NEW FOR 2009:

– Improved power and fuel economy
– All automatic transmissions now five-speed
– New standard features: ABS with electronic brake force distribution (EBD), USB/iPod auxiliary inputs and dual-setting front heated seats
– Standard electronic stability control with traction control on V6 models
– Exterior and interior styling upgrades
– New trim line designations
– New alloy wheels
– Firmer ride with enhanced handling for GL and Limited models; sport tuning for Sport models; increased steering response and feedback on all models
– Exterior colours: Coca, Gray and Camel added

For 2009, the Hyundai Sonata receives a mild facelift. Outside, there are new headlamps, taillights and fog lamps; new bumper fascias and body side mouldings with available chrome inserts; new wheels; and new colours. Inside, refinements have been made to the centre console, audio system, and HVAC controls, and control illumination is now blue. The trim line designations have also changed: the Limited is now available in both four- and six-cylinder configuration, and the previous GLS is now called the GL Sport.

The Sonata is available with a choice of two engines. While the four-cylinder is still a 2.4-litre as before, it is a new second-generation Theta engine, making its debut in the 2009 Sonata; it features continuously variable valve timing (CVVT) on both camshafts and a variable induction system for better breathing. The 3.3-litre V6 is carried over from 2008, but with improvements to its power and fuel efficiency. The base GL comes with a five-speed manual transmission that can be optioned to a five-speed automatic. All other models (GL Sport, Limited, GL V6, GL V6 Sport and Limited V6) use the automatic.

Features on the GL include 16-inch steel wheels, air conditioning, power locks with keyless entry, auto-off headlamps, CD/MP3 stereo, speed-sensing variable intermittent wipers, tinted glass, illuminated vanity mirrors, heated cloth seats, power windows, cruise control, tilt and telescopic wheel, trip computer, and 60/40 split-folding rear seat.

The GL V6 is similarly equipped, but adds 16-inch alloy wheels, electronic stability control, traction control, and brake assist.

The GL Sport models build on the GL models and add 17-inch alloy wheels, sport-tuned suspension, fog lights, power sunroof, rear spoiler, and cloth seats with leather bolsters.

The Limited models add dual-zone automatic climate control, automatic headlamps, body-colour door handles with chrome inserts, solar control glass, six-CD/MP3 stereo, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, garage door opener, eight-way power driver’s seat and leather upholstery.

A Hyundai nameplate since 1989, the Sonata remains one of the company’s best models: tight and responsive, powerful even in four-cylinder configuration, smooth and quiet, and good value for the money. While anti-lock brakes are now standard on all vehicles – the system wasn’t available on the 2008 GL – it would be nice to see the electronic stability control on all models; it can’t be added to the four-cylinder vehicles.

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