Test Drive: 2009 Hyundai Sonata Limited V6 car test drives hyundai
2009 Hyundai Sonata Limited V6. Click image to enlarge

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2009 Sonata Owner Reviews

Review and photos by Brian Early

Photo Gallery:
2009 Hyundai Sonata

Toronto, Ontario – It’s hard to believe that the Sonata has been around for twenty years, but it’s true. Hyundai moved into the mainstream mid-size sedan market with the original, Mitsubishi-based front-drive Sonata for the 1989 model year. In Canada, where Hyundai had established its North American beachhead prior to breaching the U.S. marketplace, the Sonata thoroughly superseded the crude rear-drive Stellar sedan it replaced.

Serving as Hyundai’s flagship and counterpoint to the budget-minded Excel compact, the first-generation Sonata offered Korea’s take on luxury – velour-covered window pillar trim and all – while benefiting from the price point afforded in part by the Korean automaker’s lower production costs. A large-for-the-day, 110-hp 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine was joined the following year by an optional 142-hp, 3.0-litre V6 – five years before Honda’s Accord offered six-cylinder power.

A lot has happened since Sonata V 1.0 was introduced; Hyundai built its first North American assembly facility in Bromont, Quebec to manufacture Sonatas and shuttered it just a few years later when sales failed to meet expectations, a deal with Chrysler fell through, and – depending who you ask – build quality and/or labour relations soured); the fledgling automaker slowly emerged from beneath its umbrella of building other company’s designs under licence as its engineering prowess and experience grew. Once again – successfully, so far – it began building Sonatas on this continent, this time in Montgomery, Alabama.

Test Drive: 2009 Hyundai Sonata Limited V6 car test drives hyundai
2009 Hyundai Sonata Limited V6. Click image to enlarge

What hasn’t changed is that price remains a Sonata strength, with base four-cylinder GL models starting at $21,995. My test vehicle represented the opposite end of the range; a top-rung loaded Limited model equipped with the optional 249-hp, 3.3-litre “Lambda” V6. It stickered at $31,495, though my particular tester was fitted with dealer-sourced moulded splashguards worth approximately $150 (not including installation), an item which some of the vehicles in this class include as standard equipment. (Buyers venturing this far into the Sonata range might consider stepping a little farther up into the larger, more septuagenarian-oriented Azera, however I’d suggest that the new, award-winning Genesis sedan makes a better proposition.)

Since 1989, the Sonata has grown in size (haven’t we all?), and it’s now classed as a “Large Car” by the U.S. EPA. That notwithstanding, it really slots best into the crowded mid-size sedan segment, where it dukes it out with such Japanese stalwarts as the Honda Accord (some versions of which are also “Large Cars”), the Toyota Camry, and Nissan Altima, as well as domestic players like the Chevy Malibu and Impala, Ford Fusion, and Chrysler Sebring.

Test Drive: 2009 Hyundai Sonata Limited V6 car test drives hyundai
2009 Hyundai Sonata Limited V6. Click image to enlarge

Now a few years into its fourth generation, the Sonata received a mid-cycle makeover for 2009, courtesy of the Hyundai-Kia America Technical Center in Superior Township, Michigan (a first for any global Hyundai product), with changes to the fascias and lighting at both ends, as well as a redesigned interior that uses better materials, looks far richer, and repositions the centre dash vents to a more useful location, higher up on the dash. Night-time illumination has changed from yellow-green to a more contemporary blue with white-backlit instrumentation.

The interior shuffle also provides space for a sizeable covered storage bin in the centre stack beneath the heater controls. Thankfully, Hyundai has left the parking brake in the centre console where it belongs, regardless of transmission choice – unlike, for example, the Altima sedan, which in the name of gaining a third cupholder gets a more awkward to use foot pedal when equipped with an automatic.

While the exterior’s updated new look is handsome enough, I’m still waiting for Hyundai to establish a corporate identity that’s more than just a basic grille design.

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