Wednesday, May 10, 2006

2006 Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 Long-Term Test Update No. 5

2006 Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 Long-Term Test Update No. 5 November 2, 2005 by West Coast Office / American Auto Press EPA Fuel Economy Winner! A couple of weeks ago, as part of the Sonata GLS V6s fourth long-term update, we took a look at its top-tier five-star NHTSA NCAP crash test results, not too shabby. Today, the good news comes from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), rating the new Sonata number one in fuel economy among large cars. Yes, in case you werent aware, the Sonata is so roomy its classified as a large car, not a midsize, although from a maneuverability standpoint it doesnt feel any larger than the cars its up against in the midsize segment. The EPA winner is the entry-level four-door, sporting a 2.4-liter four-cylinder thats actually quite a bit peppier than initially expected. Of course, to meet the EPAs 24 mpg city and 34 mpg highway rating, any thoughts about brisk acceleration would have to be subdued. The same would be true for the V6-powered Sonata, the subject of this long-term test, which incidentally achieves 20 mpg in the city and 33 on the highway - not bad either - and that with an automatic transmission; the EPA winning car featured a five-speed manual. Does this mean it uses less fuel on average than a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry? Well, not exactly. The Accord manages 26 mpg in the city and 37 on the highway, which is noticeably better, while the Camrys 24 mpg city and 36 mpg highway rating is closer to the Sonatas. What it does mean, however, is that neither the Accord nor Camry qualify as a large car - that despite the Sonatas lower price - and the added roominess makes a big difference when the rear seats are filled up. The fact that there is only negligible difference in fuel economy ratings, gives Hyundai the advantage with all but the stingiest of consumers. In reality, the Sonata beats out its own Azera, also classified as a large car, Buicks Le Sabre, Chryslers 300, Dodges Charger, Fords Five Hundred and Toyotas Avalon, among others. So which model is thriftier than the Accord and Camry in the midsize class? The Toyota Prius, which is designated a midsize model due to its accommodating interior. We left you two weeks ago with the Sonatas odometer reading 2,367 miles, and now a total of 3,009 miles have ticked by, meaning that weve driven 642 miles in two weeks. Thats a long way, but once again they were largely uneventful kilometers. The car drove flawlessly, everything working as needed, and therefore theres little to report. Unfortunately, and fortunately, depending on your point of view, Hyundai was only able to supply a partially loaded GLS V6, so there are fewer specific features to talk about, but what makes this good is that the majority of Sonata buyers will purchase their cars the way this one is equipped, making what we have to say more relevant. Therefore, the log entries follow: Odometer: 2,389 miles Trevor: Once again I find myself behind the wheel of our long-term Sonata, comfortable, relaxed and enjoying the drive home. Sports talk radio is on, my hockey team is winning lately so theres a good vibe had by all, football team is in a slump but I can get over that, were still in first place, and whenever they start talking baseball, unless its about the Padres, Ive got a the FM dial to turn to, and the odd song worth listening to. Id really like a plug-in for my iPod, but no external plug exists so Im relegated to burning MP3 CDs. That said, it wouldnt take my old, scratched best of Bowie MP3 CD - unreadable. Alexandra swears this thing plays MP3s, so Ill have to take her word for it; the kid couldnt lie if her life depended on it. Either that, or shes got me fooled. Odometer: 2,418 miles Jennifer: While weve had a lot of interesting new cars and SUVs to test recently, many dont fit the child safety seats in back as well as the Sonata. Therefore, rather than test out something faster, more luxurious, or even better, optioned out with a DVD-player to keep the kids happy, Ive been taking the Sonata. The problem doesnt lie with any lack of rear seat room on the part of the other vehicles, but rather the design of the headrests. The Chevy Impala, for instance, features all-in-one built-in headrests, that unfortunately stick out too far to hug the child seatbacks, making them flop around and therefore rendering them useless. The new Jeep Commanders headrests are designed to flip down and forward when folding the seats. While handy when stowing, you cant move them up and down like regular headrests, and neither car seat would fit underneath resulting in the same problem as with the Impala. These werent the only offenders, but you get the point. Odometer: 2,463 miles Trevor: Driving over to my Moms to lend a hand. Nice night for a drive, not raining and the traffics light. With regards to what Jennifer was saying, I wish that more automakers would spend time with child safety seats before finalizing the design of rear seats. I cant believe that the Commander, a brand new family vehicle, wont fit them in properly. This would frustrate me to no end if Id just spent $30 to $40K on a new SUV. So, make sure and bring your child seats down to the dealership before bucking up for the new ride. Odometer: 2,548 miles Jennifer: Trevor took the Sonata and I got stuck with the Impala. Wow, its easy to see why GM is losing