2011 Hyundai Sonata Photo

2011 Hyundai Sonata - Review


2011 Hyundai Sonata

You're probably asking yourself, what does Hyundai--much less the Sonata--have to do with anything performance or luxury oriented? And that's a fair question. Aside from the Genesis Coupe (sporty) and Sedan (lux) there's not much among Hyundai's current range to sate the go-fast, style-hungry enthusiast. Until the 2011 Sonata, that is.

That's not to say this is a rival to the Aston Martin Rapide, or even the BMW 3-Series, for that matter. But most enthusiasts know that fun and style can be found at every price point--even in the budget realm. Mazda, for example, is renowned for building affordable cars with the soul of a racer. The Sonata is a car in a similar vein, with the added dash of its exterior and interior presence.

Hyundai flew Tim Healey, a freelance contributor, and I out to Torrey Pines to spend a quick day in the new Sonata. Tim and I traded stints behind the wheels of the 2011 Hyundai Sonata SE and Limited, and Tim got a short turn in the GLS as well. We took to the freeways and backroads between Torrey Pines and Temecula with alternating bouts of cruising and carving, occasionally letting the car stretch its legs, and seeing some beautiful scenery along the way. In this review, we offer you our individual takes, highlighting what we found most notable during our day with the cars.


Tim: Hyundai stylists gave the new car a look that stands out more than the bland lines of the previous generation. A large three-bar grille leads to a curvy hood, and the roofline sweeps up and down gracefully, while a chrome strip rides along the side, reaching from the A-pillar back to the trunk.

The curvaceousness doesn't stop at the rear, as even the rear bumper curves upward from end-to-end. The look is attractive but risky--some may be put off by the large grille, while others may be taken aback by the curvy hood. Curves aren't new in this class, and other cars have taken even more risk with styling--witness the current Honda Accord--but bland still sells, and companies that dare to be bold risk alienating some buyers. I think the Sonata strikes a nice balance between bold looks and conservative mainstream style, but I know some folks won't agree.

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Comments (26)
  1. The sat nav portion of the center stack is very reminiscent of Nissan/Infiniti, while the climate control markings are very Volvo (especially the stylized reclining human figure).

  2. I still don't understand why Hyundai doesn't offer the 6MT in their SE models - even Toyota does that!
    BTW Tim: The chrome beltline doesn't extend from the A-Pillar to the trunk - it extends from the trailing edge of the Headlamps to the C-Pillar (Or were you looking at the car backwards?)
    ...and it's a 4-Bar grille - Not 3.

  3. Actually, Bepsf, Hyundai explained this to me at the event. Apparently only about 2% of their cars are taken with the MT option, and buyers of the SE models actually prefer the automatic. It makes a kind of sense, since the Sonata isn't really a performance-focused car, but still, I'm with you--I prefer a stick in everything, and the SE seems like it would benefit for the enthusiast. It's just not cost-effective.

  4. Bepsf,
    You got me. I miscounted on the grille--apparently I need to visit an eye doctor. Same goes for the chrome strip. I apologize for the miscues, and I am now going to search for a discount Lasik surgeon.

  5. Being a "large" car with a 200HP four banger (possible 240-270HP turbo) with once unthinkable fuel economy (some owners already reporing 45 mpg) is truly alien territory. Even the base model under $20K has bluetooth. Just big WOW!

  6. @mk: My thoughts exactly. I commented on the same thing in a previous article on the Sonata Hybrid. Nissan/Infiniti and Volvo have been using this design on their dashboards for years and it's like Hyundai totally ripped it off of them with very minor shape alterations to help allude to that "luxurious" feel.

  7. It’s true in cars as it’s true in politics—to rise above the clutter, you need to make a dramatic statement. While Hyundai won’t be telling anyone it can “see Russia from its house!” anytime soon, it is giving its mainstream, mid-size Sonata a refreshing new look and a new mission.

  8. @mk and social bookmarking:
    Just to let you guys know, I can see why people would think it's a Volvo copy, but for people who've been to Korea and seen the cars in the country, Hyundai's been doing this since over a decade ago. But they never added that design to models sold in the US until now. It may look like Hyundai took a page out of Volvo's design, but it's actually the other way around. If you can find pictures of cars in Korea from the 90's you can verify this for yourself.

  9. I meant to write @mk and @bwudwagun in comment #8.

  10. @bwudwagun,
    "Nissan/Infiniti and Volvo have been using this design on their dashboards for years and it's like Hyundai totally ripped it off of them with very minor shape alterations to help allude to that "luxurious" feel.
    Nissan/Infiniti wasn't the first one to use that design, it's the BMW started that look in their 3 series and Nissan/Infiniti ripped off from BMW. So are you going to bitch about Nissan/Infiniti ripping it off from BMW now?

  11. This looks like a car aimed at the US market. Despite their current success in Europe (esp the UK) with their small cars, I don't see this making any impact here. The styling is not right. Also, unless it has good diesel engine options it's a non-starter in Europe. But the badge does not cut it in that class - yet.

  12. @Correction: Interesting, I noticed it's not just the "human figure" that is similar but also the way the temperature knobs are positioned on either side of it. Which cars in particular are you referring to? I'd like to pictures of this if you can find any for me to see.
    @cooper: The BMW 3 Series navigation panel has never looked anything like that of the Infiniti G, which has its navigation knob positioned directly underneath the high center-mounted screen, on a relatively horizontal panel facing upward, and with buttons flanked on either side, so if you can maybe clarify what is that -you're- bitching about with some pictures, that would be wonderful.

