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2009 Hyundai Sonata I4 and V6 Review

I rented an I4 GLS Sonata for one week to drive from Southern California to Yosemite and back. I had the car for one week so I feel fairly competent to provide my impression of the car. I currently own a 2009 V6 so I know about this one too.

Exterior:
It is a four door sedan. Nothing special here. I have noticed on numerous models that the paint around the gas flap and around the rear lights seems to be fading or chipping (not very impressive for a 2 year old car, and reminiscent of the paint on late 80’s and early 90’s Fords).

Interior:
The dash is well layed out. It is simple but elegant at the same time. I really liked the bluish/silverish color of the instruments at night. It was very soft on the eyes and it just looked good. The quality of material used for the seats left something to be desired but the seats were comfortable for the six hour drive to and from Yosemite (my V6 GLS has power seats which are actually more comfortable than the manual seats…more position options). There are little to no blindspots on this vehicle which makes driving more fun as you are never left hoping that a SMART car or motorcycle isn’t hiding in the other lane. The air conditioner is very powerful and effective (something I demand living out by Palm Springs…120 degree summers). The cabin feels very large and there is a lot of room between you and your passengers, especially in the back. If you compare it to other midsize cars you will notice a difference (since the Sonata is classified as a “large” car). The trunk is awesome with over 16 cubic feet of space and fold down rear seats. The stock radio is awesome…at least for a stock radio. You can adjust treble, bass, AND mids (something I have never seen on a car). This stereo competes very well, if not better, against the Bose in my Mazda6 and Monsoon in my Buick Regal.

Performance I4:
The 2.4 is surprisingly strong or at least it feels strong with the five-speed automatic attached to it. It isn’t fast, or fun, by any means but it is completely adequate for everyday driving. I was scared that the mountains of Yosemite would make this car a real drag to drive but I just put the transmission in the “manual” Tiptronic setting and chose the gear necessary and the 2.4 was able to move up the mountain pretty well. I definitely suggest choosing your gears in the mountains otherwise the tranny will be constantly “searching” for the correct gear (4th or 3rd worked very well on even the most highly inclined roads). One thing I found annoying was putting the cruise control on at highway speeds and the transmission downshifts with even the slightest increase in grade. Now that being said, I realized I could live with the annoying shifting of this vehicle when it returned mileage between 29-36 mpg (29 being the lowest!) Overall, I would actually recommend this engine if you aren’t too worried about performance…and let’s face it if you are worried about performance why are you looking at a Hyundai Sonata? The 2.4 functions well 90-95% of the time. It is just in that 5-10 percent that you may wish you had the 3.3

Performance V6:
The 3.3 V6 is definitely an upgrade over the 2.4 when it comes to power but I am not sure if I would really say it is powerful. And perhaps that is more the transmissions fault than the engine itself. I have noticed that if you stomp on the gas from a stop the car will take of well, however, if you are rolling away from light in a calm fashion and then stomp on the gas, the transmission tends to not downshift into 1st which means acceleration is pretty slow until the engine starts turning some high revs. This almost cancels out the benefit of having the 3.3 for quick passing on the street. Now on the highway it is a different story. If you are going highway speeds and you step on the gas the 3.3 will confidently push you by traffic. It is very easy to go 80 mph without really noticing it. Also, cruise control works much better (meaning it is less annoying) with the 3.3 as the transmission almost never needs to downshift even when going up steep grades. That being said 90% of the time the V6 is probably not really necessary and I don’t think the mileage will come close to the I4 in most situations. However, if more power makes you smile then you need to try the V6 and decide if you are willing to pay more at the pump.

Transmission/Gearing:
One of my favorite things about this car is the way it is geared at highway speeds. The car is only turning 2,000 rpm at 70 mph. This is reminiscent of my old supercharged Buick Regal (in many ways the 3.3 reminds me of the supercharged 3.8 in GM cars). Additionally, it seems to upshift into gears around 2,000 rpm on the street…it is as if Hyundai thinks these cars have torque. I like the lower shift points and the low cruising rpm. It makes the car very relaxed and quite. (I had a Mazda6 3.0 that was doing almost 3,000 rpm at 70 and it drove me crazy on long trips). The only thing I would like to see would be a “sport” setting on the transmission which holds onto gears longer before throwing shifts (Volkswagen has this down pretty well with their 6 speed auto).

Handling/Braking:
The Sonata GLS is not a handling car. Yes, it turns left and right and it has suspension but from a fun standpoint it is not a handler. That being said it really isn’t that bad either. Driving through Yosemite with the 2.4, I had numerous people pulling over to let me go by and the suspension never felt strung out. Plus, driving down the highway the car feels good as it glides pretty nicely on the open road. Braking was firm and confident even in the mountains.

Maintenance:
From what I have read these cars are really cheap to maintain. Filters and oil are totally reasonable and the warranty on these cars is simply ridiculous (good that is). I also think it is really cool that Hyundai has a section in their owners manual to tell you how to perform some maintenance yourself…its as if they think you are not an idiot.

Other Cars I looked at before buying the Sonata.
1. Volkswagen Passat (my wife had a VW Rabbit. Oil changes cost $65 to do yourself, $90 at dealer. The Passat would have been the same way plus it has a 2.0 Turbo 4 cylinder that seems to be riddled with issues. Many electrical gremlins in these cars as well.)

2. Mazda6 (I had a 2004 Mazda6 and the car was the best handling car I have ever been in. That being said the air conditioner sucked and it needed that extra gear on the freeway to cut RPM down. Also, the four cylinder in the Mazda6 gets the same mileage as the 3.3 and their 6 cylinder gets even worse)

3. Dodge Magnum SXT (My wife didn't like it. Plus it is hard to find a used one that doesn't have some ugly aftermarket wheels. I am kind of scared of combining Dodge and Mercedes)

Main reasons for buying the Sonata:
1. Value (resale sucks on the Sonata which means you can get an impressive used one cheap and they still have a great warranty)
2. MPG (in 4 and 6 cylinder forms Sonata beats the other automakers in mpg ratings)
3. Size/Comfort (I like how big and roomy the car is. The trunk is an excellent size. Seats are comfortable and the air blows strong and cold!)
 
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