Friday, February 25, 2011


With gas prices at $1.20 per gallon, financing topping 10 percent APR and airbags emerging as the latest safety technology, the auto industry looked much different 25 years ago when Hyundai brought its car to the United States. Today, with a full line-up of award-winning products, Hyundai Motor America celebrated its 25th anniversary in the U.S. on February 20th, focused on the new challenges and exciting opportunities that the next 25 years will bring.

Since its start in 1986 with the humble Excel, Hyundai has grown into a full-line producer of cars and crossovers, from Accent to Equus, from Tucson to Veracruz. Since the company’s arrival, Americans have put 6,608,208 Hyundai vehicles in their driveways, with more than 4,350,000 still on the road today. In 2010, sales topped 538,000, making Hyundai the sixth best-selling brand in the country, behind only Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Ford, and Chevrolet. U.S. production capacity has grown to over 400,000 units of Sonata, Elantra and Santa Fe models produced in modern assembly plants in Alabama and Georgia. Hyundai engines and transmissions are produced here, too. Direct U.S. employment totals more than 4,000, with total employment including suppliers and dealers of over 45,000. Hyundai’s commitment to the U.S. market includes engineering, design, testing, production, sales, and marketing. In all, Hyundai’s investments in the U.S. total $1.7 billion.

Hyundai’s heritage is built on earning the trust of its owners. Every Hyundai sold since the 1999 model year comes with what remains the industry’s best warranty – a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, and a 5-year, 60,000-mile vehicle warranty. Over the years, Hyundai has partnered with its owners in deeper ways, through good and bad times, and now offers a comprehensive suite of programs under the Hyundai Assurance banner that includes America’s Best Warranty, five years of unlimited mileage roadside assistance, and the innovative job-loss protection program.

As Hyundai grows, so do its aspirations. Last year, Hyundai established the most aggressive fuel economy goal in the industry, committing to a 50 miles-per-gallon-plus fleet average by 2025. This strategy, which falls under the banner “BlueDrive,” includes the aggressive implementation of a range of new, affordable technologies such as direct injection, turbocharging, internally-developed transmissions, and lightweighting. In parallel, Hyundai’s engineering teams are developing new fuel cell and battery solutions to help provide alternative solutions beyond the internal combustion engine.

Hyundai’s pursuits are not limited to the automobile. Hyundai Hope on Wheels is the united effort of Hyundai Motor America and its more than 800 dealers across the U.S. to help children fight cancer. We are dedicated to raising awareness about childhood cancer, celebrating the hope of the brave children battling the disease and finding a cure through our support of the best pediatric cancer researchers in the country. A portion of every Hyundai sold goes directly to this fight and more than $23 million have been donated since 1998.

“As far as we’ve come since 1986, we still feel we’re in the early stages of connecting the Hyundai brand to the U.S. consumer,” said John Krafcik, president and CEO, Hyundai Motor America. “We’ve always challenged convention – from our powertrain strategies, to our consumer partnership programs, to our unique Genesis and Equus retail approach. It’s authentically Hyundai to question the status quo and pursue our own vision of how things should be in order to best serve our customers. This willingness to challenge convention will continue to guide us these next 25 years.”

Hyundai’s model lineup now offers 12 distinct cars and crossovers – with more on the way. Hyundai’s immediate future includes three exciting new models arriving at showrooms through summer. The Veloster, a unique 3-door 40-mpg sporty coupe featuring Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics solution, will join all-new 4-door and 5-door versions of the Accent, which will also deliver 40 mpg. Hyundai’s award-winning Genesis gets a thorough face-lift and new engines and transmissions, with the performance-focused Genesis R-Spec and its all-new 429-horsepower Tau 5.0L V8 engine making its first appearance.

Hyundai’s anniversary present still awaits; a state-of-the-art headquarters based in Fountain Valley, Calif. is slated for completion in late 2012. The new campus doubles the size and capacity of the current building, giving Hyundai and its employees an environment conducive to growth as it prepares to help write the next chapter of a great American success story.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Hyundai Elantra heats up competition with Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze

The very first thing I said to myself when I sat down in the 2011 Hyundai Elantra was "Well, this is going to screw things up."

