior in Hyundai’s new Tucson feels more solid and tightly constructed than that in either of these sedans.

The steering wheels deserve special consideration. Prior to the Genesis, Hyundai upholstered its cars’ steering wheels with the world’s slickest leather. With the Genesis they seemed to have finally realized that the point of having leather on the steering wheel is to make it easier to grip, not to help it slip through one’s fingers. But with the new Sonata they’ve backslid. The artfully designed steering wheel has a rim composed of three different materials: urethane on the outer sides, slippery leather from 10 to 2 o’clock and from 5 to 7, and, inside the lower perimeter, the sort of rubberized plastic that tended to wear poorly in MkIV Jettas. The last was already badly worn on one of the tested cars. None of the materials is well-suited to the task, and three is two too many. A good steering wheel has one material, a grippy leather, all the way around the rim–like the one in the Camry.

The Camry doesn’t have great front seats, but they’re both more supportive and more comfortable than those in the Sonata. With the Sonata, the feel of the seat varies quite a bit depending on whether the center panel upholstery is cloth, as in the GLS and SE, or leather, as in the Limited. The leather seats feel firmer, and you sit noticeably higher in them, or rather on them. With either upholstery the side bolsters quickly surrender when called upon to provide lateral support. The Camry’s side bolsters failed me less, but then I asked less of them. 

Some other car reviews will tell you that the Sonata’s new coupe-like roofline cost the sedan 2.8 inches of rear legroom compared to the previous generation car. What they fail to notice: maximum front legroom increased by 1.8 inches—which is sure to delight long-legged drivers (with a 30-inch inseam, I’m not one). So rear legroom is only down by an inch, and still fairly plentiful. Rear headroom, not quite so much. Tall passengers will have the scrunch down or sit up front. Other than this, the rear seat is perhaps more comfortable than the front seat. It’s a decent height off the floor, the backrest provides a healthy amount of lumbar support, and in the Limited it’s even heated.

The Camry’s back seat is even better, with a little more room, a little more height off the floor, and, in the XLE, manual recliners. The price of the manual recliners: unlike in the base Camry and the Sonata, the rear seat doesn’t fold to expand the trunk. Both cars have usefully commodious trunks that are moderately compromised by conventional gooseneck hinges and constricted openings. In both the Camry XLE and Sonata Limited, but not in lesser trims, rear seat passengers get their own air vents, a welcome feature on hot sunny days.

The tested Camry was fitted with a 268-horsepower DOHC 3.5-liter V6. Hyundai will offer no V6 in the new Sonata, we’re told to shave 100 pounds off the curb weight (a commendably light 3,199 pounds with the automatic). And a 274-horsepower turbo four won’t arrive until fall. So the cars I drove were fitted with a 198-horsepower direct-injected DOHC 2.4-liter four (200 with the SE’s dual exhaust). Not an even match, so just a few words on each.

The Camry’s V6 engine is easily the most entertaining aspect of the car. It’s smooth, powerful, and makes lusty noises when prodded. But there’s really little point to it in this car. The Camry simply doesn’t ask to be pushed hard enough to render the four-cylinder insufficient. Then again, Detroit’s specialty used to be overpowered cars with soft suspensions and over-boosted steering, and perhaps there’s still a market for this combination.

The Sonata’s new engine is, like the related port-injected unit in the new Tucson, very smooth and quiet for a four. Even held at 4,500 RPM using the automatic’s manual shift feature it’s not loud, and it never sounds rough. The previous generation four sounds and feels uncivilized in comparison, and it’s not a bad engine. The loud clacking typical of high-pressure injectors can be heard when outside the Sonata, but not when inside it. Thrust is a bit soft up to about 25 miles-per-hour, beyond which point the engine feels fairly energetic, if not a substitute for a V6. Few buyers will need more power or refinement than this four offers. The others can wait a few months for the turbo.

