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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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 Edmunds.com, 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.
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.
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.