For months, I have been advocating that the best compact cars were imported from Detroit. (Hey, maybe I should copyright that line before some carmaker steals it?) The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze and 2012 Ford Focus were far and away my top picks for mainstream compact car transportation. But now, I'm not as sure. The 2011 Hyundai Elantra is simply gangbusters in nearly every category.

It has the looks of Hyundai's all-new Sonata, which is awesome. It gets better gas mileage than most subcompact cars. It comes with out-of-this-world amenities, such as second-row heated seats, a crystal-clear navigation system, and more than 43 inches of legroom in the front row. And it has a starting price under $15,000, giving it a dollar to luxury quotient of incredible.

Realistically, the base-model Elantra GLS feels more like a price statement than a civilized modern machine. It only comes with a six-speed manual, and things like air conditioning, cruise control and 16-inch wheels are optional. Lots of carmakers pull off this stunt.

But it's when Hyundai starts adding options that the Elantra begins to feel like a bargain. A top-of-the-line Elantra Limited starts at $21,980 — both the Cruze and Focus can still cost thousands of dollars more.

My fully loaded Limited was a cocoon of luxury and leather, at a cost of $22,000. The 7-inch, high-resolution monitor at the top of the center stack provided a crisp navigation system that's easy to use. There is also a slew of technology features that are quickly becoming the norm on many compact cars: Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free phone operation, voice recognition and push-button start.

Hyundai also adds a proximity feature, which unlocks the door when you touch the handle — meaning you don't have to pull your keys out of your pocket to unlock the door. It's a feature that you never knew you needed until you start using it. Stunning interior delivers

The interior is simply stunning.

There's an elegant center stack that roughly resembles an hourglass. Throughout the cabin, waves of luxury roll through every surface, reflecting an emotive design. At the top of the center stack is a sliver of blue light that cuts out of the dash and relays information. At night, the cabin fills with a soft blue light that is easy on your eyes — and your night vision.

The instrument panel includes two chrome-trimmed gauges and the same blue lighting. Every individual piece looks and feels well crafted, and together, they combine into a masterpiece.

Even the comfortable seats offer just the right touch of environmental sensibilities with lightweight, eco-friendly foam. It's only a seat, but, somehow, you feel better about it. Then again, you also feel better because it's heated — in the front and back row.

Hyundai also has managed to help the environment another way: The Elantra hits 40 mpg on the highway and 29 mpg in the city. Unlike the Cruze and Focus, which reach 42 mpg and 40 mpg, respectively, those cars need special fuel-efficient models to do that. Hyundai does it with all of its cars — not a small difference. Responsive, peppy engine

The little 1.8-liter dual overhead cam four-cylinder engine with dual-continuously variable valve timing provides 148 horsepower and 131 pound-feet of torque. Its performance on Detroit's streets was good. The engine is peppy and the six-speed automatic transmission in my test vehicle was extremely smooth — almost too smooth. It changed gears quickly and rarely rewarded me with that gear-shifting lurch. Lots of carmakers do this to improve fuel economy, but in the Elantra it was more noticeable. There is a manual override on the automatic that allows more aggressive drivers to get more out of the engine and the car.

On the road, the electric motor driven power steering was very linear and precise. I would have preferred more resistance the farther I moved the steering wheel, especially at highway speeds, when the Elantra felt a little twitchy.

However, it was comfortable on the highway and driving at low parking lot speeds, something to remember for people who drive in heavy traffic. It was also extremely quiet, making it all that much better to sit back and enjoy the 360-watt optional stereo system.

And a stereo is important — as this car is so good looking it should come with its own soundtrack. Exterior is modern classic

Hyundai says the exterior is the next step in its fluidic sculpture design language.

No matter what you call it, the fifth-generation Elantra looks sharp. The wheels are pushed out to the edges, but not so far to disrupt the car's proportions. The small grille above and below the bumper help define the Elantra's face, while the angular fog lamps provide dimples to the car's smile. It looks modern and classic in the same breath.