The Camry’s engine provides good fuel economy for a powerful V6, about 22 around town. But the Hyundai’s new four is outstanding in this regard, earning a class-leading 22/35 MPG from the EPA. Driven along rural roads, I observed 35 MPG for one segment, and low 30s overall. So the EPA numbers don’t seem to have been cheated. A hybrid arrives in the fall, but it seems pointless unless most driving involves frequent stops.

Both the Camry and Sonata are fitted with six-speed automatics that usually shift smoothly and behave well. One minor demerit for the Hyundai’s box: it slightly lugs the engine at times, no doubt to maximize fuel economy. Those whose ears aren’t sensitive to low frequency sounds will never notice.

The Camry and Sonata drive about as differently as they look. The first thing you’ll notice when setting off in the Camry: it feels extremely smooth and quiet, clearly the result of lessons learned when developing Lexus. Bumps effect some head toss at moderate speeds, but overall the Toyota’s ride could hardly be more comfortable. Unfortunately, the focus on isolation extends to the steering. It’s far too light, lacks a strong sense of direction, and (aside from some kickback) is devoid of feel. A shame, because even in XLE trim the chassis is more composed than in previous non-sport Camrys. A firm, even overly firm, suspension is standard in the Camry SE.

The three trims of the Sonata all drive differently. The GLS’s higher-profile 16-inch tires are noisier than the Limited’s 17s and harm the car’s ride and handling. Paired with steelies, they’re begging for a mod. The SE’s 18s are also noisier than the Limited’s 17s, and together with a firmer suspension yield a busy, occasionally unsettled ride. If the SE handled much better than the Limited the ride penalty might be worth it, but it doesn’t. The Limited handles nearly as well as the SE, and rides more quietly and much more smoothly. Add in its more attractive interior and additional features, and the Limited is easily the best of the three trims. If you want a Sonata, you want a Sonata Limited.

Still, compared to the Camry XLE, the Sonata Limited isn’t as quiet or as smooth. It’s the difference between good, even very good, and great. The Camry feels like a premium car through the seat of one’s pants and the drums of one’s ears. The Sonata does not quite manage the same. On the other hand, the Sonata’s steering, while nearly as devoid of feel as the Camry’s, isn’t overly light, is nicely weighted, and has a clear sense of direction. As a result, even down two cylinders the Hyundai is more engaging and fun to drive (such things being relative).

In the end, the Camry cannot escape its advancing age. It does a few things extremely well, and most other things very well, but its steering is far too light and its styling is bland and dated. With the new Sonata, Hyundai has avoided competing with the Camry head on. The Sonata isn’t as smooth, as quiet, or as comfortable, but it has better steering and is more fun to drive. But will many midsize sedan buyers notice or care about the difference in how the cars steer? Maybe, maybe not. But they’ll certainly notice how the new Sonata looks. A Hyundai that sells because of how it looks—who saw this coming? Now if only Hyundai offered some eye-catching green paint…

Toyota and Hyundai provided the vehicles, insurance and one tank of gas each for this review

Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online source of auto reliability and pricing data

100_6814 100_6817 100_6913 100_6917 100_6922 100_6927 100_7008 100_7011 100_7016 100_7020 100_7025 100_7030 100_7032 100_7033 100_7034 100_7041 100_7043 100_7050 100_7051 Camry_front Can Hyundai take on the king? (All photos by Michael Karesh) Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 96
New York: 2011 Hyundai Sonata Turbo Thu, 01 Apr 2010 15:51:54 +0000

Hyundai’s Sonata would be a quantum leap forward for the Korean firm under any circumstances, but with a direct-injected standard model, a new hybrid model and now a twin-scroll turbocharged model, it also offers three of the hottest technologies in the business today. The turbo version makes 274 hp, 269 lb-ft of torque while still achieving an estimated 22/34 mpg, making it a V6-free performance option in the crowded midsized segment. Too bad it won’t be available with a manual transmission.

P1010018 P1010017 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail P1010015 P1010016 P1010019 P1010014 ]]> 45
New York: Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Thu, 01 Apr 2010 01:12:53 +0000

Hyundai’s just-unveiled Sonata Hybrid is the latest step in the Korean brand’s assault on the American automotive landscape, and it looks to have been a good one. No licensed bits from Toyota here, in fact Hyundai’s new powertrain does away with Toyota’s powersplit-CVT concept, simply replacing the torque converter on its automatic transmission with a starter-generator motor and a high-efficiency oil pump. Ok, maybe not simply.

