Hyundai Sonata: The Refresh That Pauses

Justin Berkowitz
by Justin Berkowitz

Hyundai's Sonata might be the ultimate in passion-free motoring (it's also available in 100 calorie packs), but it's a direct hit on an American market that shops on specs first, character second. Sales slipped just a tad in 2007 to 145,568 Sonatas, indicating it's a good time for the company to roll out a refresh. Exterior changes are subtle; you'd do better to spot differences between pop singer Fergie's face and a pumpkin. The beauty here is on the inside (same with Fergie, we're sure). First, Hyundai's finally fit a proper interior to the Sonata. The 2004 – 2007 model's cabin was decent and ergonomically acceptable, but buyers wanted a little more style– especially at the higher trim levels. So the new Sonata has a mostly new interior, including a slick looking center stack that's more than a little reminiscent of the Lexus RX. The Sonata also gets optional navigation, which means Hyundai can finally join competitors in scamming customers out of $1500 they could save by buying a TomTom-type device. Second, Hyundai shakes up the powertrains. The four-cylinder engine is now up to 175 horses (from 162) and gains a cog (five-speed auto). The legato V6 is also up to 249 horses from 234. These power bumps also bring slight mileage improvements: 22/32 for the four-pot and 19/29 for the big boy V6. Despite stagnant sales numbers and fleet dependence issues, the Sonata has been a giant leap for vanillacarkind. These refinements should help keep the numbers healthy until the next full redesign.

Justin Berkowitz
Justin Berkowitz

Immensely bored law student. I've also got 3 dogs.

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  • Blautens Blautens on Feb 07, 2008

    They started out with a good (but not necessarily the best), mainstream (if a little conservative) product that had a lot of value. Now it gets a little better. Kinda reminds you of some other companies who used to be newcomers (and therefore smaller players) to the American market, huh?

  • Justin Berkowitz Justin Berkowitz on Feb 07, 2008

    beetlebug and John R: You can add me to the list of people that has been very pleasantly surprised with rental Sonatas. I've had both 4 and 6 cylinder models, and really enjoyed them all. Just a totally competent, comfortable car. Easy to drive, etc.

  • GS650G GS650G on Feb 07, 2008

    One has to ask oneself what do you expect froma car. If the ultimate driving experience is the only thing that will do, then don't buy a Sonata. the vast majority of the public wants a decent affordable car that doesn't give them any shit and can merge onto the highway. As long as you can carry some things in the trunk and get decent mileage doing it, well that is good enough. The Sonata has taken market share from the Taurus, Malibu, Accord, Camry cars and given Hyundai profits as a result. People don't look down their noses at Hyundai like they used to, their build quality, reliability and value speaks for itself.

  • Odays Odays on Feb 07, 2008

    I agree with you that a lot can be saved when opting out of extras like navigation. I bought a new car last summer and decided not to get the built in navigation system, now I use the TomTom ONE XL-S. It has worked out better for me this way - I like that I have a portable GPS so I can bring it with me when traveling and renting a car in a new area.