2011 Hyundai Sonata GL Road Test Review

Alexandra Straub - CAP staff
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I know I'm driving a cool car when I go to pick up a friend and their first reaction to it is, "Wow, what a sweet ride. Is this a new BMW?" First off, yes, it is a "sweet ride" but no, it's not a BMW. When I explained this was the all-new 2011 Hyundai Sonata and it has been totally redesigned on the inside and out, her jaw dropped and questioned, "This is a Hyundai?" Indeed it is and it's just that good.

Just by looking at the exterior, I think the new Sonata is very chic. I love the sculpted hood, the aggressive profile lines and aerodynamic shape. I also love the fact that even though it's quite pretty and makes heads turn, it has a very inviting aura. It's not pretentious but sophisticated. It reminds me of a person who is always the life of the party, yet takes the time to talk to you, one-on-one, and doesn't let their attention stray despite distractions. I was even impressed with the design of the 16" steel wheel covers that come with the P205/65R16 tires on the GL model, as wheel covers can sometimes look rather, how shall I put it, cheap, and these look like real alloy rims. The Sonata gets a big high-five from me for its exterior styling.

The inside, I found, was just as nice as the outside. Double high-five, or I guess it would be a high-ten, in this case! When I first sat in the cabin I immediately noticed how fantastic the seats felt. The cloth upholstery was soft and the cushions were firm. I felt right at home. Next, I noticed how the centre stacked looked fresh and very modern. The climate buttons were similar to buttons that I have seen in much pricier vehicles. What I liked most of all was the position and shape of the shift knob. It's like nothing else I've encountered in its class and also brings to it that sophistication I spoke of above. This particular GL came with the optional 6-speed automatic transmission, which came in very handy for all the city driving I did. The base GL comes, however, with a standard 6-speed manual transmission.

To recap, the exterior is hot and the interior is just as hot, now what could make this car even hotter? A few things, actually. The first item of hotness I'm going to mention is the front seat warmers that are standard on GL trim with the automatic transmission. Within moments, my buns started to toast. That gets an A+ from me since a lot of the time this feature takes minutes to kick in. If you're considering the Limited trim, please note that there are rear seat heaters, too! Amazing. It's a first in-class feature. Next up, the Sonata comes with a healthy list of standard features including 4-wheel disc brakes, Bluetooth, an iPod USB port and auxiliary plug, keyless entry, steering wheel mounted audio controls, power windows, and more.

Speaking of power, the Sonata is definitely not lacking thanks to its new and improved engine. Now found under the hood is a Theta II GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection) 2.4L, 16-valve, DOHC, 4-cylinder engine. It boasts an output of 198 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. The direct injection makes a world of a difference since it allows for greater control of the fuel mixture, which, in turn, improves performance and efficiency. In fact, the Sonata not only has the best in-class horsepower (based on a 4-cylinder engine), but it also has the best estimated fuel economy with 9.4L/100km in the city and 5.7L/100km on the highway. Furthermore, acceleration is very impressive. It picks up the pace very swiftly and it doesn't even require premium fuel to perform. That's a combination I can get excited about.

Another thing to get excited about are its driving dynamics. Underneath all the prettiness is a responsive and agile four-wheel independent suspension. It's a vehicle that experiences no problems when tackling tight turns or enjoying long stretches of highway. The Sonata is also gentle enough to get people who are not feeling so great home in one piece, i.e. me. Not often do I feel not so good, but I had an off day as I was coming home from church. I was dreading getting in the car as I was feeling quite 'green' to begin with, but surprisingly the Sonata helped calm my woes. I found the suspension to be soothing even though I was rushing home. It was neither stiff nor sloppy and was probably the best fit for my un-fit situation. Regardless of my condition, the Sonata drove fantastically, hands down.

With all things considered, this would normally be the section in my review where I might try to justify the rather high price tag that a car in this caliber comes with, but that's not the case with the Sonata. Having polled my passengers on how much they thought this vehicle costs, the average dollar amount was about $30K. I was happy to report that the GL Auto trim costs a mere $24,249 (the base GL has an MSRP of $22,649). I too was floored when I read that. That's a lot of car for not that much. And considering the top-of-the-line Sonata Limited with navigation has an MSRP $30,999 AND comes with rear heated seats, that's nothing short of fabulous.

Don't be fooled by the 2011 Hyundai Sonata GL's minimal MSRP because there is nothing cheap about this vehicle. From the lines of the exterior to the soft-touch materials used in the interior, it's an impressive sedan hands down. So, to those looking for a mid-sized four-door, you're doing yourself a disservice if the Sonata isn't on your prospect list.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sport Sedan, Hyundai, 2011, Sonata, $20,000 - $29,999,

Organizations: Hyundai

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