2013 Hyundai Sonata holds its own among tough competition
By JEFF TAYLOR For Sun-Times Media October 29, 2012 1:15PM
2013 HYUNDAI SONATA
ENGINE: 198-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder
TRANSMISSION: six-speed automatic
DRIVETRAIN: front-wheel drive
FUEL ECONOMY: 24 city/35 highway
BASE PRICE: $26,345
AS TESTED: $28,680
The current Hyundai Sonata is in its sixth generation and with each generation the Sonata has grown larger and more refined. If you use your imagination (and follow Environmental Protection Agency guidelines), the Sonata qualifies as a large car.
In previous-generation Sonatas, Hyundai stylists created versions that ranged from bland to overstyled. The current Sonata has a futuristic “metal insect” look that has some interesting creases, contours and a sloping roof that gives it an expensive European look.
In the large car segment, Hyundai offers decent mileage through subtraction. Sonatas no longer offer six-speed manual transmissions and a six-cylinder engine is still not available. The Sonata’s four-cylinder engine lineup consists of a 2.4-liter four-cylinder and a 2.0-liter turbo.
The base 2.4-liter engine offers 198 to 200* horsepower (*SE models), which is more than the all-new 2013 Ford Fusion’s base 2.5-liter four-cylinder (175 horsepower) and redesigned 2013 Honda Accord’s base 2.4-liter engine with 185 to 189* horsepower (*Sport model). The Sonata’s upgrade engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder producing 274 horsepower. I tested the 2.4-liter base engine with a six-speed automatic.
Sonata’s base engine has decent power, but it could use more to really move this car. Yes, the optional turbo has more power but it costs you more. The base has more power than Fusion and Accord, which have less power because they shoot for better mileage. Sonata’s base engine has a better balance of power and fuel economy. Acceleration is better than average and gearing/operation of the Shiftronic manual-shift mode six-speed automatic does not hinder performance. Hyundai’s manual shift automatic is adequate but Accord, Fusion and Suzuki’s Kizashi offer true manuals.
Sonata’s suspension is compliant in urban driving, soaking up the typical assortment of Chicago area road imperfections. In suburban driving and freeway motoring, Sonata is more sporting than you might expect with communicative steering and strong braking courtesy of electronic brake force distribution and brake assist.
I tested a Limited model, which is cushier than SE models that offer more aggressive suspension tuning. Electronic stability control with traction control is standard, but Sonata does not offer all-wheel drive like Fusion, Subaru Legacy and Kizashi. My test car came with standard 17-inch p215/55R17 tires on attractive alloy wheels.
Hyundai built the brand with a value strategy and while it is moving higher up the price ladder, the Sonata comes with a decent amount of standard features. I liked the accommodating interior with proper control placement that still looks contemporary and has more space than the taut exterior suggests. I found the quality of the interior components to be on par with Fusion and Accord, but better than Legacy and Kizashi.
The leather seats were comfortable and supportive, and there was plenty of rear-passenger room. My Limited model offered heated rear seats as standard equipment. Sonata has an array of attractive standard technology features like Bluetooth connectivity, USB audio jacks, satellite radio and Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics system. My test vehicle came with an optional navigation system with rear backup camera, iPod cable, floor mats and free 90-day XM satellite service.
Cargo space is generous with 16.4 cubic feet, but there are a few misses. The trunk opening is small, the rear-seat pass-through opening is small, the trunk lid hinges intrude into the opening and rear seats don’t fold flat.
Sonata’s scores well in safety ratings and the warranty coverage is a strong selling point.
The Hyundai Sonata Limited is competitive in a tough class that includes all-new 2013 versions of the Accord, Fusion, Nissan Altima and strong competition from current versions of the Toyota Camry, Legacy, Chevrolet Malibu and the very affordable Kizashi.
Among the competition, I place the Sonata at midpack, but it will need a refresh for 2014 to keep pace.
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