For the last five years, Hyundai has been working hard to improve the quality of its Sonata small sedan, making it competitive with standards such as the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry. For the 2009 model year, Hyundai adds significant tech, including a stereo and navigation system from Infinity.
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The front of the Sonata shows bold styling choices, including extra large headlight enclosures and a tall grille. Beyond these cues, the Sonata looks like a fairly conventional small sedan, although its twin rear exhaust pipes give it some performance style.
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At 3.3 liters, the displacement seems an odd choice, but it results in 249 horsepower from this V-6, more than adequate power to move the Sonata around.
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Beyond the Limited trim Sonata, which can be had with the V-6 engine or a four cylinder, there is also an S sport model and the less expensive GLS.
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We found the suspension very soft in the Sonata, which can lead to a comfortable ride over well-kept roads. But rougher roads and pot holes can compress the shocks severely.
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The sizable trunk easily holds the luggage of four passengers.
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We were impressed by the interior fit and finish, although the faux wood trim was unnecessary. Hyundai keeps the instrument panel simple, using extra space below the navigation unit for two small storage hatches.
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The steering felt overpowered on the Sonata, as if it was tuned for a luxury feel. It felt very light even at freeway speeds. We would like a little more road feel.
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The five-speed transmission seemed to spend some time hunting for gears on hills, and was a little slow to shift in general. When put into passing gear by mashing the gas pedal, it kicks down to a gear that makes the engine emit an uncomfortable growl.
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The instrument cluster is relatively bare, although we like the blue display on the speedometer. The Sonata includes a full trip computer, with information such as range to empty and average fuel economy.
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This navigation system, which excludes a six-disc changer option, works well and looks good. We particularly like the touch-screen interface and the way surrounding buttons are inset into the panel.
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We were surprised to find a fairly capable voice command system in the Sonata, activated by this button on the left of the steering wheel.
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The navigation system incorporates an aesthetically pleasing design for its onscreen buttons.
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We also liked this system's route guidance, which uses these clear graphics to indicate upcoming turns. Voice prompts also use text-to-speech, reading out the names of upcoming streets.
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The individual channel screen for XM Satellite Radio not only looks good, but offers useful information. Preset buttons run across the top of the screen.
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The iPod interface is very good. This screen shows an individual track playing. Hitting the Menu button lets you choose from artist, album, genre, playlist, and song.
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When an iPod is connected to the system, it shows a Hyundai logo on its screen. The car keeps the iPod charged.
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Beyond the iPod, the ports in the console also support a USB flash drive and an auxiliary input. Blue backlighting makes it easy to see the labels and find the ports.
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The single-CD player also reads MP3 CDs. The interface lets you browse folders and choose music.
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The audio system in the Sonata uses DSP, which lets you pinpoint the sweet spot around the cabin.
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A subwoofer is included along with the six standard speakers. Although the system generally sounded good, tracks with heavy bass overwhelmed the speakers, leading to rattle.
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