Sunday, August 23, 2009

Review : 2009 Hyundai Sonata : The Korean sedan-fighter has matched up with the Japanese rivals, even better! [w/VIDEO]

· Great interior
· Supportive entertainment system
· Smooth transmission with responsive Shift Tronic mode
· Comfortable ride
· Slow throttle response
· Annoying squeak coming from the rear-window
· Numb steering

Oh yes, this is our first Motor Gears review. It’s not a supercar, or a muscle convertible; it’s just another front-wheel-drive mid-size family sedan from Asia. It seems that this segments is so common, that nearly all families do need to have an economy sedan. To be honest, they do offer lots of space, practicality, reliability, all with some sportiness and a sleek design. From this class, we got to take the 2009 Hyundai Sonata for a couple of days, and walked it though the tests, to see how it fairs against the other mid-sizers benchmarks from Toyota, Honda, and Nissan.

Hyundai’s Luxury Approach In The Exterior Design:
Looking at the 2009 Hyundai Sonata, some has changed from this generation when it first debut in 2006. The new front-fascia has larger projector headlights, and also a larger 3-bar chrome grille. The new headlights and grille give this Sonata, a very settle look, even more luxurious. The power-dome hood is noticeable, and it fits nicely in the Sonata’s body-shell.

Although we got to get the very base 2009 Sonata, the cover wheels look clean. Out back, the Sonata still features those Honda Accord look-alike taillights. Though that was back in 2005. Now, they look just fine. Overall, the sleek design of the 2009 Sonata is headed towards luxury rather than the edgy sporty design. Personally, this looks way better than the complication of the new Accord.

An Interior That Will Keep All The Family Happy:
Getting inside, the 2009 Sonata gets an all-new interior compared to last year’s model. A new cockpit, revised seats, and even a new multimedia system are key features to the 2009 Sonata’s interior. Now, the new design of the cockpit looks very elegant, with materials used that look and feel top-nosh with the other Japanese rivals. The new seats are OK, but nothing special here.

Specialty here is the new multimedia system, hooked up right on the dashboard. The CD player plays MP3, and can surf through files and folders, just like any file-manager. It also supports a USB flash-drive, and the AUX-jack reads though all kinds of MP3 players, and even phones. So just plug-in the phone, and there is a hands-free phone system, that’s usually available only on premium cars. What’s impressive, that Hyundai offers this on the base model as standard, while the other Japanese demand extra money to put it on the car, and some don’t offer this at all.

Of course, like any mid-sizer, it offers capacious room for the people at the back. Oh, let’s not forget the trunk. All the numbers can be read on the internet, but all there is to it, that it’s really big and deep. It looks like the Koreans at Hyundai have come-up with an interior for this Sonata that brutally embarrasses Toyota’s interior designers and engineers. We have to say, the interior is really a plus point for this Hyundai.

Drives And Rides Like A Luxury, But Not A Sportscar:
Before I write about how it drives and how it feels through the cockpit, let’s open the hood and see what’s beneath. There’s either two options, a base 4-cylinder and a powerful V6. Of course, we only got to get the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine. Though, it not such a bad thing, since most consumer these days are heading towards economy, compromising power. Like modern engines, it features direct-injection, variable-valve-timing, and all reliability. Our test-car had more than 20,000 kilometers on the trip-computer, and everything around the engine seems perfect. Now, since this is the Middle East, the engine is full of dust and seem to look like a mess. Nonetheless, it develops 175 horsepower, and 168 pounds-feet of torque. This is right on top with the competition, and also more powerful than a Camry.

New for 2009, the 4-pot Sonata gets a new 5-speed automatic. This transmission is actually brilliant. Not only the ratios are perfectly smooth, but it also does a great job of keeping the car as quiet and yet smooth as possible. Next to the “D” gear, the + and – gears are for the “shift-it-yourself” ShiftTronic mode. It’s simple to use (just up for up-shift and down for down-shift), and responsive. Best place to use it is on a highway, for an over-take. So by clicking down a couple of gears, it blips the throttles, and the car accelerates away.

It’s time to put the pedal-to-the-metal, and count some numbers. We noticed the throttle response is somewhat a little slow, but at high rpms, it gives out a sweet-sounding “tunerish” engine note. Despite that there weren’t any race-tracks in the area, we had to improvised. On the iPhone, there’s a performance-measurement program called Pocket Dyno, which uses the iPhone’s accurate accelerometer. It measures 0 - 60 mph, drag-time slip, braking, and even wheel-horsepower if the weight is plugged. So here are the numbers:

0 – 60 mph: 8.9 seconds (8.7 seconds using ShiftTronic)
Quarter-Mile: 16.7 seconds @ 89.4 mph
Acceleration Force: 0.5 G
Wheel-Horsepower: 160 Front-Wheel-Horsepower

Braking power is forced by 4-disc brakes all around, and they’re good to brake from 60 mph in 124 feet. Though the brakes do fade away quickly when excessive braking, while the brake travel becomes evident. We were most impressed with the quarter-mile number, and braking distance. However, the brakes could have been better, and we expected 60 mph to come a little faster.

Heading to the city center, we found something surprising. The Sonata is actually quite comfortable around the city’s rough roads, and it’s not that marshmallow comfort, it’s somewhat like European-cars comfort. However, at overspeed, the road and wind noise becomes high, and there’s an annoying squeak that comes from the rear-window.As for suspension and handling, most mid-sizers do have the same suspension units, but surely different tweaks and setups. For the Sonata, Hyundai fitted the usual control-arm upfront, and multilink at the rear, but Hyundai went for a soft setup unlike Honda and Nissan. While we like the soft ride, the steering feels perfectly fine on the city’s roads. That’s why we again headed to some twisty roads to really find-out what’s beneath that body. On the twisty road, we found that the Sonata’s steering didn’t give much feedback, and in fact, it was a bit numb. Maybe the Altima would have fared better.

So we parked it, started to get some pictures on my DSLR camera, and got thinking, is this Sonata a hit on the Japanese rivals or a miss? Well, Hyundai actually made a great job with the Sonata. Not only is it better-looking and better-made than a Camry, it’s better equipped with goodies than an Accord, and has a better transmission than Altima’s CVT; all for significantly less money than the Japanese ask! This is an easy beat against the Camry, but maybe the Sonata still has to work more with the Accord and Altima for next-generation Sonata. If it wasn’t for some glitches, like the slow throttle response, annoying rear-window squeak, and the numb handling, the 2009 Hyundai Sonata would have the royal of the front-wheel-drive mid-size family sedan. Funny isn’t it, that not so long ago, everybody laughed at Hyundai and their miserable work. Now though, that laugh has turned into a respectable smile.

Written By: Zeyad Bakri

We recommend watching the video review below. Please tell us what you think of this review in the comments section. We appreciate your feedback.


cadillac said...


we will be happy if you join us in

Zeyad Bakri said...

Thanks, in fact I am a member at

Advertise with us