The Hyundai Sonata is a serious competitor to the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Like the Camry, Accord and Ford Fusion, the Sonata is built in the U.S.A. – Hyundai is serious about building cars for the North American market and eager to meet our unique likes and dislikes as compared to the rest of the world. In 2006 AJAC (Automotive Journalists Association of Canada) awarded the Sonata the “Best New Family Car Under $35,000.” Numerous awards from MotorWeek, Consumers Digest and Popular Mechanics followed soon thereafter.Although this car is in the same class as the plain, vanilla cars you see in the mall parking lots and car rental agencies throughout North America, the Sonata somehow stands out. Like its competition, the Sonata comes in 4-cylinder and V-6 configurations with an automatic transmission; a 5-speed manual transmission is only available on the base model. Helping the Sonata stand apart from its competition is its roomy interior – it’s classed as a large car – a full class above the mid-size Camry, Nissan Altima and Accord!
I think the fifth generation Sonata is a very good-looking car, definitely an improvement over the last generation, although I very much liked the Jaguar-style front end of that fourth-generation vehicle. Maybe it’s the 5-spoke 17” rims that make this version stand out in a crowd – who knows.
Climbing inside, I found the power-operated driver’s seat difficult to adjust and get comfortable with; it took me a week to finally find a satisfactory position. The lumbar adjustment had to be cranked all the way out to get it into a normal seating position BEFORE making the adjustment. The front seats have very short seat cushions – even for me and my short legs. Add to that the feeling that you’re sitting ON the seat and not IN it, which makes it a very awkward and uncomfortable feeling. The front passenger seat is even worse to make comfortable with its manual operation and the fact that it lacks lumbar adjustments. Added to the limited adjustment options available to the passenger is a very strange seating position that cannot be adjusted – you simply feel like you’re taking a nose-dive onto the floor or into the windshield – extremely annoying and uncomfortable.
The leather-wrapped steering wheel is nice and thick, and provides tilt and telescopic adjustment, but it felt awkward – I found it difficult to get it in the perfect position where all of the dials can be clearly seen and yet still be comfortable for driving. There are power-adjustable pedals if the steering adjustments aren’t enough for you to find an acceptable driving position. Stereo and cruise control buttons are located on the wheel but these controls too have their quirks – the volume up and down buttons for the audio system are too low for them to be used comfortably with the left thumb, there is a mode button that changes the radio (FM1, FM2, AM), but no button to change the channels themselves – for that you have to reach over to the stereo on the dash! Because of the location of the mode button, I kept changing the FM frequency every time I wanted to turn up the volume, and in so doing lost the very song I was trying to hear! Simply moving the buttons would resolve the issue.
The dashboard layout is very nice and everything is legible and straightforward. Directly in front of the driver is a nice, clean and uncluttered instrument panel with the large speedometer in the middle, and within the speedometer is the information panel where you’ll find the odometer, outside temperature and trip computer information. Hyundai have definitely come far with regard to copying and improving on the Japanese manufacturers in recent years. The radio sits nice and high on the dash, but it was quite a stretch to make adjustments. It leans away from the driver making changing the stations a pain. If this is a problem for a short person like myself to reach it, I can only imagine how annoying it would be for someone taller who would sit with the seat further back from the dashboard/steering wheel. This is certainly one car where “redundant” audio controls on the steering wheel would not be considered “redundant”. Below the stereo are the HVAC vents and a digital clock that goes all wonky when it’s cold outside – I don’t mean real cold, just 35 degrees cold. Further below is the climate control. I like the logic and the order of the instrumentation. Too often the vents are up high making it a problem to see what you’re doing with the radio.
The automatic climate control is – surprise! – very easy to understand and operate. There are two large round controls for the fan speed and temperature and it’s nice to find it right where you’d naturally reach for it, instead of fumbling for it down by your knee. Between the seats is a sliding armrest that lifts up to reveal a very small compartment, and below that a nice deep storage area that will swallow plenty of CD’s. The glove box is a reasonable size, quite useable. The 6-speaker, single disc Am/FM/CD/ MP3 sound system isn’t bad – nothing to get too excited about.
The Tiptronic 5-speed automatic transmission is easy to use; you knock the shifter towards you to get it operating in a semi-manual mode, to downshift you pull it back and to up-shift you push it forward. I found this completely opposite of logic, but my wife says my logic is lacking – so there you go – it’s either the right way around or the wrong way. Most importantly, I liked the fact that this unit holds the gear you select until you change it, or at least until it hits the rev limiter. I hate the transmissions that decide to shift up when they feel the need, not when I decide it’s time.
The V-6 is a smooth and powerful engine matched to a near-seamless shifting transmission. Throttle response was very good – once I stomped on the gas pedal and I got the tires to squawk – I wasn’t expecting that! The Sonata is a very easy car to drive, and while it’s neither designed to be sporty, nor actually sporty, it was an enjoyable car in which to spend time behind the wheel. Getting up to highway speed on the on-ramp is a snap, and cruising above the speed limit is effortless, as is overtaking slower vehicles. Noise levels are acceptable, but I would have thought it would be better considering the Sonata is in the same grouping as the Toyota Camry. The power moonroof in the Sonata sits just a little too far back to fully benefit the front occupants.
