The Bottom Line
Hyundai is kicking off 2009 with a round of improvements to its front-wheel-drive mid-size sedan, the Sonata: Freshened front and rear styling, updated interior controls, retuned suspension, and -- most importantly -- engines revised for better fuel economy, which is now comparable to or slightly better than its rivals. And the price is still well below most of the competition. But a bargain isn't a bargain if the car is no good -- so how is the new Sonata? Read on, my friends, read on.
- Excellent value-for-money
- Electronic stability control is standard in all models
- Roomy and comfortable
- Staid styling
- Totally uninvolving to drive
- Mid-size Sonata has been "freshened" for 2009 with updated styling, cabin, engines and suspension
- Price range: $18,995 - $28,910
- Price as tested: $24,845
- EPA fuel economy estimates: 19-22 MPG city, 29-32 highway
Guide Review - 2009 Hyundai Sonata
The current Sonata made its debut in 2006, and I've always liked it -- if not for its driving dynamics and style then for its value and commitment to safety, neither of which have changed with the 2009 update. Whether you go for the base-model Sonata GLS with a manual transmission or a full-on Limited V6 with leather and navigation, a Sonata will run you anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 less than a comparably-equipped Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima or Honda Accord. And when I say "comparably equipped", don't forget that the Sonata comes with electronic stability control as standard -- a fantastic high-tech safety feature that's optional on the Camry and not available on four-cylinder Altimas.
I drove a Sonata Limited with the 2.4 liter four-cylinder engine, which gave me power-adjustable leather seats, climate control, auto-dimming mirrors, alloy wheels, a 6-disc CD changer and XM satellite radio for $24,845, just a tad less than a Honda Accord EX with cloth seats. Granted, Hyundais don't hold their value as well as Hondas, but you're more likely to land a better deal on the Sonata -- at the time of writing, Hyundai was offering $2,000 off MSRP, and that's pre-haggling.
That said, the Sonata does have a few bits of cheap-looking plastic in the cabin, and driving it is about as exciting as watching snow melt. It's powerful enough and comfortable enough, but the whole driving experience is kind of...anesthetized. If you want fun-to-drive, you'd be better off with a Honda Accord or a Mazda 6 (both of which, by the way, feature electronic stability control as standard).
Of course, not everyone's looking for sporty, but many of us are looking for a bargain -- and that's where the Sonata excels. The 2009 Hyundai Sonata is a great choice for those seeking affordable family-friendly transportation. It's a first-rate car at a cut-rate price.
-- Aaron Gold