The midsize sedan segment is one of the most competitive and is the largest volume class of vehicle. The perennial kings of this segment have for a long time been the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. The Ford Taurus once played in this segment but then faded away. The Hyundai Sonata has been making moves and gaining market share for years now. Each revision getting better and more refined. Having sold over 1.2 million Sonatas, it is safe to say Hyundai is getting the swing of things.
The U.S. version of the 2011 Sonata was shown at the LA Auto show. The car is radically different then the current generation. With a fluid design and crisp lines, the new Sonata looks terrific. The cars overall shape somewhat mimics the higher end Volkswagen CC four door coupe styling. An up swept character line runs from behind the front wheel well through the door handles, and through to the top of the taillights. The car’s overall stance is somewhat sporty and aggressive. The rear trunk has a slight spoiler built in. The rear tail lights look like a mash up of a BMW 3 series and the brand new 2011 Infiniti M.
The interior of this new Sonata is going more up scale. The hvac controls are similar to those found in new Fords and Volvos. Do not worry about the lower roofline in the rear, rear headroom has decreased by a mere 0.4 inches. Hyundai worked with the headliner and put the rear seat cushions slightly lower to keep the headroom. The car is actually 130 pounds lighter then the outgoing model. Hyundai accomplished this weight decrease with the increased use of aluminum in the frame and high strength steel for some of the body parts.
Three trim levels will be available, GLS, SE, and Limited. The SE and Limited trim levels will have a chrome grille. The GLS model will have a body color grille. The new Sonata will be available at launch with a one choice 2.4 liter direct injection four cylinder. This engine will push out 198 hp and 184 lb-ft to the front wheels through either a six speed automatic or a six speed manual. Those who opt for the SE model, which is going to be the sportier model, will get dual exhaust along with paddle shifters, and 2 more hp along with 2 more lb-ft of torque. Hyundai did announce a turbo four cylinder and a hybrid model are both coming but did not release details. No V6 is being offered (for now). Hyundai was heard saying the V6 in midsize cars will go the way of the dinosaur. While final numbers are not in yet, Hyundai expects the Sonata to be rated at 23/35 mpg with the automatic transmission. That is 2-4 mpg better then the competition.
So what just happened? Well Hyundai is setting the stage to try and over take the crown from Toyota and Honda in the midsize segment. With a base price under $20,000, the new Sonata just became the best value and fuel efficient non hybrid in the midsize class. Pretty much, when no one was looking Hyundai got serious. Your move Toyota and Honda.