New Sonata’s body says it all

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.

The new Hyundai Sonata is the answer to a lot of motor enthusiasts who could only dream of driving a top market vehicle with class, elegance, speed and efficiency at an affordable price.

“We have confidence in our product because it is reliable and has high standards”, says Andre Pietersen, the sales manager at Hyundai Motors in Windhoek.

The Windhoek shop says about 14 people are on the waiting list for this machine. It’s selling like hot cakes. Small wonder.

The new sporty comes with a maximum acceleration rate of 260 kilometres per hour, and an ordinary four cylinder engine. It is an easy to maintain honey with fuel consumption rate 8.2 litres per 100km unlike other guzzlers that drown close to 12 litres for an equal distance.

As part of its safety system, the sonata also comes with electronic Stability Programme (ESP) to suit different the driving conditions –whether in a wet or dry road the system will stabilise the car to respond to the conditions available.

Obviously looks are everything in the motor industry Sonata can be mistaken for the latest E-class Mercedes Benz car, falls short of Honda Accord or a Lexus.

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.

More impressive is the sheer beauty spotting cat-eyed hid headlamps. Unlike most of the old model Sonata where the head lamps were positioned right in front of the car giving a boring look, this new stallion has stylish head lamps that are more on the side of the car.

The spectacular sonata also comes with comfortable leather interior and has enough leg and relaxing room to avert fatigue on long distances for the driver.

The most outstanding feature of this brand new Sonata is the 8 way power adjustable seat to suit the driver’s intended position on the road. It comes with adjustable seat comes that has two preset options depending on the driver on the car at a specific time.

This seat allows the driver to suit his driving conditions to suit the height, rake, lean, forward and backward positioning of the driving position at the touch of a button.

While the latest range of cars entering the market has ordinary sunroofs, the Sonata has gone a step further introducing the panoramic sunroof-which covers the entire car roof.

The Sonata comes with massive cargo space; the boot carries about 563 litres of space and 623 litres when you push down the back seats to create more room for luggage.

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.


Design

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.

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.

Hyundai 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.

Technology

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.

The Hyundai Sonata SE is the sportiest of the three Sonata trim levels, but these days the term “sporty” more often refers to a sporting aesthetic rather than any performance gains.

In sum

The 2011 Hyundai Sonata SE impressed us, not only as a great value, but also as a good car overall. For your cash, you get a good-looking sedan with more power, better fuel economy, and a comparable suite of cabin tech.

Body style is sexy, Has a nice little get up and it doesn’t look awkward on certain people, it is a very unisex and age diverse car. Stereo system is good, considering I was playing PDK’s latest CD during the test drive. PF