Monday, May 08, 2006

2006 Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 Long-Term Test Update No. 3

2006 Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 Long-Term Test Update No. 3 October 4, 2005 by West Coast Office / American Auto Press Top-Tier Crash Test Vaults Sonata into Safest Sedan Territory No one who has followed Hyundais progress in recent years should be surprised to see its new Sonata perform as well as it has in the latest Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) crash tests. The new midsize sedan was given five stars, the highest ranking possible, in the frontal and side-impact crash tests for both driver and front passenger. Hyundai touts the Sonatas "all-new computer-designed rigid body structure" as a key reason why it maintains composure during frontal and side crashes. The car also features "reinforced bulkheads, pillars and side-impact protection to provide the foundation for a stiffer front sub-frame." Hyundai continues, stating that "extensive testing using computer simulation as well as real world testing has further optimized crumple zones and impact load diffusion paths." In case you werent aware, our GLS V6 tester, and all Sonatas for that matter, feature advanced dual front airbags, seat-mounted side-impact airbags for the driver and front seat occupant, and side curtain airbags for the driver, front seat passenger and outboard rear seat passengers. The front seats also integrate active head restraints for added protection against whiplash during rear collisions. The Sonatas full assortment of airbags and resultantly high NCAP results make all of us in the West Coast Office feel mighty secure when behind the wheel or riding along in our new long-term tester, something weve been doing a great deal lately. Its odometer reading has shot up from the previous updates 1,523 miles to 1,921 miles, a total of 398 miles, which represents about 50 percent more distance traveled than during the previous two week period - and that with no road trips. Our new staffer, Mary Elton, took the helm for the first week, after which Jennifer used it to shuttle the kids around to various activities (kindergarten, soccer, dance classes), as well as off to the gym for a little personal time. I subbed in once and awhile when in town, which was all of three working days - weekends not included. And now, without further ado, the log entries: Odometer: 1,523 miles Mary: Drove to across town to drop off Alexandra at the Mazda office. The car is peppy, with good pickup when needed. But the ever-important front cupholders werent designed to hold a medium sized cup snugly and could stand some retooling. Not good. Also, when rotating the vent controls all the way to the "blue" position (cool), warm air still came out of the vents, and this on a cool day. I needed to open the windows cool down. Odometer: 1,584 miles Mary: Drove to from downtown to the burbs. The radio is fine. But the hood and gas cap opener buttons are conveniently located and easy to use. Odometer: 1,590 miles Mary: Good steering wheel mounted radio controls. Volume is there, and I like the mute button, but why no station changer controls? Ive also decided that the seats, although covered in leather, arent cushioned enough for my liking. Odometer: 1,628 miles Mary: Seems to go up steep hills quite well, lots of pep. Good visibility out the front, as well as to the dash dials and other controls. Rear visibility is pretty good also, when shoulder checking. I like the sun visor extensions. Odometer: 1,693 miles Mary: Drove from one end of our two-million plus city to the other today. Enjoyed the drive. I also really appreciate its ease of parking. Again, I cant get over how simple the dash controls are and resultantly how easy they are to operate. Whats even better was the handy fold-down 60/40 split rear seatbacks. I had to carry my keyboard and it loaded in without any problems. Odometer: 1,732 miles Mary: Dropped off the car to Jennifer, and just wanted to say that it took awhile for my preconceived notions about Hyundai to abate. I wasnt expecting too much from this car. After all, werent Hyundais cars self-destructing, historically speaking? My first impression of the car is positive. This is a nice looking vehicle! I really like the paint job. I dubbed it midnight sparkle, subtle with a touch of glitter. The lines are clean and pleasing. The jazzy looking alloy wheels and soft gray leather interior are luxurious touches. The leather-wrapped steering wheel, power glass sunroof, nice sound system, easy-to-read and operate controls, and power drivers seat are added pluses. The center arm rest/storage extends for comfort. There are power seat controls and the power cord outlet is handily located for the driver. I like the look of the dual exhaust pipes. The back seat is roomy and as previously mentioned the 60/40 fold-down rear seatbacks are handy as we transported a keyboard that was too long for the trunk. I have to reiterate that the cushioning in the seats could be improved. For a long trip, I dont think they are plush enough. A bit more padding would add tremendously to the overall comfort. My initial reaction on starting and driving the car was that it had pep to spare! It handled well, was easy to park, and was powerful for the size of the car. It never missed a beat as I drove up a particularly long, steep section in North Vancouver called "the cut". Even with passengers in the car, it responds well. The visibility out the side and rear windows is good, and I noticed only minor blind spots. Fuel economy is another important issue, but I wasnt able to calculate the actual usage and compare it to the listed 24/37 city/hwy mpg. Maybe next time. The question of reliability can only be answered in time. How will it hold up over the years? That is an important issue for me. The great warranty is a comfort, but nothing takes the place of good old dependability and solid construction. Of course, the last model this one replaces managed top position overall for reliability in Consumer Reports member surveys, a pretty credible source, which bodes well for this new one. If this model follows in its