We had not made the trip to Montana to see Bill?s family for nearly a year, so we juggled our busy travel schedule and found five days that would work for a road trip from the Portland, Ore. area to the Big Sky Country.
Because we had access to several press test cars for the trip, the process of selecting a car for the road trip car involved finding one that gets good fuel economy and has comfortable seats, in a roomy interior. ?A car that?s fun to drive is an important consideration, too, but not too fun so that it distracts from the fuel economy. ?Even though we know the route like our way to the grocery store, it?s always nice to have a navigation system to track progress, quickly plan detours and find the nearest fast food restaurant for a quick potty breaks.? The other feature that ranks a top priority is a satellite radio system, however since we?ve discovered audio books, that?s not quite as important.?? Of course, we also needed to find a vehicle we hadn?t driven recently, so we could justify writing this review.
Going through the list of cars that might be available for the trip we picked the Hyundai Sonata SE because it most closely fit our ?ideal road trip car? requirements.? The Sonata SE is the turbocharged version of Hyundai?s very popular mid-size sedan.? Nearly 1,500 miles later it was clear, the Sonata SE was the perfect choice for the trip.
Although not part of our road trip requirements, it?s certainly nice to drive a car that still turns heads after two years on the market.? Although the Sonata is an inch or two shorter than some of its midsize competitors, it is rated as a large car by EPA criteria.? We certainly tested the 16.4 cubic feet of trunk space on this trip taking three large boxes of things to Bill?s family, in addition to all our luggage and ?stuff.? We were amazed at how much the trunk could hold.
The interior was especially comfortable with supportive seats that had leather bolsters and breathable cloth inserts.? Legroom was plentiful and it had many of the features we like on cars we drive including heated front seat, navigation and the satellite radio.? Certainly, we would have liked some of the high tech safety features like blind spot identification and active cruise control, but for a car at this price range, the Sonata SE has an outstanding list of features.
About forty percent of the route we take from the Portland area to Helena, Mont., is two-lane, and because we don?t like to linger long behind slow moving trucks, campers or cars some passing was required?a lot of passing sometimes.?? Powered by a 274-hp, turbocharged direct injection four-cylinder engine, the Sonata SE quickly became our hero, making quick safe passes, when necessary.? It actually felt like we were driving a powerful V-6 engine than a little four-cylinder.? The six-speed automatic transmission had a manual shifting Shiftronic? system with wheel-mounted paddle shifters that were helpful in maintaining control on the winding roads along the route.? Zero to 60 mph times for the SE are just under seven seconds.
Even though Barbara cringed every time we made a fast a pass, concerned that we were sucking up massive amounts of fuel, we averaged 31.3 mpg on the way to Montana and 34.0 mpg on the way back.? We assumed that was the difference was between going to a much higher elevation and then dropping back down to near sea level on the way home.
The EPA rates the SE at 22 mpg city and 34 mpg highway.? If Barbara had driven most of the trip, rather than Bill, we figured we would have averaged at least 36 or 37 mpg because Barbara has better economical driving habits.
We became fans of the Hyundai navigation system too, which was easy to use.? It could even be programed by the passenger, while the vehicle was moving.? Unlike some systems we?ve used, the navigation? ?database was up to date and accurate when we went looking for something off the beaten track.
For 2013, Hyundai made their new Blue Link? communication system a standard feature on all Sonata models.? It provides access to multiple applications in the car, through your smartphone, by connecting to the Internet.? It provides a level of Assurance, safety, and diagnostics including features such as; automatic crash notification, SOS emergency notification, and enhanced roadside assistance.
Blue Link also provides essential features that includes remote access (lock/unlock), voice-to-text messaging, location sharing, vehicle self-diagnostics, theft protection, and parental controls. The system is also set up to offer a turn-by-turn navigation along with a few other services.
The Sonata pricing starts at $20,570, including the destination charge, for the base model with a six-speed manual transmission.? An automatic adds $1,000.? Our turbocharged and very well outfitted SE was $25,420.? A package with the navigation system, power sunroof, rear backup camera, premium Dimension? audio with HD radio and all the XM satellite services added $2,900. ?The Sonata SE is an excellent value, with very good performance and fuel economy.? The top model, the Limited with more features, is available with either the base 2.4-liter direct injection four cylinder engine or the 2.0-liter turbo priced at $27,220 and $28,970 respectively.