2011 Hyundai Sonata Ride and Drive

22 Feb 2010 | 6,108 views | No Comment
It’s one thing to be fast on the draw with new models--and quite another to do that and do them well. Hyundai’s a past master at the art, and it’s proving it by introducing new models one after the other, each far better than the preceding generation versions, which themselves were pretty darned good.. The latest example of this is the 2011 Sonata, an all-new family sedan that is guaranteed to mean nightmares for the competition. First, the Sonata is a looker. Thanks to the considerable talents of Andre Hudson, its design manager and a talented designer whose helped the brand finally discover its own design “voice,“ the Sonata has a distinctive, aggressive look with a flowing, eye-catching design that sets it apart from just about all family car models. The design is called “fluidic sculpture,“ and its to be seen on all future Hyundai  models.  It features an aggressive styling character line along te car‘s flanks, a classy chrome strip that extends into the front headlights, a rippling grille design that looks like chrome water waves, and a raked roofline. Even the interior carries the flowing design with a dashboard that has a wavelike-profile, along with a satin silver trimmed enter stack that calls a waterfall to mind.. In designing the new Sonata, there was a competition between the Irvine, Calif., based Hyundai Design Center, and the Korean home base, which emphasized a more evolutionary theme. Wisely, the local team won, offering the brand a chance to break away from the plethora of three box family sedan designs that have worn out their welcome. Some interesting points about the redesign. Hyundai says the new Sonata has more passenger volume (103.8 cubic feet) than Camry, Accord, Altima, Fusion and  Malibu. Only the Honda Accord tops it at 106.0, and the Sonata still has more total interior volume than all of them including the Accord. EPA classifies the Sonata as a large car, too, be4cause of its roominess. Noise reduction was emphasized; with thicker door frames and drive seat  glass thickness, and narrower door gaps. Wind noise and road noise  are down too. And  cornering and active4 safety handling are better in the Sonata than in both Lexus ES 350 and the Mercedes C300, according to the  Automotive Marketing Consultants, Inc., an independent firm. Prices are quite competitive, with the GLS with a manual transmission starting at $19,195, and the Limited with a navigation package topping out at $27,395. Driving impressions were quite favorable with the 2011 Sonata. When you’re driving along, you notice that It feels a lot lighter than it is, with pretty decent handling and excellent braking capacity. Steering felt well centered and responsive, without being over-assisted. And the exhaust note was surprisingly aggressive and pleasing with the sporty SE. By the way, the new Sonata will be the first in its class to offer standard Bluetooth hands-free phone system, optional heate4d rear seats, and optional factory-installed HD radio. Power comes from a 2.4 liter, 198 horsepower four cylinder engine that accelerates briskly. People who compare the four to a V-6 from other brands shouldn’t notice any real difference in power. Fuel mileage is 22 city and 35 highway with the automatic. Sonata’s engines are now or will be all four cylinder models, though Hyundai has a little something extra coming with a turbocharged Sonata four cylinder model in a couple of months. Word is that the engine will put out over 250 horsepower; if Hyundai’s smart, it will provide the turbocharged Sonata with it own, interior, and exterior markings and other features to call attention to it. Only Buick’s upcoming Regal GS can offer that in the intermediate sedan field. Both six speed manual and six speed automatics are available, with paddle shifters being standard on the sporty SE version. Although Hyundai officials attending the San Diego, Calif., media ride and drive event are far too nice and tactful to say anything, it’s pretty clear that Hyundai’s about to ride a perfect storm. Toyota‘s troubles are almost surely going to take years from which to recover, and every recall tarnishes that brand just that much further. Meanwhile, with a slow economic recovery underway, consumers will almost surely become even more value minded and reluctant to buy anything but cars which offer more value for the money--another Hyundai strong suit. And the number of favorable magazine articles--including one cover story by one of the country‘s most prestigious business publications, along with awards and other mentions, will surely continue to keep Hyundai in the spotlight. The only area where the brand has some catching up to do is to somehow market s Hyundai branding lifestyle through things like Saturn style events for owners, merchandise and toys of various sorts, clubs and more communication tools like owner magazines and web site offerings. All of those things help turn your brand into more than a mere appliance for getting from here to there, but something to be proud of. Pride of ownership and fun for owners and getting together with like-minded owners builds a sense of belonging, a sense of loyalty, and a part of the “family“ feel to  their brands. That’s what just about every other brand including Toyota and Nissan do, and it’s time for Hyundai to do the same thing. But first, you’ve gotta have the product, and the Sonata demonstrates Hyundai‘s more than well along on that score.

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