There is also nice definition along the car's side, with the A-line moving through both door handles and then through the rear tail lamp. While it has all the trappings of the Sonata — the first fluidic design car to enter Hyundai's lineup — I like the Elantra more. The Sonata is almost overdone with all of the sharp edges. But with the Elantra, the designer seemed to know when to put the pencil down. Sometimes the best design happens when you stop.

Inside and out, the Elantra seems to offer more and more.

The Cruze and Focus may have set a new standard for compact cars, but the Elantra raises the bar even higher.

That's not good news for carmakers, which now have to re-evaluate their next compact offering.

But it's fantastic news for consumers.

Friday, February 11, 2011

2012 Hyundai Genesis Offers its Most Powerful V8 Powertrain With Further Design and Chassis Refinement

New 5.0-liter V8 R-Spec Model, Enhanced Direct Injection V6 Engine and New Eight-speed Transmissions Significantly Improve Driving Dynamics and Refinement

Hyundai's award-winning Genesis sedan continues its segment leadership with exterior design improvements, new direct injection technology for its Lambda V6 engine, new eight-speed automatic transmissions, and enhanced chassis tuning. In addition, a new 5.0-liter direct injection V8 engine is now available exclusively with the 5.0 R-Spec model, which includes unique 19-inch machined-finish alloy wheels, optional Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 summer performance tires and sport-tuned transmission, suspension and steering calibrations for exhilarating vehicle dynamics.

2012 Genesis Highlights

* New 5.0-liter R-Spec Direct Injection V8 performance flagship model added
    - Most powerful Hyundai engine ever with 429 horsepower
    - Unique 19-inch alloy wheel design with premium machined finish
    - Dark chrome headlamp inserts
    - Unique R-Spec sport transmission, suspension and steering calibrations
* Direct injection technology added to Lambda 3.8-liter V6 engine for 15 percent improved output (333 HP), improved fuel economy and emissions
* In-house-developed eight-speed automatic transmissions for all engines
* More aggressive grille and front fascia design
* New headlight design with LED accents and daytime running lights
* Sportier rocker panel design
* Folding mirrors with integrated puddle lamps
* New, brushed aluminum finish window surround
* Redesigned rear taillights
* Redesigned rear fascia with integrated dual asymmetrical exhaust tips
* New 17-inch alloy wheel design (3.8 model)
* New interior woodgrain colors for Black, Beige and Saddle leather interiors
* New Twilight Blue Pearl exterior color (replaces Sapphire Blue Pearl)


The heart of the Genesis 5.0 R-Spec model is a new Tau V8 engine producing 429 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 376 lb. ft. of torque at 5,000 rpm. This new Tau V8 represents the most powerful Hyundai engine ever, with a higher specific output (85.8 hp/liter) than its normally-aspirated premium luxury competitors. For 2011, the Tau V8 engine family has again been named to the prestigious Ward’s Ten Best Engines for the third consecutive time.

Genesis 5.0 Competitive Set 5.0 R-Spec
5.0-liter V8
Lexus GS460
4.6-liter V8
Infiniti M56
5.6-liter V8
M-B E550
5.5-liter V8
Normally-aspirated V8
Specific Output (HP/liter)
85.8 74.3 75.0 69.5
The 5.0-liter cylinder bore was increased from 92 mm to 96 mm over the 4.6-liter bore for a total displacement of 5.0 liters (5,038cc). In addition to the enlarged displacement, direct injection technology has been added. This high-pressure direct injection system (over 2200 psi), dramatically increases power and torque while reducing fuel consumption and emissions. Compression ratio has been increased from 10.4 to 11.5:1 for greater thermal efficiency and output. The Tau also receives a revised bed plate for improved block rigidity and lower NVH as well as camshaft carriers and a roller timing chain to improve valvetrain stability.

