Monday, April 21, 2008

Hyundai Sonata Limited Almost A Steal

THE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2008 Hyundai Sonata Limited midsize sedan.

DOWN THE ROAD: OK, so it's not packed with power but this family sedan can safely take passengers to their destination. For a commute to work or just the grocery store down the street, the Sonata is the perfect choice -- and at the right price.

TECH & PERFORMANCE: Power is derived from a 2.4-liter DOHC inline four-cylinder engine. It develops a satisfactory 162 horsepower at 5800 rpm and 164 pounds-feet of torque at 4250 rpm. It's coupled to a 4-speed automatic transmission that also can shift gears manually. The front is equipped with a double wishbone, coil springs, gas-filled hydraulic shock absorbers and a stabilizer bar. The rear has a multilink system with coil springs, shock absorbers and stabilizer. Guiding the sedan on the road is a solid power-assisted, rack-and-pinion steering system. Fear not slowing down in an emergency situation for the 11-inch front and 11.8-inch rear power-assisted brake discs are up to the job. I averaged about 23 mpg in city/highway driving, which is good since gasoline prices are edging toward $4 a gallon.

LOOK & FEEL: Set on a unibody construction, four-barrel jeweled projector headlights sandwich a chrome-slathered center-bar grille with aluminum body-side moldings, chrome door handles and body-colored exterior mirrors. Wood-grain accents on the center console, shifter knob and dashboard are visible as you slip into the plush and heated front leather seats, a standard feature in the Limited version of the Sonata. The doorsill scuff plates, four-spoke leather tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, 6 in-dash Infinity CD changer and power driver's seat are features you would expect to find mostly in a luxury car. To top it all, Hyundai has installed a trip computer in the instrument panel, automatic temperature control and an auto-dim mirror/compass. Trunk area? A respectable 16.3 cubic feet of space.

SAFETY FIRST: Standard is the norm as in dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, Electronic Stability Control, traction control, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution, front active-head restraints, energy-absorbing steering column, three-point seatbelts for all positions, front and rear crumple zones and tire pressure monitoring system.

OUT THE DOOR: $22,345, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges. The sun roof is available for $900.

BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, P215/55VR17; wheelbase, 107.4 inches; length, 188.9 inches; weight, 3,266 pounds; fuel capacity, 17.7 gallons; highway, 30 mpg; city, 21 mpg.

WHY DIG IT: The fuel-efficient Sonata is an outstanding value for the money. The sedan boasts a decent performance coupled with numerous safety features and generous cargo capacity. Making the package tough to beat are the five-year, 60,000-mile new vehicle and 10-year, 100,000-mile power train warranties.

By NITISH S. RELE, Automotive columnist, The Tampa Tribune

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