market share to the Asians. The Impala is a mid-cycle upgrade, looking almost entirely like a new car, but it seems so outdated compared to the Sonata. And Im not just talking about styling or interior design, its how it feels on the road. The Sonata feels more stable, delivers a smoother ride and much more power than the Impala (although Ive heard the Impala now comes with a V8). Still, the Hyundai is more refined overall, feeling like a much more expensive car even though it costs less. Odometer: 2,594 miles Trevor: I couldnt agree with Jennifer more, but have to say I liked the Impalas center stack a lot. Still, add two additional years of bumper-to-bumper warranty to all the things Jennifer mentioned, plus more interior room and reliability that should be higher than average, if Consumer Reports top rating on last years model is any indication of how well the new version will stand up, and the Sonata is a smarter bet. Odometer: 2,678 miles Trevor: I know that this Sonata comes equipped with traction control, but it still spins out when taking off in the wet, at least at first. It locks up the wheels in a few moments and then takes off, but some may find its initial reaction a little disconcerting. The trick, of course, is to go lighter on the throttle, but this is hard with this car as its just so much fun to drive quickly. Here I though I was getting a nice, sedate family sedan, and that my drivers license wouldnt be in jeopardy. No, the Sonata is hardly sedate. Maybe the powers that be will exchange this one for a four-cylinder automatic? No, just kidding Mr. Hyundai. Odometer: 2,766 miles Jennifer: I sure get a lot of compliments on the styling of this car. I have to admit that it looks nice, but its a midsize family sedan after all. How exciting can that really be? Still, people like it... a lot of people. Its funny how you can start liking something more when other people compliment you on it, you know what I mean? Odometer: 2,842 miles Trevor: The Sonata may have sat at Park n Fly all week, but it was nice to come home to. The car I flew to New York to drive, Lincolns new Zephyr, might have featured nicer appointments, softer touch interior plastics, cooler interior styling and an upscale badge, but its exterior styling isnt any more attractive, it didnt ride much better, its powertrain wasnt as refined and didnt offer any more room front or back. Whats more, the Sonata pulls away from stoplights with more vigor, features a manu-matic shifter and, oh yes, costs about $10K less. Hey, I really like the new Lincoln and think it poses good value in the entry-level luxury segment, but the Sonata is so much car for the money that its hard to beat. Odometer: 2,928 miles Jennifer: Good to have the Sonata back. To think that Trevor had it parked at the airport for almost a week and I was stuck struggling with car seats that needed pillows stuffed in behind to keep from tossing around. Who designs these things anyway? They should add a few moms into the mix during product planning to point out one or two things that really matter. I was able to pop the car seats into the back of the Hyundai, lift the headrests, and slot them underneath with everything fitting together like it was made to measure. The simple things in life bring such joy. Odometer: 2,993 miles Jennifer: One more thing... the seat heater only has one setting, which isnt good enough in my not so humble opinion. Its either on, or off, hot or cold. Most in this class offer a two- or three-way heated seat system, with some, like Chryslers Sebring and Volkswagens Jetta, optioned out with six-increment heaters. While but warmers dont necessarily define a car in the same way that cupholders are hardly critical to a vehicles longevity, they do enhance quality of life. I vote for multi-stage seat warmers, Hyundai, none of this white-black, all or nothing, hot-cold stuff. Trevor: Being that I walked out to the car to read the odometer on a cold, rainy night, I get the last word. Now, do I have anything relevant to say? Not really... just that the Sonata is wearing in well. All the complaints Ive read, and any Ive had personally are more or less trivial in comparison to the gripes Ive had about many other cars, some of which fight it out in the Sonatas mid- to large-size segment. I took home a new Hyundai Azera yesterday... what a car. First of all, I personally like the Sonatas overall exterior styling much more, but this said I would much rather spend time inside the Azera, what with its higher grade materials, quieter ambience, cloth-lined pillars, and much more attractive dash design. The seats are to-die-for comfortable, the ride is sublime and the general feel of the car is much more upscale than its Hyundai badge lets on. The Azera wheels are also gorgeous, and would look fabulous on our Sonata GLS V6 - is that swap possible? Probably not... at least not unless a great deal of money changed hands. The Azera made one thing very clear to me, however; that Hyundai hasnt merely fluked out with the Sonata, being that all of its new vehicles are winners. This quickly became apparent after driving the new Tucson, and Ive heard that the Accent is also a class leader. Next will come a new Elantra and Santa Fe (not necessarily in that order), and Im really looking forward to seeing how much better these vehicles get over the current versions - which are still very competitive in their own classes. This is a brand worth watching. Source:

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