5.0 R-Spec Direct Injection Tau V8 Engine

Even more, this new V8 still offers all of the premium engine technology from the 4.6-liter V8, including Dual Continuously Variable Valve Timing (D-CVVT), a tuned variable induction system, and low-friction diamond-like coatings (DLC) on piston skirts, rings and tappets. Even with these impressive power increases, fuel economy is estimated at 16 mpg city and 25 mpg highway, nearly matching the 4.6-liter V8 (17 mpg city/26 mpg highway). As an additional point of interest, this same 5.0-liter Tau V8 with eight-speed transmission will replace the current 4.6-liter V8 as the standard powertrain in the 2012 Hyundai Equus premium luxury sedan, on sale this summer.

The Tau 5.0-liter V8 is coupled with a new in-house eight-speed transmission. This new Hyundai-developed transmission adds two additional ratios to enhance acceleration, shifting smoothness, and transmission efficiency by six percent over the former six-speed. All eight-speed transmissions will include SHIFTRONIC® manual shift capability. This new eight-speed transmission is the first offered by a non-luxury branded manufacturer.

Hyundai-developed eight-speed automatic transmission

In keeping with Hyundai engineering philosophy, the R-Spec also will include more aggressive chassis tuning, matching its corresponding powertrain enhancements for optimal dynamic balance. For enhanced body roll control, front stabilizer bar diameter has been increased from 25 mm to 26 mm, and rear diameter from 18 mm to 19 mm over the 4.6 model. R-Spec will offer a unique sport design 19-inch alloy wheel with premium machined finish and optional Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 summer performance tires. The R-Spec steering calibration has been matched to this unique wheel and tire combination for optimized performance and driving refinement expectations in this segment. To complete the performance package, front brake rotors have increased from 13.0 inches to 13.6 inches over the 2011 4.6 model.

In addition to the more aggressive styling cues for all 2012 Genesis models, R-Spec will offer unique headlights with dark chrome inserts for a more distinctive front appearance. An R-Spec trim designation badge has been added to the rear deck, and black R-Spec embroidered floor mats daily remind the driver of the performance that awaits behind the wheel. Genesis R-Spec only will be offered in three sport-oriented exterior colors: Black Noir, Titanium Gray, and Platinum Metallic, each with Black leather interior and an all-black leather steering wheel for a differentiated sport appearance from the 4.6 model.

2012 Hyundai Genesis R-Spec


In keeping with its 5.0-liter V8 sibling, the Genesis 3.8-liter Lambda engine will receive direct injection (GDI) technology, boosting its output 15 percent from 290 to 333 horsepower, an impressive gain of 43 horsepower with no increase in displacement. In addition, peak torque rises from 264 lb.-ft. to 291 lb.-ft., a generous increase of 27 lb.-ft. from the same 3.8 liters. Compression ratio increases from 10.4:1 to 11.5:1 for greater thermal efficiency. This new direct-injected Lambda V6 produces a higher specific output (87.6 hp/liter) than its normally-aspirated premium luxury competitors.

Genesis 3.8-liter GDI Competitive Set GENESIS
3.8-liter GDI V6
Lexus GS350
3.5-liter V6
BMW 528i
3.0-liter V6
M-B E350
3.5-liter V6
Normally-aspirated V6 Specific Output
87.6 86.6 80.0 76.6
The 3.8-liter engine retains all of the premium technologies that have made it outstanding since the launch of Genesis: Dual Continuously Variable Valve Timing (D-CVVT), variable induction, all aluminum block and heads, steel timing chain, and iridium-tipped spark plugs. Besides the generous horsepower and torque gains, direct injection technology produces a significant reduction in emissions through a 40 percent reduction in catalyst light-off time. Further, a variable vane oil pump has been fitted to precisely match oil pressure with engine lubrication requirements for increased efficiency at all engine speeds. As a result, 3.8-liter GDI fuel economy increases over seven percent from 27 mpg to 29 mpg on the highway.

2011 Genesis 3.8-liter Engine vs. 2012 Genesis 3.8-liter Direct Injection with eight-speed automatic

Engine Horsepower Torque
Fuel Economy (mpg)
City Highway
Lambda 3.8-liter V6 Direct
Injection with eight-speed
automatic transmission
290 → 333 264 → 291 18 → TBD 27 → 29
3.8-liter Direct Injection Lambda V6 Engine

All 3.8-liter engines will be coupled to an in-house-developed eight-speed transmission with SHIFTRONIC and precisely calibrated gear ratios for an overall transmission efficiency gain of six percent. These two additional ratios serve to achieve competing objectives of acceleration and economy without compromise.