Hyundai claims the design is lighter and more robust than the competition (the Sonata Hybrid is 236 lbs lighter than Fusion Hybrid), allows it to operate in EV mode up to 62  MPH, and offers more “balanced” efficiency gains in city and highway mileage. With efficiency gains from aero work ["because only Hybrids deserve improved aerodynamics," glowers Sajeev in his notes], Hyundai projects the Sonata Hybrid will do 37 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway. Whether those numbers hold up in the real world is one of the many questions we’d like answered by some time in the driver’s seat. All we know for now is that the styling seems to be the best compromise so far between the Prius, Volt and Insight’s “just-crawled-out-of-a-wind-tunnel” look and the “let’s just slap some badges on it” school of hybrid design.

P1010024 P1010022 P1010025 That thing gotta... oh, never mind. sonata-hybrid ]]> 27
What’s Wrong With This Picture: Kia’s Optima-sm Edition Sun, 14 Mar 2010 17:12:03 +0000

Quick, want to guess what the single piece brings more traffic to TTAC than any other? Thanks to an early Korean-spec test (don’t worry, further tests of the US-spec model are forthcoming) and the blessings of good Google rankings, our 2011 Hyundai Sonata review has been our single biggest source of traffic over the last several months. But getting a review out early isn’t the only reason so many folks are finding their way to TTAC by way of the Sonata: people are researching the car like crazy. Kelly Blue Book lists the Sonata as its number four most-researched vehicle, as does, indicating that it’s poised to play with the perennial chart-toppers from Honda and Toyota. Meanwhile, Kia still has yet to make the jump to mainstream prominence, although its version of the Sonata  (still unfortunately named Optima) could be an important step in Korea’s bid to make inroads on the US market. Certainly its Peter Schreyer-designed lines won’t have anyone confusing the Optima with a decontented Sonata.

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LA Auto Show: 2011 Hyundai Sonata Thu, 03 Dec 2009 00:55:28 +0000 It's Sonata Camry... they say.

Hyundai is continuing their roll in North America with their latest Sonata, and they know it. In (now) typical Hyundai fashion they stuck it to Toyota and Honda, touting not only their increase in sales in 2009, but their industry-besting CAFE numbers as well. Hyundai is claiming 35mpg highway for their new Sonata with the 2.4L GDI engine, and say the turbo GDI expected mid-2010 will get the same 35mpg on the highway. According to the President of Hyundai North America, the Sonata will be in showrooms in January 2010 and should list for under $20,000 with the usual bevy of standard equipment you expect in a Korean car. Check out TTAC’s review of a Korean-spec 2011 Sonata here.

sonata4 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail sonata6 sonata5 It's Sonata Camry... they say. sonata2 sonata1-thumb sonata3 ]]> 35
Ask the Best and Brightest: Ceramic or Kevlar Brake Pads? Wed, 04 Feb 2009 14:53:08 +0000

A reader writes:

I’m beginning to shop around for pads for my ’07 Sonata (3.3 liter motor). I’m looking to replace the OEM pads (which were very good, BTW) with something with a little more bite. Initially, I was looking at ceramic pads, but I’ve noticed in my shopping that Titanium Kevlar pads are roughly $10 cheaper depending on where you go. What is the consensus between Ceramic vs. Titanium Kevlar? Is it one of those you get what you pay for deals? Or is there a value? Also, would it be ill-advised to mix and match? Say Ceramics up front and Titanium Kevs in the rear? I’m having a somewhat hard time looking for sites that offer ceramics for the rear of the car. Do the B&B recommend any good sites for brake shopping? TireRack doesn’t offer them, at least for my car. I’ve scoured the forums and they are mostly useless on this subject. I basically want a set of pads that bite well, haul the car down noticeably and give good feel. I don’t care about brake dust.

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