2006 Hyundai Sonata EX
Hyundai throws all it's got into the 2006 Sonata EX and comes up with an overpowered, comfortable sedan with a rock-bottom price tag. It competes favorably with other small sedans, such as the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, offering generous interior space and more than enough power for hills and passing. Although it falls short on cabin electronics, you can tick off a list of features found in pricier cars: heated leather seats, four-wheel disc brakes, traction control, stability control, five-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic control, and a 3.3-liter, 235-horsepower V-6 power plant. Throw in 17-inch alloy wheels, power windows, a six-disc CD/MP3 player, audio controls on the steering wheel, and a compass in the mirror, and it sounds like a steal at its stunningly low $24,295 MSRP. That price is still more than $6,000 over the base four-cylinder model, which costs $17,895.
That said, we weren't impressed by how all the pieces fit together. The engine may provide good power through all the gears, but the Sonata doesn't have the suspension of a sports sedan. Although we like the gentle curve of the exterior roof line--a style in favor with European automakers--the interior dash has all the style of a 1980s Ford or GM.
The 2006 Hyundai Sonata EX doesn't have much to offer in the electronics department: the driver seat is power adjustable, the six-disc CD player also plays MP3s, and a compass is integrated into the rearview mirror. A 12-volt outlet at the bottom of the center console allows for add-on electronics, and buttons on the steering wheel control stereo volume and cruise control. The aforementioned stereo won't win any design awards, but it's understated, and the controls are functional. The long expanse of gray plastic down the center of the dash ends at a few panels of glossy, wood-grain plastic, which, though cheap, at least adds a touch of color. We like the two large climate-control knobs--they feel solid and are well placed.
The Sonata's stereo won't win any design awards, but it does offer MP3 playback and functional controls.
We did like the Sonata's wide leather seats, although the lumbar support offers only minimal adjustment. The rear seats feature three-point seat belts and a comfortable amount of legroom. Three-quarter-split fold-down seats add more storage possibilities to the already capacious trunk. We recorded about 69 decibels in our interior sound test, indicating an admirably well-insulated cabin.
The high point of the 2006 Hyundai Sonata EX is the variable-valve-timed, 3.3-liter 235-horsepower V-6, which offers more than enough power to leap forward from a stop, pass at highway speeds, and climb long freeway grades. But tap the accelerator when the light turns green, and the engine squeals the tires for the fraction of a second it takes the traction control to kick in. As much fun as it is to burn rubber, we would prefer the car's systems to work together a little more closely. The V-6 engine powers the Sonata around tight corners, and the leather-wrapped wheel responds well, but the vehicle stability system gives the car an odd, floaty feeling in the curves. Fortunately, the stability system can be switched off for a stronger road feeling. Traction control keeps the drive wheels digging in and the car on a center line.
The Sonata EX benefits from Shiftronic mode, so you can select the gear. Just be prepared to maneuver through the labyrinthine shift pattern.
The five-speed automatic has Shiftronic mode, letting you select the gear. It's another suggestion by Hyundai that the Sonata is meant for sport driving. It lets you seriously wind up the RPMs while providing effortless control. However, we weren't happy with the shift pattern, which requires a few bumps and grinds to get from Park to Drive. The EPA rates the Sonata EX's mileage at 20mpg in the city and 30mpg on the highway. We observed mileage at the bottom end of that range, getting 21.4mpg.
The 2006 Hyundai Sonata EX's cabin is well covered by front, side-impact, and side-curtain air bags. Other safety technologies include traction control and a stability system. Better yet, all this safety gear is standard. Hyundai has long tried to make up for poor brand perception with an industry-leading warranty, and the 2006 Sonata EX is no exception. The package starts with a 5-year/60,000-mile warranty, then adds on 10 years/100,000 miles for the power train. It also includes a 7-year/unlimited-mile antiperforation warranty, which is useful if you happen to engage in a lot of shoot-outs, as well as 5 years of roadside assistance.