2011 Hyundai Sonata: First Drive

February 22, 2010

Is it merely bold, or too brash? You'll be the judge as the 2011 Hyundai Sonata hits showrooms this month and sets its sights on peeling away shoppers from the Camry/Accord/Altima/Fusion fold.

Last week, we drove the new Sonata outside of San Diego for TheCarConnection's first drive--and in our eyes, the Sonata's going to be a strong success. The current Sonata's already one of our default recommendations for sedan buyers, thanks to its comfortable interior, good safety performance and its warranty coverage.

With the new Sonata, Hyundai's ready to ditch the sedate look and go for broke. It's a gamble, but in truth, the sedan market's been bifurcating anyway, with cars like the Ford Fusion and Nissan Altima shearing off younger fans who want some driving feel preserved in four-door format. Hyundai's doing the same, giving the Sonata that mission while reserving a more traditional niche for the larger, V-6-powered Azera.

Our test drive wasn't as comprehensive as we'd have liked. In fact, it was punctuated by a motorcycle rollover accident midway through our time with the Sonata SE. Still, after a few hours, the new Sonata makes its strong suits known: the interior's still a spacious place, the jazzy look has only a few minor foibles, and Hyundai's found a way to balance ride quality with the power and the low rolling-resistance tires that earn its latest effort the top fuel-economy ratings in the class.

The Ford Fusion and Honda Accord still are TheCarConnection's top-rated family sedans, but with this iteration, the Sonata hikes its score to 8.2 out of 10, thanks to a zoomy new look, a well-damped ride, and a top-flight set of entertainment features. And it does it all with a base price just nudging the $20,000 barrier--with turbocharged and hybrid versions yet to come.

The Bottom Line? The 2011 Hyundai Sonata takes some smart styling and performance risks to raise its profile.

For the full story, check out more photos, pricing, specs and related news at our 2011 Hyundai Sonata page.

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