For 2012, Genesis' award-winning Tau 4.6-liter V8 powerplant will now be coupled exclusively with an in-house-developed eight-speed automatic transmission with SHIFTRONIC, adding benefits in acceleration and efficiency. Internal engineering tests estimate this new eight-speed transmission to be six percent more efficient at transferring power than the former 6-speed automatic, increasing highway fuel economy from 25 mpg to 26 mpg.

This same 4.6-liter Tau V8 engine was already significantly improved for 2010 with induction and tuning enhancements increasing peak output from 375 to 385 horsepower. A variable intake system, iridium-tipped spark plugs, anti-knock control, and multi-port injection further add to the sophistication of this engine.

2011 4.6-liter Tau V8 vs. 2012 4.6-liter Tau V8 with eight-speed automatic transmission

Engine Fuel Economy (mpg)
City Highway
Tau 4.6-liter V8 with
eight-speed automatic transmission
17 → 17 25 → 26


Always seeking to enhance the Genesis driving experience, Hyundai engineers have made further refinements to the 3.8 and 4.6 model suspension damping calibrations. These precise adjustments serve to minimize the traditional compromises between handling precision and ride comfort. In addition, body roll control for the 3.8 model is enhanced, with the rear stabilizer bar diameter increasing from 17 mm to 18 mm. Braking is also improved on both the 3.8 and 4.6 models; the 3.8 model front rotor size increases from 12.6 inches to 13.0 inches, while adding by higher performance 4-piston brake calipers, and the 4.6 model front brake rotors increase from 13.0 inches to 13.6 inches for greater fade resistance.


Not content to rest on their laurels, Hyundai's design team has sought to make a great Genesis exterior design even better for 2012. For the front view, the front grille has been enhanced, a more aggressive front fascia with larger intake openings was developed, and the headlights have been redesigned, adding LED accents and daytime running lights (DRLs). From the side view, the standard 17-inch alloy wheel design has been freshened and the rocker panels have been refined. In addition, the mirrors now incorporate power-folding and puddle lamp functions, while the side window surround now receives a decidedly sporty brushed aluminum finish. From the rear view, the taillights have been redesigned and new dual asymmetrical exhaust tips are more cleanly integrated with a new bumper fascia.


Maintaining Hyundai's emphasis on delivering leading safety technology, Genesis boasts world-class active and passive safety features to help both prevent accidents and maximize the well being of its occupants in the event of a collision. Genesis continues the Hyundai tradition of standardizing key life-saving safety technology with Electronic Stability Control (ESC), eight airbags and electronic active head restraints. Active front head restraints have been proven by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to help prevent whiplash.

Adding to this safety leadership for 2012, Genesis adds new daytime running lamps to all models. Further, Genesis offers a newly-developed Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS), available on the 3.8 Technology package, 4.6 and 5.0 R-Spec models.

Genesis' total of eight airbags includes advanced dual front airbags, front and rear seat-mounted side-impact airbags, and roof-mounted side curtain airbags for both front and rear outboard seat occupants.

Genesis has a total of eight ultrasonic sensors located on the front and rear bumpers. The sensors, along with the rear backup camera, help detect how close objects are when parking. Distance is indicated on the in-dash screen and accompanied by an audible warning tone.

Genesis is brought to a halt by large four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with Brake Assist and Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD). Genesis 3.8 models now have large 13.0-inch front rotors with four-piston fixed calipers, while 4.6 and 5.0 models have oversized 13.6-inch front rotors.


Genesis 3.8 Standard Equipment
2012 Genesis also will increase its impressive list of standard equipment, adding headlight LED accents and daytime running lights (DRLs) and outside mirror puddle lamps.

Genesis 3.8 Premium Package
The 3.8 Premium Package will now offer newly-developed power-folding outside mirrors and heated rear seats with console controls. For 2012, the 3.8 Premium package will also include rearview camera, DVD navigation system with seven-inch touchscreen, XM NavTraffic, and 18-inch Hyper Silver split-spoke alloy wheels.

