2002 Hyundai Sonata GLX
Click image to enlarge


Story and photos by Grant Yoxon


It would be easy to dismiss the Sonata. Except the Sonata, and in particular the top-of-the-line GLX which we tested, is probably the most feature-rich, value-laden mid-sized sedan you can buy. At $25,695, the GLX comes equipped with standard features that are optional extras in the V6 Camry, Accord or Altima and push the final tab for any of the competition well over $30,000.



Updated Sonata continues value leadership

It’s easy to be critical. Compared to other well-appointed mid-size sedans – the Toyota Camry XLE or SE V6, Honda Accord EX V6 or the Nissan Altima 3.5 SE come to mind – the Hyundai Sonata GLX appears to come up a bit short.



Compared to the Camry or the Altima, the Sonata looks a bit dated, despite a mid-cycle freshening for 2002 that added new front and rear end styling. Of the four, the new 2.7 litre V6 in the Sonata has the least amount of power, on paper at least. The Sonata's steering is not as precise, the handling less sure than either the Accord or the Altima. Anti-lock brakes on the Sonata are an optional extra, traction control is not available, nor are side air bags (but the Accord doesn't have them either).

And then there are the oddities, those things idiosyncratic to Hyundai or at least to the Sonata. The GLX's remote key fob opens all the doors on the first click and not just the driver's door, then the other doors in a two step process as is normal with just about every other car built today - a concern if you must park in a remote spot at night. And the base audio system, with its teeny weeny buttons, is a most user-unfriendly piece of work. Despite displaying the Hyundai name instead of Clarion who makes it, this unit still looks like it was bought off the shelf at Future Shop and installed in your lane way on a Saturday afternoon.

It would be easy to dismiss the Sonata. Except the Sonata, and in particular the top-of-the-line GLX which we tested, is probably the most feature-rich, value-laden mid-sized sedan you can buy. At $25,695, the GLX comes equipped with standard features that are optional extras in the V6 Camry, Accord or Altima and push the final tab for any of the competition well over $30,000.

2002 Hyundai Sonata GLX

2002 Hyundai Sonata GLX

2002 Hyundai Sonata GLX

2002 Hyundai Sonata GLX

2002 Hyundai Sonata GLX
Click image to enlarge

These standard features include leather seating surfaces, leather wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats, eight-way power driver's seat, automatic climate control, air filtration system, power tilt/slide sunroof, cruise control, power heated outside mirrors, power door locks and windows, 60/40 split-folding rear seats, remote keyless entry with security alarm, 16 inch aluminum alloy wheels, speed-sensitive variable intermittent wipers and fog lights.

By way of comparison, to get a leather interior and power sun roof in a Toyota Camry with V6 engine (SE V6) will cost $34,940, the Accord (EX V6), $31,100, and the Altima SE 3.5, $33,198 with automatic transmission.

From the value for dollar perspective it is a whole lot easier to overlook a few shortcomings and idiosyncracies than it is to be critical.

And in case you think it is poor quality leather in a cheaply built car, let me assure you, this is not the case. The Sonata is tightly built - Hyundai's build quality improves noticeably each time a model is re-designed. And the leather used in this latest edition of the Sonata, seats inherited from the XG300, are far better than those found in the 1999 - 2001 models.

Other improvements for 2002 include a new engine and transmission combination. The former 2.5 litre engine has been replaced with Hyundai's all-aluminum 2.7 litre DOHC engine also found in the Santa Fe and the 2003 Tiburon. This power plant produces 181 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 177 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. Despite lower power ratings than any of the competition, the 2.7 gives the Sonata more than enough power for the daily chores - like freeway merging and passing - that it is likely to encounter. The 3.5 litre Altima SE will dust the Sonata GLX, but the typical Sonata driver isn't likely to care.

2002 Hyundai Sonata GLX
Click image to enlarge

Which brings up another Sonata oddity. The new transmission is a four-speed automatic with "Shiftronic" manual mode. If you are so inclined you can shift the transmission manually. I tried it. I didn't notice any appreciable difference in shift quality or speed and soon forgot about it. It is a sporting element in a car that isn't really sporting. And, to my mind, this transmission is not as smooth shifting as the one it replaced.

Drivers who want a sport sedan should probably look elsewhere. The Sonata, with its double wishbone front suspension and five link rear suspension provides a firm, quiet, comfortable ride, but it becomes a bit floaty at speeds well-over the speed limit. And while handling is more than adequate for every day driving, you wouldn't want to push this sedan beyond its limits.

But once again I'm being unnecessarily critical because the Sonata is an excellent mid-sized family sedan offering a variety of luxury features at an incredibly low price. If you really want sports car handling or king-of-the-road power, pay the extra $10,000 and buy the car that has the stuff you want. The rest of us will motor happily - and comfortably - to the bank.


Technical Data:

2002 Hyundai Sonata GLX
Base price (GLX) $25,695
Freight $380
Price as tested $26,075
Type 4-door, 5 passenger midsize sedan
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 2.7 litre DOHC 24-valve
Horsepower 181 @ 6000 rpm
Torque 177 ft-lbs @ 4000 rpm
Transmission 4-speed automatic with "Shiftronic" manual shift mode
Tires Michelin P205 60HR-16
Wheelbase 2700 mm (106.3 in)
Length 4747 mm (186.9 in)
Width 1820 mm (71.6 in)
Height 1422 mm (56 in)
Trunk space 398 litres (14 cu. ft)
Fuel consumption City: 11.8 L/100 km (23.9 mpg)
  7.9 L/100 km (35.8 mpg)
Fuel Regular unleaded
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km

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