The newly redesigned Hyundai Sonata is an all-new design that is supposed to compete with the likes of Camry and Accord, with its egde being on value. On the exterior, the Sonata is greatly improved, with a dual-outlet exhaust on the V-6 and a more aggressive stance. The interior is fully upgraded, but befalls to the classic Hyundai design: it looks like each particular area was designed by a different team and just crammed-in wherever. This made for a awkward driving experience compared to other brands. Another example is the radio control setup on the steering wheel -- buttons in the front and back do everything but change the radio station (I thought this car was designed in the U.S.)? Overall, the fit and finish is up to Asian standards, with high marks going to a solid feel and plenty of extras.
Extras are where this car earns its keep. A long list of standard features (including front and side airbags) teamed-up with a low price and a long warranty should attract many buyers. For a V-6 (and a quick one at that), the FE wasn't too bad. Acceleration was brisk as the high-revving 6-cylinder was pushed, but the transmission robbed any feel of "Sport" that was engineered into this car (which is probably where the biggest weakness lies in this model). I've drivien Buick land yachts that shifted harder. A soft shift definintely made the driving experience "mushy", in any driving situation. Also something I noticed was an odd downshift pattern that the Hyundai XG350 also suffered -- when slowing to a stop, the 2nd to 1st gear shift was clunky and ill-timed. The suspension was firm in corners, yet compliant on the Interstate. Handling was good, but a strange feel in the front suspension didn't inspire much confidence to take the corners fast. It's hard to describe, but th
e front suspension feels overloaded and communicated bumps heavily through the steering column, with the rear suspension disconnected from the front, but worked well overall. Perhaps the spring compression or the shock absorbing assembly needs refining.
Which is where you're left after driving it -- it just needs a little refinement here and there, and this could be a hit.
The Raw Data:
2006 Hyundai Sonata LX 4-Dr Sedan
Drivetrain: 3.3L, DOHC, 24-Valve, V-6: rated @ 225 HP, 226 ft-lb torque
Transmission: 5-Speed Automatic with "Manu-Matic" Shift Gate and Torque Converter / Front-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight: 3458 lb.
Avg. Speed = 52 mph
Fuel Used = 4.3 gal.
Time of Operation = 2.0 hours
Distance Driven = 106 miles
Climate: Clear, 65-90F
Tested FE = 24.6 MPG
Conclusion: Fuel Economy should be slightly better as mostly highway miles were driven, but overall, lots of safety being standard make it a good value that includes good engine power and decent FE. Expect some refinements for '07.