With a base price less than $20,000 and $28,160 fully eqipped, the Hyundai Sonata is clearly the value leader in midsized sedans. Does good value equal poor quality? Not at all. The 2000 Hyundai Sonata is the equal of any vehicle in this segment.
Excellent value and quality in a midsized sedan
If the only thing holding you back from test driving a Sonata is the skeleton in Hyundai’s closet – that Mitsubishi designed mistake known as the Pony – I have three words.
Get over it.
That was 15 years ago, for heaven’s sake. And a lot has changed with Hyundai in 15 years.
Take the 2000 Sonata for example. All new a year ago, the Hyundai Sonata is now a high-quality, highly competent vehicle with two good powertrain choices, double-wishbone suspension and a spacious interior.
Our test car, the 2000 Sonata GLS is an excellent vehicle with quality materials and workmanship throughout. In terms of performance, comfort and convenience features and overall styling, it matches or exceeds the mid sized sales leaders – Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Ford Taurus.
Every Sonata including the base GL at $19,995 is equipped with automatic transmission, air conditioning, cruise control, power windows, mirrors and doors, digital quartz clock, glove box, centre console with double storage boxes and dual cup holders, map pockets in the doors, cargo area lamp, dash-mounted ignition switch, 12-volt DC auxiliary power outlet, remote trunk, hood and fuel door, and a passenger presence detection system that prevents the passenger air bag from deploying if the seat is empty or if a small child is in the passenger seat.
Priced at $26,660, the Sonata GLS comes equipped with standard equipment often found on much more expensive cars, features such as heated leather seating with power driver’s seat, power tilt/slide sunroof with sunshade, automatic climate control, woodgrain interior trim, alloy wheels, fog lights, AM/FM ETR stereo CD/cassette radio and keyless entry system.
On the Sonata, Hyundai offers a choice of two engines and two new transmissions. The base Sonata GL is equipped with Hyundai’s 2.4 litre, DOHC Sirius II four-cylinder engine, delivering 149 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 156 lb-ft of torque at 3000 rpm. We didn’t drive the four, so no comments on its power or comportment.
The GLS is equipped with Hyundai’s Delta V6 – the third engine completely designed and engineered by Hyundai. It is quiet, smooth and refined. For freeway merges and highway passing, the 170 horsepower, all-aluminum 2.5 litre V6 does the job well. But despite what Hyundai marketing would have you believe, the V6-powered Sonata GLS is not a sports sedan. Competent would best describe its performance and handling rather than powerful or precise.
Compared with the V6 engine offered on 1998 and earlier Sonatas, the Delta V6 is lighter and more fuel-efficient. At its heart is an advanced engine management system, which integrates fuel and ignition controls, providing maximum performance and fuel economy that reduce emissions. The Powertrain Control Module has titanium-oxide sensors that monitor all major systems affecting performance, emissions, smoothness and durability.
Behind this engine is a sophisticated, electronically-controlled four speed automatic transmission, that is one of the best I’ve ever driven. Controlled by a computer chip that uses “fuzzy logic” technology, it adapts to driver preferences by adjusting shift characteristics to match the owner’s typical driving style. It shifts so smoothly that the only indication a new gear has been selected is the movement of the tachometer.
The Sonata features a double-wishbone front suspension and a multi-link rear suspension that provides a comfortable ride without giving up too much in the handling department. The double-wishbone setup consists of upper and lower A-arms. The upper A-arm is rotated to minimize camber changes, assuring the front wheels remain upright and in full contact with the road surface, and that full power is transferred to the road surface in virtually all driving conditions.
The lower wishbone A-arm is anchored by a subframe with a square-tube design. This improves lateral rigidity and reduces the amount of vibration and road noise reaching the passenger compartment.
The five-link rear suspension features a trailing link, two longitudinal links and an upper A-arm. This design permits the wheels to react independently when the car encounters a rough road surface.
The base GL model has power-assisted, ventilated front disc brakes, while drum brakes are fitted in the rear. Four wheel disc brakes are standard on the Sonata GL V6 and GLS models.
Unfortunately, Hyundai’s combined four-channel anti-lock brake system and electronic traction control is only available as an option on the top of the line GLS model. It is part of a $1500 option that turns an ordinary GLS into a special order only “Platinum GLS.” The Platinum option will also get you side airbags, which are mounted in the sides of the front seats.
Hyundai has equipped the Sonata with many standard features only found as options on more expensive cars. Why a basic safety feature such as ABS brakes is reserved as part of an option package that will be beyond the reach of most buyers interested in a Sonata is hard to understand. While keeping the price down is an admiral goal, providing ABS and side airbags as an option throughout the model range would be a good compromise.
Other safety features that are standard equipment on all Sonatas include second-generation front supplemental airbags (depowered for softer deployment), a technologically-advanced passenger detection system, automatic front safety belt pretensioners with load limiters, childproof rear door locks, adjustable rear seat headrests and a three-point safety restraint in the rear middle seating position.
While assessments of styling are always a matter of personal taste, to my mind the Sonata is conservatively styled. It has a refined look, even a bit elegant, I thought. It is certainly not a copy of any of its competitors.
Whether warranted or not, a bad reputation is difficult to overcome and no one wants to champion the underdog if it means a lower resale value at trade-in time. Some would argue it is better to buy higher and sell higher, than to buy the value leader like the Sonata.
But some people look for good value at the beginning then extract every cent of that value by driving the car for a long time. For these people, the Sonata is a great buy.
|Base price||$19,995 (GL)|
|Price as tested||$26,600 (GLS)|
|Type||4-door, 5 passenger midsize sedan|
|Layout||transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive|
|Engine||2.5 litre DOHC V6|
|Horsepower||170 @ 6000 rpm|
|Torque||166 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm|
|Curb weight||1409 kg|
|Fuel consumption||City: 11.7 L/100 km|
|Highway: 7.8 L/100 km|
|Warranty||3 years/60,000 km|
|Powertrain warranty||5 years/100,000 km|