Test Drive: Hyundai Sonata

LaJolla, Calif. ? The 2011 Hyundai Sonata presentation was at 8:35 am.? The Sonata has almost 35-inches of rear legroom.? The turning radius is just over 35 feet.? Did I mention it gets 35 mpg on the highway?? And, that?s just the icing on the cake for Hyundai?s latest midsize sedan.

The previous generation Sonatas didn?t reach out and touch me, but the new Sonata does and I think it is as good or better looking as anything in its class.? These beautiful lines started right here in the Hyundai Design Center in Irvine, CA.? Equally impressive is that the design excellence carries through to the very heart of the car, the mechanicals.

Even though the Sonata is an inch or two shorter than its competitors, it has the largest interior and is categorized by the EPA as a large car.? That?s not a big deal numerically, but it certainly feels roomy and comfortable inside.? Not to be out done, the 16.4 cubic foot trunk will hold four sets of golf clubs or for a shopper like me, a dozen big shopping bags.

A 2.4-liter direct injection four-cylinder engine powers the Sonata.? Rated at 198 hp, the engine is the most powerful four-cylinder in its class, and it gets the highest EPA fuel economy rating?that?s where the 35 mpg comes in.? With a six-speed manual, it rates a 24 mpg city and 35 mpg highway.? The six-speed automatic gets a 22/35 mpg rating.

Unfortunately, for some drivers like my husband, the four-cylinder won?t be fast enough accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds, but Hyundai has a plan for people like him.? Rather than going the V-6 route like the crowd, I was told a turbocharged four-cylinder is in the works and for the more social conscious among us, a hybrid.? Both are expected to debut at the New York auto show in April.

Features and creature comforts are important to me in a car, and the Sonata gets high marks with available features like a touch screen navigation system, backup camera, HomeLink? and leather seating with heated front and rear seats.? For those into the latest tech gadgets it has some features like Bluetooth streaming audio and XM radio with the latest upgrade for XM NavTraffic and data services (weather, stocks and sports).

The three available trim levels, GLS, SE and Limited each have extensive lists of standard features with each version adding more standard features. A new car shopper on a budget can get a GLS with six-speed manual transmission for $19,915, including the destination charge.? The impressively equipped Limited with an automatic transmission is $26,015, and tops out at $28,300 with navigation and mats.? Other than that, there are no other options.

The Sonata gets the Hyundai 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and 5-year/60,000-mile basic warranty along with a 5-year/unlimited miles roadside assistance program.

The Hyundai Sonata is a car that will take customers away from Accord, Altima, Camry, Fusion and Malibu.