2009 Hyundai Sonata Limited four-cylinder
2009 Hyundai Sonata Limited four-cylinder. Click image to enlarge

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    2009 Hyundai Sonata

    Second opinion, by Bob McHugh

    Oshawa, Ontario – If you’d ever wanted to bet on a sure thing – and who doesn’t? – the smart money would have been played on the midsize passenger car market. The segment has always been there solidly soldiering along, but with the ongoing rush at the pumps, its popularity appears to be expanding among those downsizing from full-size cars and those who’ve found they didn’t really need an SUV or crossover.

    Hyundai’s Sonata, its oldest ongoing nameplate, is possibly the best overall value in its line-up, especially with my tester’s four-cylinder engine. If you’ve been away from a four-banger for so long that all you remember is a lot of noise for not much power, it’s time to go back and try one again: with the technology now stuffed into these four-piston powerplants, it’s safe to say that “four is the new six”.

    2009 Hyundai Sonata Limited four-cylinder
    2009 Hyundai Sonata Limited four-cylinder. Click image to enlarge

    The company uses a 2.4-litre that makes 175 horsepower and 168 lb-ft of torque, and new for 2009, a five-speed automatic that replaces the four-speed autobox of 2008. Should you prefer, the base GL comes with a five-speed manual transmission, although it can be opted out for the automatic. The GL Sport and Limited use the automatic exclusively.

    Other changes for 2009 include a mild facelift to the grille, bumper and lights, a new instrument panel, new centre console and blue lighting on the gauges, which looks considerably more upscale than the previous green glow.

    The four-cylinder also brings down the price, with the GL coming in at $21,995, and another $1,400 if you want the automatic. Other four-cylinders are the GL Sport at $25,695, and my Limited tester, at $27,995 – Hyundai adds features with each trim line, rather than offering options on them. Unusually, every trim line also comes with the V6 – most carmakers reserve the base model strictly for the smaller engine – and so six-cylinder prices are $27,795 for the GL, $29,595 for the Sport, and $31,495 for the Limited.

    The $3,500 is a nice savings on the four-cylinder Limited over the V6, but there is a catch: although anti-lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution, active head restraints, and side and curtain airbags are standard on all models, only the V6 trim lines come with electronic stability control, brake assist and traction control.

    2009 Hyundai Sonata Limited four-cylinder
    2009 Hyundai Sonata Limited four-cylinder. Click image to enlarge

    The base GL comes with several features, including air conditioning, keyless entry, heated seats, windshield de-icer, folding rear seat and leather-wrapped wheel; the Sport adds cloth seats with leather bolsters, fog lights, sunroof, rear spoiler and a sport-tuned suspension. My Limited had the regular suspension, but added leather upholstery, eight-way power driver’s seat, automatic headlamps, dual-zone automatic climate control, auto-dimming rearview mirror, garage door opener, and six-CD stereo. All of that adds up to a car that feels like value for its price.

    The 2.4-litre is quiet on all but the hardest acceleration, and the new five-speed automatic is well-mated to it. Should you not actually go for the stick shift, the autobox has a manual shift mode for those who like to pretend they have a clutch. Official fuel figures are 9.5 L/100 km in the city and 6.2 on the highway; in combined driving, I averaged 8.8.

    Handling is in line with the segment: light enough to appeal to commuters, but with enough weight to give a feeling of confidence. Torque-steer is there, but not enough to be a problem.

    If there’s a fault, it’s in the undercarriage; while the ride reaches a nice balance between comfort and agility, the suspension rattles over rough pavement, and there’s wheel hop over bumps. If your roads are glass-smooth you’ll probably never know it, but in my rural area they’re frost-heaved, and the rattles and bumps made themselves known most of the time. I’ve noticed this on a few Hyundai models, and it gives them a cheap undertone that could use some improvement.

    2009 Hyundai Sonata Limited four-cylinder
    2009 Hyundai Sonata Limited four-cylinder
    2009 Hyundai Sonata Limited four-cylinder. Click image to enlarge

    On the other hand, the cabin is anything but cut-rate, and you may question any desire to move a notch up the company’s line-up to the Azera. The fit and finish is very good and it’s attractive, with brushed metallic surfaces, soft-touch plastic, and on my Limited, a band of plastic wood that ties the design together. The controls are simple buttons or dials, as they should be, and they fall easily to hand. There’s a fair bit of small-item storage as well, including a covered cubby that will hold CD cases.

    The seats are supportive, and include low bolsters that give them some shape. The cabin is very roomy for the car’s size, and legroom is good both in front and in the rear seats; even if the front chairs are pushed all the way back, those in the rear seats can stretch out.

    The trunk is also generous, with a cargo length of 112 cm. The rear seats fold, although not quite flat, and open it to a length of 185 cm; a nice touch is that you don’t need to remove the head restraints when putting the seats down.

    It used to be standard procedure for journalists, when writing about Hyundai, to mention how far the company has come with its products. That hasn’t been necessary for a while now; the Korean automaker can be confidently cross-shopped with anything in the market, whether domestic or imported.

    As I said, I’ve long thought that, when looking at the features and price, the Sonata is probably the best overall value in Hyundai’s line-up, and the four-cylinder version cements that, especially in the GL and Sport versions. Between the price and the five-year/100,000 comprehensive warranty, it’s a worthy contender in the crowded midsize market.

    Pricing: 2009 Hyundai Sonata Limited

    Base price: $27,995
    Options: None
    A/C tax: $100

    Freight: $1,415
    Price as tested: $29,510
    Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

  • Specifications: 2009 Hyundai Sonata

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