2011 Hyundai Sonata Limited
2011 Hyundai Sonata Limited. Click image to enlarge

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2011 Hyundai Sonata

Traditionally, two-door coupes tend to be stylish, sporty vehicles while four-door sedans are often practical, unexciting ‘three-box’ designs. Mercedes-Benz was the first to break with this tradition in 2006 with the stylish CLS luxury sedan; then Volkswagen introduced the sleek Passat CC sedan in 2009; and now Hyundai has adopted a similar styling theme with its redesigned, sixth-generation 2011 Sonata.

Like the Passat CC, the Sonata has a flowing ‘coupe-like’ profile with just the hint of a trunk, high window ledges, and a prominent crease in the doors that extends around to the trunk above the taillights. Perhaps the Sonata’s most distinctive feature is its fluted grille design and its wraparound headlight covers that merge into a chrome strip under the side windows.

2011 Hyundai Sonata Limited
2011 Hyundai Sonata Limited
2011 Hyundai Sonata Limited
2011 Hyundai Sonata Limited
2011 Hyundai Sonata Limited. Click image to enlarge

The new Sonata’s wind-cheating shape (coefficient of drag, 0.28) is a huge departure from the plainly-styled 2010 Sonata, and contrasts with the relatively conservative styling of its mid-size competitors, the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Mazda6, Nissan Altima, Kia Magentis, Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu, and Dodge Avenger. After many years of anonymity on Canadian roads, it appears the Sonata is determined to be noticed.

Though it appears lower and wider than the previous Sonata, the 2011 Sonata is only three mm wider and five mm lower. However, the front track is 22 mm wider and the rear track is 37 mm wider, giving the 2011 Sonata an aggressive, “wide-track” look. The other significant difference from 2010 is that the wheelbase is now 65 mm longer, contributing to a larger cabin and increased rear legroom and trunk space. Overall length, though, has increased by only 20 mm.

The 2011 Sonata’s radical new styling poses some risks for Hyundai as typical family sedan buyers place a priority on practical virtues rather than fancy styling. In a clearly pre-emptive defence, Hyundai has been careful to point out that the new Sonata has more cabin space than most of its key (2010) competitors, including the Camry, Altima, Mazda6, Fusion and Malibu; only the 2010 Accord has more cabin space. The 2011 Sonata also offers a bigger trunk than the Camry, Accord, Altima, and Malibu, and it is just slightly smaller than those of the Fusion and Mazda6.

Styling aside, the other major difference for 2011 is the Sonata’s new Theta II 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine with new direct fuel injection. The new engine offers 23 more horsepower and approximately seven per cent better fuel economy (with manual transmission) than the previous 2.4-litre engine; as well, new six-speed manual and automatic transmissions replace the previous five-speed units, contributing to better fuel economy and quieter running.

With 198 horsepower, the 2011 Sonata’s four-cylinder engine has the most horsepower in its class; and with a base curb weight of 1437 kg, the Sonata is one of the lightest vehicles in its class, giving it a class-leading power to weight ratio.

Interestingly, Hyundai will not be offering a V6 engine in the 2011 Sonata: it will be replaced by a new turbocharged four-cylinder later this year – along with a new hybrid Sonata model that incorporates new lithium-polymer battery technology.

Pricing and standard features
2011 Hyundai Sonata Limited
2011 Hyundai Sonata Limited. Click image to enlarge

2011 Sonatas, which are already on sale, are offered in three trim levels: GL ($22,695), GLS ($26,249) and Limited ($28,999). A Limited model with a navigation system is also available for $30,999. Price increases for 2011 are modest, considering this is an all-new car.

Base GL Sonatas ($22,695) come with the 198-hp 2.4-litre engine and a standard six-speed manual transmission, 16-inch tires and steel wheels, electronic stability and traction control, disc brakes with ABS and EBD, cloth seats, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD/MP3/XM audio system with six speakers, iPod and USB inputs, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, power windows, mirrors and door locks, keyless entry, tilt and telescopic steering wheel with audio controls, and cruise control.

With the optional six-speed automatic transmission, Sonata GL models go for $24,249, and add standard front heated seats.

Both GLS and Limited models come standard with the six-speed automatic transmission. To the GL’s list of standard equipment, GLS models ($26,249) also add alloy wheels, front fog lights, power sunroof, power driver’s seat with lumbar adjuster, leather wrapped steering wheel and windshield de-icer.

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