2006 Hyundai Sonata; photos by Greg Wilson. Click image to enlarge
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By Chris Chase
You might call the fourth-generation Sonata, introduced in 2006, the result of Hyundai’s decades-long trek toward mainstream acceptance. Hyundai had produced impressive vehicles before this car arrived, but the importance of the mid-size sedan segment meant that Hyundai needed a quality car to compete with stalwarts like Accord, Camry and Altima.
To that end, the 2006 Sonata was a total redesign, sharing basically nothing with the car it replaced. Hyundai’s fourth-gen mid-sizer was offered with a choice of 2.4-litre four-cylinder or 3.3-litre V6 engines (163 and 235 horsepower, respectively), while transmissions were a five speed manual or four-speed automatic with the four-cylinder, or a five-speed auto with the V6.
In 2009, the Sonata got a new four-cylinder engine, Hyundai’s second-generation Theta motor, which still displaced 2.4 litres but made 175 horsepower. The 3.3-litre V6 was carried over, but got a power upgrade to 249 hp. The 2009 Sonata also got refreshed styling inside and out, the significant part of which was a new dash with both improved aesthetics and ergonomics.
Fuel consumption figures in 2006 were 9.6/6.3 L/100 km for the four-cylinder, and 11.5/7.2 for the V6 (all figures city/highway). The 2009 model’s new four-cylinder traded a bit of efficiency in the city for a small boost in highway economy, rated at 9.7/6.2, while the improved V6 improved notably to 10.8/6.9 L/100 km.
2009 Hyundai Sonata Limited four-cylinder; photos by Jil McIntosh. Click image to enlarge
The 2006 Sonata also marked a significant improvement in crash safety over its predecessor. From the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the fifth-gen car earned a “good” rating in frontal offset crash tests, and an “acceptable” overall rating in side impact tests. Those side impact tests indicated a high likelihood of a fractured pelvis for the driver/front passenger, though rear seat passengers were very well protected.
From the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Sonata earned five stars all around in frontal and side impact tests.
Six airbags were standard from 2006, but traction and stability control were only offered in uplevel trims regardless of model year.
Serious trouble spots appear to be few. From a perusal of Hyundai-centric web forums, theappear to be an issue in earlier cars, where one or more doors won’t lock electrically. Another trouble spot I noticed is that of stereo problems in 2009 and newer models. In general, Consumer Reports notes paint and body trim, body hardware and power equipment as the main trouble spots, while brakes that wear prematurely are common in four-cylinder cars in particular; that publication gives the fourth-generation Sonata an above-average used-vehicle reliability rating.
2006 Hyundai Sonata (top, by Greg Wilson); 2009 Hyundai Sonata Limited V6 (bottom, by Brian Early). Click image to enlarge
Used fourth-gen Sonata values range from $9,175 for a 2006 GL with manual transmission, to $19,575 for a 2009 Limited V6 model. Despite the Sonata’s solid reputation, resale values are still lower than those for the class benchmarks, matching up more closely to used prices for domestic mid-size sedans like the Ford Fusion and Chevrolet Malibu. If you want to benefit from the 2009 redesign’s improved interior, you can expect to pay at least $16,000 for a basic GL four-cylinder model. If you like as much comfort and convenience as possible with four-cylinder power, go for a 2007 or newer model, in which you can get a GLS (2007 and 2008) or Limited (2009 and newer) model without being required to take the V6 engine, as was the case in 2006.
The 2006 Sonata had a lot of hype to live up to, and in most respects, and it appears to have lived up to that hype both in terms of performance and refinement, and in reliability. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and put the Sonata in the same boat as the Ford Fusion as a real dark horse in the used family sedan segment: its reliability isn’t perfect, but it is very good; that, plus used values that make it a downright bargain. The Sonata gets my recommendation as a used vehicle buy, but the usual caveats apply: look for a car with complete maintenance records and one that passes an inspection by a trusted mechanic.
Black Book Pricing (avg. retail) February 2010:
2006:On certain vehicles, while cornering under conditions where Electronic Stability Control (ESC) activation may not be needed, a sensitive ESC may cause the engine to reduce power and the brake at one of the wheels to be applied without brake pedal application by the driver. This may cause the vehicle to slow and may affect the path that the vehicle is traveling. Brake application caused by inadvertent ESC activation may result in a crash. Correction: Dealers will reprogram the ESC Hydraulic Electronic Control Unit (HECU).
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2005253; Units affected: 4,936
2006: During a government 65 km/h 40 per cent offset frontal barrier test, the driver’s seat belt may have interfered with the manual front seat back recliner knob, inadvertently releasing the seat back recliner mechanism. The release of a seat back recliner during a vehicle crash could result in injury to vehicle occupants. Correction: Dealers will replace the front seat back recliner knob with a revised part. Note: The revised part was placed into vehicle production on July 28, 2005 on four cylinder engine equipped models and on August 16, 2005 on six cylinder models.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2006117; Units affected: 203
2006: Certain vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of CMVSS 108. Improper dimensions of front turn signal lens mounting bosses affect lens photometric performance, causing them to fail Transport Canada compliance testing. Incorrect turn signal lens performance could reduce the vehicle’s visibility to other drivers, which could cause a crash. Correction: Dealers will replace both front headlamp assemblies.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2008140; Units affected: 31,542
2006-2008: On certain vehicles equipped with an advanced airbag system, the Occupant Classification System (OCS), installed in the right front seat of the vehicle, may misclassify a small stature adult as a child and deactivate the passenger airbag. This would cause the right front airbag to not inflate in a crash that merits airbag deployment, and may result in injury to the right front seat occupant. Correction: Dealers will verify that the OCS does not recognize a properly seated adult occupant. After verification, the right front seat cushion assembly will be removed and reprogrammed.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2009120; Units affected: 67,976 (includes other models)
2006-2007: On certain vehicles, the stop lamp switch may have been incorrectly installed during vehicle assembly. This could prevent proper brake lamp operation. Failure of the brake lamps to illuminate when the brakes are applied may result in the following road users being unaware of the driver’s intentions, increasing the risk of a crash causing injury or death. A malfunction of the switch may also cause the brake lamps to remain illuminated when the brake pedal is released. Additionally, a faulty switch may affect the operation of the brake-transmission shift interlock on automatic transmission-equipped vehicles so that the transmission shifter would not be able to be shifted out of PARK position. It may also cause the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) light to illuminate, and it may not deactivate the cruise control when the brake pedal is depressed. Correction: Dealers will replace the stop lamp switch assembly.
Crash test results
Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.
For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.