Genesis 3.8 Technology Package:
The 3.8 Technology package will continue to satisfy tech-savvy buyers, adding a newly-developed Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS), and thin-film-transistor LCD gauge cluster readout.


Hyundai Motor America, headquartered in Fountain Valley, Calif., is a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Co. of Korea. Hyundai vehicles are distributed throughout the United States by Hyundai Motor America and are sold and serviced through more than 800 dealerships nationwide. All Hyundai vehicles sold in the U.S. are covered by the Hyundai Assurance program which now includes the 5-year/60,000 mile fully transferable bumper-to-bumper warranty, Hyundai's 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty and 5-year complimentary Roadside Assistance in addition to the highly acclaimed vehicle return policy introduced in early 2009. For more details on Hyundai Assurance, please visit

Friday, February 04, 2011

Crowd-Pleasing Composition in 3 Movements

WHEN it comes to describing precisely what makes the 2011 Hyundai Sonata so undeniably excellent, the structural metaphor that applies best is, obviously, the crunchy taco.

What makes a great taco is its shell. If the shell is fresh, crisp and robust, it doesn’t get soggy quickly or crack and crumble, and the flavor of what’s inside will shine. Chicken, steak or pork carnitas, it’s all tastier when served in a perfectly fried corn tortilla taco shell.

Before Hyundai stuffed the all-new version of its midsize front-drive sedan, it built a great shell. By forgoing the option of a V-6 engine (unlike most of its rivals, as well as the previous-generation Sonata), the car’s basic structure could be optimized around 4-cylinder engines, which take up less space.

So the nose doesn’t have to cover a wider V-6, the engine bay doesn’t require the strength to carry a heavier V-6 and room need not be made for an exhaust system evacuating two banks of cylinders. Dozens of other less obvious challenges were also avoided. By sticking with 4-cylinder engines — in mild naturally aspirated, spicy turbocharged and righteous hybrid flavors — Hyundai made it easier to engineer a relatively lightweight, rigid and efficient shell.

There’s nothing exotic or even clever about the Sonata’s structure. It’s a standard steel unibody with a pair of MacPherson struts constituting the front suspension and a multilink independent rear suspension. Hyundai has just sweated the details better this time than it ever has before.

Size-wise, the new Sonata’s dimensions are almost right atop the Honda Accord sedan; the Hyundai’s 110-inch wheelbase is just 0.2 inch shorter than the Honda’s and the Sonata is within a half-inch of the Accord in overall width, height and wheel track. The “almost” lies in overall length, where the Sonata’s 189.8 inches is 4.3 inches shorter than the Accord. But despite that, the Sonata offers virtually the same interior room (the back seat is a little tighter) and 16.4 cubic feet of trunk space compared with the Accord’s 14.

Based on the interior volume, the Environmental Protection Agency rates the Sonata, like the Accord, a “large” car. But the Sonata, styled in Hyundai’s California studio, is a swoopy, sleek, streamlined looker compared with the aging Accord, which is blandly boxy from the blunt face of its fuddy to the trailing edge of its duddy.

The Sonata has the “four-door coupe” profile of a Mercedes-Benz CLS or a Volkswagen CC, without those cars’ compromised interior space. That’s a slick trick.

Fortunately, Hyundai didn’t stop thinking when it stuffed the Sonata’s shell. Even the base GLS, which starts at $19,915, includes nice touches like a pull-down handle built into the trunk lid and, below the ventilation controls, two easily accessible 12-volt power points, a USB port and an audio jack. The ventilation controls themselves are neat, featuring a human pictograph for choosing where the flow of air should be directed.

There’s a thoughtfulness that runs throughout every 2011 Sonata that pays off in nearly perfect ergonomics, nicely shaped seats, easily scanned instrumentation, standard Bluetooth cellphone integration with the sound system and an overall feeling of quality that Hyundai has frankly never even approached before.

This isn’t a small step forward for the South Korean company; the made-in-Alabama Sonata is a thumping bound to the front of its class.

