2011 Hyundai Sonata SE review:

2011 Hyundai Sonata SE

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  • Body style Sedan

Roadshow Editors' Rating

8.0 Overall
  • Cabin tech 9
  • Performance tech 7
  • Design 8

The Good The Sonata's optional navigation system features traffic with automatic rerouting. Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming is standard, as are USB, iPod, and analog audio inputs. The voice command system is quite good, with onscreen prompts for valid commands.

The Bad No manual transmission available on this "sporty" SE model. Navigation maps don't feature a 3D view.

The Bottom Line The 2011 Hyundai Sonata is a great value, packing in a strong assortment of standard and optional cabin tech, good looks, and performance, all while maintaining a relatively low price.

It used to be that the name Hyundai Sonata was more likely to upturn noses than turn heads, but with its new 2011 model that may all be about to change.

Swoopy was the word we most often used to describe Hyundai's newest sedan during our testing. Starting with its huge chrome grill, the sculpted sheet metal of the Sonata flows backward towards its tail, giving the sedan the appearance of motion even when stopped. This aesthetic is reinforced by the elongated, rear-swept headlamps and a chrome bar that visually connects them to the top of the door sills. Onlookers stated that it was unlike anything they'd seen before.

Look closer, however, and it's easy to see where Hyundai's designers drew their inspiration. The front end is reminiscent of an extreme version of the current Toyota Camry's. The Sonata's steeply raked front and rear glass give the sedan a slightly coupe-like silhouette, much like that of the Volkswagen CC. Viewed from the rear quarter, you can see a few lines cribbed from the likes of the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class. If you're going to steal, steal from the best, we say.

Viewed from the rear quarter, the Sonata looks almost like a long coupe.
Derivative or not, the Sonata's looks got people talking and necks turning wherever we went. While all of this was going on outside, we were being treated to the Sonata's interior appointments.

Though there are a few places in the interior where it's obvious that Hyundai has cheaped-out on materials, the automaker did a good job of making sure that all the places that the driver comes into contact with (the steering wheel, shift knob, dashboard, door pulls, etc.) feel substantial and pleasing. Push-button start and smart, keyless entry help to create an upscale feel. As an SE model, our Sonata featured leather-trimmed seats with cloth center inserts and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter meant to evoke a sporting feel. Factor in the great cabin technology suite and the Sonata's driver seat isn't an unpleasant place to be.

An optional touch-screen navigation system that helps drivers to get from point A to B lives at the top of the center stack. The system is fed by 8GB of flash memory, so there's not as much raw storage space as the average hard-drive-based system. However, the system is just as snappy and responsive, and with no moving parts (save the single CD transport for audio) it is a bit more rugged. The Sonata's maps are crisp and easy to read, but, oddly, there is no 3D view--only top-down 2D views. The system also features graphic lane guidance--which illustrates upcoming turns with lane data--and text-to-speech turn-by-turn directions.

The standard XM Satellite Radio connection pulls in XM traffic, weather, stocks, and sports data. Traffic-flow info is then overlaid onto the map as color-coded highways. When routing, if the navigation system sees heavy traffic or an obstruction, it will attempt to route around it. While navigating, if a new obstruction appears on the chosen route, the navigation system will notify the driver, giving the option to reroute around the slow spot at the touch of an onscreen button.

Regardless of trim or options, all Sonatas feature standard USB and auxiliary inputs with iPod functionality.
A voice command feature allows you to enter addresses and search for POIs via voice. The system displays prompts on the color touch screen to assist you in using valid commands and to display options when the system is unclear what street you meant.

All Hyundai Sonatas feature standard Bluetooth connectivity. Pairing a Bluetooth phone is handled via voice activation with a four-digit PIN. Once paired, the hands-free system automatically downloads your phone's address book for voice-activated dialing. Bluetooth A2DP streaming is also enabled as an audio source if supported by the paired device.

Also standard are a USB connection and an analog auxiliary input. We were able to connect a USB mass storage device to browse folders for MP3 and, interestingly, photos. We were also able to connect an Android OS phone using mass-storage mode to access the audio files stored on its SD card.

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