predecessors footsteps then it should also be dependable over the long haul. It certainly feels well engineered. It is an extremely good car as far as first impressions go, and at a more than competitive price. Odometer: 1,767 miles Jennifer: Once again Im a single mom, keeping the house clean, kids at their various functions and, lest I forget, food on the table, while Trevor is staying at some five-star resort in Quebec driving Kias... boohoo. OK, no ones feeling sorry for me because, after all, Ive got a brand new car to do all of my errands in. While Im not a lead-foot, Im constantly surprised at how quick this car is at take-off. It must be in the gearing, because it feels a lot faster than a top-line Camry, for instance, even though both mirror each other for engine displacement and power - I believe the Sonata has a few extra horses but its a nominal difference. I like the manu-matic gearshift lever too, although I have to admit to not using it very much. But when I want it, its there. The design detail that surrounds the shifter is nice too - a brushed metal-look that appears very upscale. Odometer: 1,797 miles Jennifer: The Sonatas understated styling is growing on me. I liked the old version, because it looked distinctive compared to others in this somewhat staid entry-level midsize sedan class. I even like the styling of the model before that, which was also quite unique. But this one is less unorthodox, yet still offers a fresh look that seems to become more appealing with time. Its subtle. The slightly sporty grille opening, curvaceous fenders, clean shoulder lines, simple but elegant roofline, very attractive taillight clusters. Actually, I think its rear end is its most attractive angle, which is saying a lot. The Accord, for instance, isnt particularly good looking from its backside. Neither is the Camry. Mazda6, well, thats pretty nice, but the Sonata comes across a lot richer in design, a lot more refined and it looks like I paid more for it than the poor sods in their Hondas and Toyotas... which we all know isnt the case... ha... Odometer: 1,831 miles Trevor: Its good to be home after a week in Montreal, not only to see the family, of course, but to enjoy the ease of familiarity. Ive lived in other cities over the years, but have always returned to Vancouver. Of course, there are plenty of reasons to live in this beautiful part of the world, especially true if the sun is shining which it is now, but even if I grew up somewhere else I think that Id probably want to live where home originally was. I find my sense of adventure waning and the satisfaction in familiarity taking over as I mature. I like to know where the best deli is, my favourite fruit and vegetable stand, where to buy wholesale organics, which car dealer is trustworthy, the best guy to go to for a ski boot fitting, who can fix my TV 3 hours before the big race or hockey final, which trails are most rewarding for an afternoons hike, which gas stations are quickest to drop their price, etc. What has this got to do with cars, and particularly the Sonata? Well, its a car that is immediately familiar. The placement of interior switchgear is completely intuitive, which will bode well for giving non-Hyundai buyers a positive "first drive" experience. I always say to engineers, product managers and the likes, youve got one minute to make the sale. Its the first minute a person sits down in the car youve designed, and the sale comes if the person feels immediately at home. If the controls are odd and out of place, it had better be an amazingly dynamic vehicle to allow a customer to overcome being uncomfortable. The Sonata is immediately recognizable to most import buyers, which should translate into a good first impression and the more likely chance of turning prospects into buyers. If a car isnt intuitively set up, I tell the same people to train their retail staff to drive the car first with the customer in the passengers seat, making sure that all the controls are set up for the buyer before he/she takes the wheel, such as headlights, windshield wipers, etc, so that the customer doesnt have to touch anything and therefore feel uncomfortable. This isnt necessary for Sonata salespeople, however, unless, of course, the prospective buyer is coming over from a brand that doesnt feature intuitive controls. That might be good information for sales people to know. As for you, the prospective buyer, make sure you play with all the switches, buttons, knobs and gadgets before signing, so that you arent rudely awakened when taking deliver of your new car. Most likely, the Sonata will measure up to expectations. Odometer: 1,873 miles Jennifer: I think Id like to try a GLS with power foot pedals. While Im not overly uncomfortable, Id like to experience the difference adjusting the pedals would make. Odometer: 1,898 miles Jennifer: I loaded up a whole bunch of play toys for a mommy group (why do they call these mommy groups anyway, as theyre basically about getting the kids together so that they can play?). I was able to get large ride-on toys, containers of lego, toy cars, etc in the trunk, without having to drop the rear seats forward. Its a cavernous space, with a really large opening. Odometer: 1,921 miles Trevor: What? Do I have the last word? Hmmm... the benefits of being editor. Wish it worked as well in my audible world. Anyway, once again enjoyed how easy-going the Sonata GLS V6 is when tooling around town. It doesnt ask too much of its driver or passengers, but rather seems to support me, my back, my sleep-deprived head, and other extremities, protecting all from the cruel world outside in heated, leather seats, that are firmly sprung just the way I like them, in the "ergonomically correct" Germanic way. Of course, seat comfort is all about personal taste, and this one works for me. Some, like Lincolns Town Car, for instance, are too soft and pillowy, without enough lumbar support. I have no such complaints about the Sonata. All-in-all, another enjoyable two weeks spent in a car that should change a lot of peoples perceptions about the merits of Korean cars. Source:

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