published Saturday, April 21st, 2012

Kennedy: Hyundai Sonata turbo cleared for takeoff

The Hyundia Sonata has become one of America's best-selling sedans 
Staff File Photo
The Hyundia Sonata has become one of America's best-selling sedans Staff File Photo

FAST FACTS


• Model: 2012 Sonata Limited 2.0T

• Exterior color: Pacific Blue Pearl

• Interior color: Gray leather

• Engine: 2.0-liter twin-turbo

• Horsepower: 274

• Transmission: Six-speed automatic

• Fuel economy: 34 highway, 22 city

• Dealer: Long Hyundai

• Price (as tested): $31,914

You've no doubt seen the new Hyundai Sonata, which has become as common on Chattanooga streets and highways as Honda Accords and Toyota Camrys.

Light bounces off the Sonata's new sheet metal in a thousand directions, giving it the multifaceted visual appeal of an engagement ring.

The Sonata sedan is one of the reasons the Hyundai Motor Co. hopes to sell as many as 700,000 vehicles in the United States this year.

All Hyundai vehicles, which range from the economy Accent to the luxurious Equus, are backed by the Korean company's popular 100,000-mile, limited power train warranty.

STYLING

Our test car, from Long Hyundai, was a high-content Sonata Limited 2.0T, equipped with a twin-turbocharged engine that makes 274 horsepower and offers a compelling 34 miles per gallon highway.

The previous generation Sonata, while competent and reliable, was about as shapely as a shoe box. The current design, by contrast, which debuted as a 2011 model, is a museum-quality sculpture.

Our test car came in Pacific Blue Pearl paint, and the dark color flatters the design. Character lines flow front to back in all directions, like water skimming over a pebble. Attractive, 18-inch alloys complete the car's aggressive look.

Inside, the Sonata's cabin is handsome. The Limited trim in our tester includes sumptuous, leather-clad seats. The driver's seat has power functions, and both front seats are heated for cozy comfort on cold winter days. A panoramic roof can bathe both front- and back-seat passengers in sunlight.

Rear seats are comfortable, but passengers over 6 feet tall may find rear-seat headroom a little cramped because of the Sonata's low roof-line. Trunk space is generous, and 60-40 fold-down rear seats make the sedan a versatile cargo hauler.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

For most drivers, the standard 2.4-liter, direct-injection engine (rated at 200 horsepower) is plenty potent, said Long sales consultant Reggie Falls. But for those looking for extra punch, the twin-turbo Sonata is just the ticket.

Motor Trend magazine clocked the Sonata turbo at 7.0-seconds flat in the 0-60 mph sprint. Our test drive on Highway 153 confirmed the Sonata's spirited performance. Paddle shifters on the steering wheel are available for those who want the sensation of a clutchless manual transmission.

The steering, which includes electronic assist, is well-balanced. We experienced no body-roll driving the car on twisty secondary roads in the Harrison area. In fact, the overall ride was quiet and compliant.

Our top-of-the-line model included a $2,200 navigation option, with an embedded Infinity sound system -- a nice, but not necessary, package.

BOTTOM LINE

The beauty of the Sonata is that it does nearly everything well. It has ample power in a sexy package and an industry-leading factory warranty that lets you sleep at night. Our Limited turbo tester was a $31,914 package equipped with the enthusiast in mind, but you also can get a completely competent GLS or SE Sonata with plenty of high-value content for thousands less.

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is the editor of the Times Free Press opinion pages and writes the Sunday “Life Stories” column. He also writes a Saturday automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for Best Community Lifestyles four times during his tenure. Before Chattanooga’s newspapers ...

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