  13. @bwudwagun
    And the hater crowd comes to roost and "whine" about how one company's original designs got stolen. As if car designs are original. Wonder why no single car company is patenting them. It's probably because no single curve, paint color, or stylish dent can be trademarked by virtue of none of them being original! If you've been watching car design trends for the past 6-10 years, you'll realize that all car companies have been copying from each other.
    Seriously, we all know where you're coming from. Put the fanboyism elsewhere.

  14. To whoever made the last comment: I disagree, and it's my prerogative to distinguish and point out an incontrovertible difference between a mere apparent design similarity from a barely passable yet overt imitation as I see fit so perhaps you should take your own two-cent hater attitude elsewhere. If you have a true eye for detail and have been watching the news and testing cars out for yourself over the past 6-10 years, you'll see why car companies like Hyundai, Geely, Chery, and BYD are constantly under attack by the press for design infringement to the point where cars are literally being banned from being sold in certain countries.

  15. @ #12
    When I was in Korea around the mid 90's, I was able to take a ride in quite a few of Hyundai's luxury cars while meeting with businessmen. Of course, at that time none of these luxury cars were being sold in the US since Hyundai was still in its early stages in the American market. The higher end models I had the pleasure of riding in were designed with the human figures along with similar layouts for the center stack. And as someone mentioned, this was also done by other companies as well before. When I read your comment, this was the first memory that came immediately to my mind. Unfortunately I couldn't find any photos on the internet, probably since these are exclusively Korean models from many years ago. I'm assuming Hyundai's finally taking what they've always done in their domestic market and bringing it to the American market. Just wanted to bring this up since most people wouldn't know this about Hyundai's history. I would have thought it was an imitation too had I not had the opportunity to actually see this in Korea with my own eyes over a decade ago.

  16. @Pete Dene #11
    I believe you're correct about it being aimed at the US market. It was designed in California whereas the models intended for Europe tend to be designed in Germany. For that reason I'm not sure we'll see it in this form exactly as the i40. There are rumours that this model will be called the i45 in Australia, indicating that it's the larger midsize sedan and leaving room for a smaller midsize sedan named the i40 for the European market, probably with more European styling (less big sedan, more semi-luxury eurobox). But who knows.
    But certainly here in Europe it would be offered with diesel engines, and probably with MT available across the range. The lack of diesel and the prevalence of auto is just tailored for the US market as you say.

  17. @Correction: Interesting. I found this page on the Internet that shows the automotive history in South Korea. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automotive_industry_in_South_Korea) Perhaps some of the names here might spark a memory? It seems like South Korea's early origins in the industry grew out of modifying pre-existing vehicles and through partnerships with other pre-existing companies, and by the 1990s, the most prominent names were Hyundai, Kia, and Daewoo.

  18. @Correction: I noticed SsangYong was well known in the 1990s too, and I think they're still one of the bigger companies in South Korea today. I noticed this one particular car that looks "luxurious". Apparently it was SsangYong's only sedan in production for some time, which started in the 1990s, since SsangYong tends to specialize more on SUVs. I don't know of any legal partnership that existed between Ssangyong and Mercedes-Benz, but in this article it says it was "built on a 1980s Mercedes-Benz E-Class (known as the W124) platform, but styled to resemble a 1990s Mercedes-Benz S-Class." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SsangYong_Chairman) In the link I sent in my last post, it also discusses how an early South Korean car company basically took a Jeep, gave it a new engine, and then re-sold it as their own car, so there's some food for thought.

  19. @Budwagun, thanks for the wikipedia link. I'm sure the cars I rode in were Hyundais, but perhaps I should have taken the time to see which model it was. Never thought it was going to be something I needed over 10 years later! Rebranding with minor modifications is a pretty common practice in various industries, and is actually a contractual decision agreed upon by both parties, rather than an act of copying.
    Regardless, this car looks beautiful to me. I'm just waiting to buy the turbo version that will come out later this year. It was good talking with you bwudwagun!

  20. I'm going to be the first one at my local Hyundai dealership to get the 2011 Sonata Hybrid...

  21. I saw the commercials and thought what a sexy car (okay I'm a chick), but I'm also a chick that likes performance, reliability & comfort. I currently have a volvo (06) and have been looking for a new car to replace it. I've looked at the Mercedes, BMW, VW CC and a host of other's and until now I haven't been able to commit. My big thing was if I was giving up my volvo it would have to be for something that had all my creature comforts & as good if not better gas mileage. All of them had the creature comforts & then some, but not better gas mileage. And I wasn't ready to go the way of the Prius as I still like a good looking car. I was surprised to see the gas mileage was that good, not to mention it was pretty comfortable along with the handling was pretty good & the exceleration was almost as good as my volvo. All in all I think I might just buy the 2011, Limited version, but I hear there maybe a Hybrid version coming out later this year. Where you privy to what the gas mileage on that would be & specifics??
    My only gripe with Hyundai, is why don't you offer a power passenger seat in the limited?

  22. I never thought I would say this, but I would totally consider a Hyundai now!

  23. I have to hold out and hope that the turbo for the 2012 model will be available with AWD. Then it will be a done deal.

  24. Some consumers will definitely miss the V6 option. From what I learned, the Sonata can be tight on headroom...

  25. I have been in the Automotive field for 25 years, I have been looking to buy a Brand new car for several months. I finally decided to buy 2011 Sonata. The car looks great and a very comfortable drive. Slight wind noise at higher speeds. I took a 3 day trip, total of 950 miles. Average was 38.9 MPG . If you are in to music make sure to get Dimension premium sound with a sub woofer.

  26. I have one of these cars and I love it!

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