Friday, August 25, 2006

Winning Respect

WINNING RESPECT The Sonata Makes Driving A Sweet Song By Joe Kovach, Autoweek Magazine August 28, 2006 Issue In the first quarter of its yearlong stay, the Hyundai Sonata persevered with only backhanded compliments such as, "It's a nice car for the money. In the second quarter it won us over. One staffer said, "Not only does the interior have leather seats, butt-warmers and nice trim, the outside looks good, too. I wouldn't be ashamed to drive it all the time." Indeed. You can sense a pleasantly surprised mood in the logbook. Resembling a '70s/'80s Toyota (practical, bullet-proof and economical), no mechanical problems befell the Sonata in the 6812 miles we've put on the odometer. And we registered no major complaints about one of the cheapest vehicles in our fleet. Sonata is even better looking than most Toyotas of 30 years ago. "This Sonata is more than I expected," an editor wrote. "It's a handsome package, with near-Accord looks in a clean and unassuming wrapper that doesn't scream 'Look at me,' but is in no way ugly. Inside the fits and materials are excellent, the comfort good, the controls laid out well (except for maybe the steering wheel controls mounted too low on the wheel). The doors close with a solid thunk and everything feels well-built." We noted fuel mileage is lower than the EPA's 24.5 rating based on 20/30 mpg (city/highway). One theory is the fine 3.3-liter V6 tempts us with its 226 lb-ft at 3500 rpm, leading us to seek 6000 rpm, where it makes 235 hp. We have no complaints about the five-speed automatic with a Tiptronic-like auto-manual either. "The Sonata is a serious attempt at competing with Camry and Accord, and it stacks up favorably," said a staffer. "Fully loaded Camrys and Accords come in around $30,000, and that's why the Sonata is tough to beat." The managing editor says, "This is the best $23,000 car on the planet." The question at the halfway point is whether the Sonata, like a Toyota, will remain bulletproof for another six months.

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