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2011 Hyundai Sonata Road Test Review

-- Congratulations to Hyundai Sonata --
2011 International Car of the Year

2011 Hyundai Sonata Road Test Review
by Bob Plunkett

The Sonata looks like a sleek coupe but wears four doors

Hyundai of South Korea, the current red-hot car company, invests in the North American car market with a billion-dollar assembly plant in Alabama, a technology and engineering center in Michigan, studios for research and design in California and a vehicle test track pitched in the Mojave Desert.

As a result, many of the vehicles in Hyundai's extensive product line skew toward the American market -- such as the new design for Sonata, a four-door and five-passenger front-wheel-drive sedan which comes out of the Alabama factory.

Rank the 2011 Sonata as completely new in scale, style and mechanical components.

It slots into the rather crowded class of a mid-size sedan, although generous space in the passenger compartment seems more like the cabin of a large-size car.

A special thanks to Bridestone for sponsoring the 2011 International Car of the Year Awards. Bridestone Tire - Sponsor of the 2011 International Car of the Year Awards


Hyundai laces new Sonata with serious hardware which includes sporty suspension tuning and a strong powertrain that achieves best-in-class fuel economy scores, and high-tech electronics to manage the vehicle's dynamic movements as well as communications, navigation, comfort, even on-board entertainment gear.

But a forceful engine and extensive content in electronic vehicle controls are not the ingredients which cause a new Sonata to pop out in a cluster of cars rolling on the PCH -- Pacific Coast Highway -- as we steer a Sonata SE edition through the California beach community of Del Mar in San Diego County.

It's the stunning shape of the slick sheet metal that makes this Sonata so much automotive eye candy.

We park ours on a lot at Torrey Pines State Beach simply to scrutinize the fresh forms and clean lines.

Theme for the exterior is a fluidity of lines drawn in rectangular format but with a radically raked windshield and an arching canopy over the cabin with low-slung windows and side pillars muted to forge the profile of a swift and racy two-door coupe.

Hyundai labels the design language for Sonata as "Fluidic Sculpture" inspiredby nature to produce the illusion of motion from curvy shapes of rigid surfaces.

Hyundai CEO John Krafcik accepts 2011 International Car of the Year Award for Hyundai Sonata
Hyundai Motor America CEO, John Krafcik, accepted the award for the 2011 Hyundai Sonata named International Car of the Year. Presenters included jury members, Courtney Caldwell, Editor-in-Chief, Road & Travel Magazine; James Bell, VP Corporate Communications and Executive Market Analyst, Kelley Blue Book; Mike Martini, Bridgestone OE President and Perry Stern, editor of
Hyundai Press Release

Still, you can't miss that brash face sporting narrow eye-slit headlamp clusters on front corners flanking a trapezoidal grille with chrome fins.

Side panels are chiseled with ripples and a high-mount character line which rises toward the tail and wears a strip of bright chrome drawn from the front headlamps that sweep into front fenders and extended to the hind quarter.

The blunted rump looks clean with twin-lamp taillight assemblies wrapping around corners and a body-colored bumper swooping low with exhaust pipes tucked beneath.

Sonata in the 2011 treatment gets a unibody structure which is almost an inch longer than the 2010 edition but the wheelbase length -- measuring the distance between front and rear axles -- runs 2.6 inches longer and the track width between front/rear wheels runs to 63.6 inches when using 17-inch wheels.

These spatial modifications serve to crimp front and rear overhangs of the body and push the wheels outward toward edges of the package, creating a long and broad and stable platform.

The sedan employs a MacPherson strut-type front suspension with gas-charged hydraulic twin-tube shocks and stabilizer bar and an independent multi-link design in the rear using coil springs and gas-charged hydraulic shocks and stabilizer bar.

Hyundai packs the 2011 Sonata with a long list of safety gear.

Each trim edition stocks passive safety systems like frontal air bags and seat-mounted side-impact air bags front and rear plus curtain-style air bags above outboard seats on two rows. And Hyundai adds active head restraints for the front seatbacks.

For active safety, every issue also has a disc brake at every wheel, with electronic linkage to a four-channel anti-lock brake system (ABS) with electronic brake force distribution (EBD).

Each Sonata trim also carries an electronic stability control (ESC) device which automatically coordinates the brakes and throttle to check against lateral wheel skidding.

Hyundai splits the 2011 Sonata into three models -- Sonata GLS the entry issue, sport-tuned Sonata SE and the luxurious Sonata Limited.

All three versions draw from one powertrain.

The dual-cam four-cylinder Theta II engine displaces 2.4 liters and has DFI (direct fuel injection) plus Hyundai's DCVVT (dual continuously variable valve timing) equipment and VIS (variable induction system).

In GLS and Limited models using a single exhaust system, the plant generates 198 hp at 6300 rpm and torque of 184 lb-ft at 4250 rpm.

In SE trim with a dual exhaust system, it produces 200 hp at 6300 rpm plus 186 lb-ft of torque at 4250 rpm.

The Sonata GLS edition comes with a standard six-speed manual transmission or optional six-speed electronic automatic rigged with Hyundai's Shiftronic manual mode.

The Limited gets the Shiftronic automatic exclusively, while Sonata SE scores the Shiftronic automatic plus paddle shifters planted on the steering wheel.

Sonata's passenger compartment seems generous -- but it is, encompassing more than 103 cubic feet.

Headroom amounts to 40 inches up front and 37.8 inches in back, with front-seat legroom stretching to 45.5 inches and 34.6 inches in the rear.

Layout of the cabin shows a pair of bucket seats up front flanking a floor-mounted console and a broad bench in back with two articulated seat positions but room for three.

The rear seatback splits 60/40 in sections and both sides fold forward to expand room in the trunk, which amounts to more than 16 cubic feet for cargo.

Hyundai puts lots of standard equipment in each Sonata -- air conditioning, power controls for windows and door locks and mirrors, a steering wheel that tilts and telescopes, a remote keyless entry system, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity and an audio kit with XM satellite radio service plus an auxiliary jack and USB interface.

Sonata GLS stocks seats covered in cloth upholstery, Sonata SE shows buckets with leather bolsters and cloth inserts, as Sonata Limited applies leather to all seats.

Projected MSRP marks for the three new Sonata trims extend from $19,195 to $25,295.

See All 2011 International Car of the Year Award Winners!

For more information on the 2011 Hyunda Sonata, click here.