By Bob McHugh

The Hyundai Sonata was recognized in the April 2005 edition of Consumer Reports magazine as the most reliable 2004 vehicle in North America. In a surprise quality coup for the Korean auto manufacturer, the 2004 Sonata owners reported fewer problems (2 problems per 100 vehicles) than any Toyota, Honda or even Lexus in the magazine’s annual subscriber survey.

As an overall brand, Hyundai recorded a reliability rating of 11 problems per 100 vehicles, tying it with luxury brands Lexus and Infiniti. The most reliable brand overall was Subaru with 8 problems per 100 vehicles. The magazine collected data on a record 810,000 privately owned or leased vehicles.

2006 Hyundai Sonata
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The timing couldn’t have been better for Hyundai’s Peter Renz, Director of Marketing and Public Relations, as he gave a busting-with-pride introduction to an all-new 2006 Hyundai Sonata at the recent Pacific International Auto Show in Vancouver.

Although Hyundai is better know for its low-priced, high-value small cars, the Sonata has been quietly carving a solid reputation in the family car segment. Last year, the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study also ranked Sonata as the top “entry midsize car” in the U.S. That study was based on a total of 51,208 consumer responses indicating owner-reported problems during first 90 days of ownership.

According to Renz, the new Sonata is “a Hyundai like you’ve never seen before”. That includes two new engines, an all-new chassis and suspension, a longer wheelbase, a more spacious cabin and a lengthy list of standard equipment. Bigger and better, and still great value.

2005 Hyundai Tucson
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In addition to Sonata’s success, the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) crowned the Hyundai Tucson as the “Best New 2005 Crossover Vehicle”. Keeping up with demand for Tucson has been a challenge, according to Renz. The Tucson is the first in a series of seven all-new products to be released over the next 24 months.

The new, fifth-generation 2006 Sonata is 55 mm longer than the previous model and its wheelbase has been extended by 30 mm. Front legroom is better by 10 mm and there’s an extra 30 mm in the rear. In addition, it has more headroom (22 mm front and 15 mm rear) and luggage capacity has been increased to 462 litres.

The new 3.3-litre Lambda and the 2.4-litre Theta engines feature all-aluminium cylinder blocks, variable valve timing and, on the Lambda, a variable intake system. Power output of the 3.3-litre is 220 horsepower at 6000 rpm, with an impressive 224 lb-ft of torque at 3400 rpm.

2006 Hyundai Sonata
Click image to enlarge

The new computer-designed rigid body structure features reinforced bulkheads, pillars and side-impact protection. Standard passive safety features include front and side depowered airbags, plus front and rear curtain airbags, front three-point seatbelts with dual pretensioners and force limiters.

Standard features on the 2006 Sonata will include air conditioning, cruise control, power windows, power heated mirrors, power door locks, keyless entry with alarm system and a CD/MP3 Player.

The 2006 Sonata will be an early model year release and should be arriving at Hyundai dealerships across Canada in May. Pricing information will announced closer to the availability date.

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