The Sonata’s back seat area is very large and accommodating and splits 60/40. Even with the front seats slid fully back, there is more than adequate room. With my short legs, a basketball player would find more legroom back there than in a stretch limo. I was however, very surprised to find such a high and wide lump in the centre of the floor though, making seating for three very uncomfortable – unless two of them want to play footsies. The folding centre armrest in the back seat incorporates the now mandatory cup holders. The doors open wide and entry and exit is first class. The rear seat is very comfortable and angled perfectly for long-distance cruising. The trunk is an impressive 16.3 cu/ft making it larger than all of its competition. On that point – the buttons for the trunk and the fuel filler door do not light up along with all the other power buttons, which makes for a lot of fumbling for them at night, sometimes resulting in opening the wrong one! Why only these two controls were spared the lighting feature is a little unusual.
The 2007 Hyundai Sonata comes in 3 versions in the U.S. and 4 in Canada. I’d recommend going to the Hyundai websites to figure out which price and configuration fits your wants and needs. The U.S. models are considerably different from the Canadian ones tested here – even on the standard features. Many standard features in Canada are stand-alone options in the U.S. For more details and options go to: www.hyundaimotors.com or www.hyundaicanada.com
On the safety side, the Sonata comes with dual-stage airbags, front seat-mounted side-impact airbags, curtain airbags, active front head restraints, windshield de-icer, pre-tensioners and force limiting seat belts. You have to step up to the GLS model for ABS with EBD (Electronic Brake-force Distribution) and the V-6 Premium Group for ESC (Electronic Stability Control) with Traction Control. ABS is available as an option on the base model. The Sonata has earned the NHTSA’s top 5-star rating for front and side impacts.
I liked the Sonata a lot, but it disappointed me more. It’s a great looking car, it’s got the build quality and material quality of Toyota, but it also has a price-point to match. I think the Sonata is priced too high – it has to beat Toyota and Honda on price until Hyundai can get over the stigma of the Pony. I know it’s been 20+ years, but people still remember it (I personally didn’t have a problem with the Pony – I thought it was a good, cheap little car). When a fully loaded Toyota Camry hybrid is better and cheaper than a Sonata, guess which one I’d buy. Lexus and Acura are building cars that are just as good, maybe even better than Mercedes and BMW, but they sell them for a lot less – Hyundai have to do the same with the Sonata, at least for a few more years. They have to continue to be a value leader to encourage people to want to purchase them and to maintain a price advantage over the competition.
Bumper To Bumper Warranty: 60 months/60,000 miles [100,000 kms], and 60 months/60,000 miles [100,000 kms] powertrain warranty. Road side assistance is 3 years/unlimited miles [kms]
Maximum towing capacity is 2,000 lbs.
Pricing for the 2007 Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 Premium
As tested: $24,745 [$33,395 Cdn]
Base price for the V-6 starts at: $20,995 [$25,995 Cdn]
Fuel Consumption: [Regular]
The 3.3L V-6 is rated at 21 mpg City [11.5 L/100 kms] and 33 mpg Highway [7.2 L/100 kms]
I averaged 22.7 mpg [10.8 L/100km] in combined driving.
Perfectly matched engine/transmission and suspension
Excellent fit and finish
Seats aren’t up to scratch with the rest of the car
Priced too high
Would I Spend My Money On It?:
No. I love the look of it, but it has to wow me more – plus the price would have to be lower. The front seats would be the breaking point too.
Back Seat Driver Test: 10 out of 10
“The seat back angle is perfect and very comfortable for 2, but not 3.” “Surprisingly comfortable with plenty of legroom.” “Plenty of room – even for tall people.”
Chevy Malibu, Pontiac G6, Chrysler Sebring, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Kia Magentis, Mazda6, Mitsubishi Galant, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy, Toyota Camry, VW Jetta/Passat
By The Numbers:
Powertrain: 3.3 Litre V-6 engine, Shiftronic 5-speed automatic transmission
Horsepower: 234 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 226 @ 3,500 rpm
0 – 60 mph 6.6 Seconds
10 – Quality
9 – Noise, Vibration & Harshness (NVH)
10 – Cargo Area/Trunk Space
8 – Special Features (Sat Nav/Heated Seats/ Sunroof, etc)
10 – Ease of Entry/Exit
8 – Front Roominess
10 – Rear Roominess
8 – Driving Position/Controls
8 – Drool Factor
10 – Fit & Finish
10 – Engine
10 – Transmission
10 – Ride & Handling
7 – Bang for the $$
9 – Fuel Economy
137 Total / 150
Copyright © 2007 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Hyundai / Iain Shankland
Also Published at: PaddockTalk