The standard Sonata engine is a direct-gasoline injection 2.4-liter 4-cylinder with variable valve timing, a sky-high 11.3:1 compression ratio and a relatively long crank stroke for better torque production. Rated at 198 horsepower in the GLS and the more luxurious Limited, and at 200 in the sporty-trim SE, the engine is sweet natured until about 5,000 r.p.m. — after which it gets a bit ragged.

But the slick part of the Sonata’s drivetrain is the transmission. A 6-speed manual is standard on the base car, the GLS, but virtually all buyers will take the 6-speed automatic. Built by Hyundai itself, that transmission is a paragon of electronically controlled self-shifting virtue; the gears are perfectly spaced with fifth a 1:1 direct drive and sixth an overdrive. The transmission can be shifted manually using the floor-mounted shifter, but why bother?

Combine the GLS automatic’s modest 3,199-pound unloaded weight (about 80 pounds less than a comparable Accord) with the drivetrain’s talents and the result is a federal rating of 22 miles per gallon in the city, 35 on the highway and 28 combined — again slightly better than the Accord.

Car and Driver magazine tested a Sonata SE with the automatic and it waltzed to 60 m.p.h. in 7.8 seconds — nearly a second quicker than the 2010 Accord EX to which it was compared.

The real treat, however, lies in the new turbocharged Sonata 2.0T. Using a shorter stroke, smaller bore, 2-liter version of the same direct-injection engine, the intercooled turbocharger installation whips the output up to a robust 274 horsepower with outstanding torque from off-idle to the 6,500 r.p.m. red line — and does so on regular-grade gas.

No, the turbo 4 is not as silken as the V-6s from Honda or Toyota, but operating through the 6-speed automatic produces effortless thrust, excellent acceleration (0-60 in 6.2 seconds, again according to Car and Driver) and impressive fuel economy. The E.P.A. rates the Sonata 2.0T at 22 m.p.g. in town and a noteworthy 33 on the highway.

All that additional power does, however, point up some of the weaker elements. The suspension is a touch too soft and the speed-proportional electric power steering seems to vary its assist a half-beat behind the driver’s moves.

And since the turbo engine is available only in SE and Limited models, prices start at a dizzier $24,865. Yet considering the amount of equipment aboard, that still seems like a bargain.

The final variation on the Sonata theme is the Hybrid. The hybrid system itself is technically interesting and the redecoration of the car’s nose is pure funk, but the most significant element in how it drives is the same 6-speed automatic used in other Sonatas.

While most hybrids use a continuously variable transmission without fixed gears, the Sonata’s conventional gearbox makes for a more conventional driving experience. The Sonata Hybrid’s recalibrated version of the same 2.4-liter decelerates with the gear changes. For those of us who despise the engine drone associated with CVTs, that sound is a relief. Otherwise, the drivetrain machinations of the Hyundai hybrid system are almost invisible as long as the car is driven moderately.

In fact, if it weren’t for the electro-luminescent instrument panel and the liquid-crystal display between the tachometer and speedometer that graphically encourages economical driving, many drivers wouldn’t notice much difference between the Hybrid, with 206 horsepower (166 horses for the gas engine and 40 more for the electric motor) and the regular Sonata GLS. But they will notice the Hybrid’s stunning E.P.A. rating: 40 m.p.g. on the highway and 36 in the city.

The Sonata Hybrid just went on sale at a starting price of $26,545 — almost $1,000 less than the Toyota Camry Hybrid, which isn’t as well equipped and has a lower mileage rating.

Of course the Sonata isn’t perfect. Some will find its high beltline — the line below the side windows — disconcerting. The turbo model’s lack of a manual transmission keeps it from being a performance leader. And there are still some interior switches that operate raggedly. But this is the first car Hyundai has sold in America that’s so good and so keenly priced that any buyer shopping in its market segment must seriously consider it. It’s the first unavoidable Hyundai.

That’s why it is doing so well. Some 200,000 of the new Sonatas have been sold so far, Hyundai says. After all, everyone loves a tasty taco.