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Until recently, Hyundai cars left a lot to be desired in terms of quality and design. Consequently, Hyundai dealers were left to sell the cars based on their price rather than the merits of their design and features.
That started changing a few years ago, when the Hyundai Tiburon sport coupe debuted. The car represented a new benchmark for Korean-car quality. It was, and still is, a good car for a reasonable price. When the Tiburon hit the market, it was obvious that Hyundai was committed to building better cars.
After driving the 1999 Hyundai Sonata GLS V-6, it seems that Hyundai is
committed to this strategy. The car is light-years ahead of its predecessor in
every way and is a legitimate competitor to such cars as the much vaunted Honda
Accord and Toyota Camry.
Shocks and surprises from a capable Korean
For $17,799, the Sonata GLS V-6 comes with a 2.5-liter DOHC V-6 engine, an electronically controlled automatic transmission, 15-inch alloy wheels with Michelin tires, power windows and locks, air conditioning, and a 100-watt audio system equipped with a CD player.
But while the Sonata's equipment list is impressive, it stands out more because of the execution of its design, rather than its long list of equipment. The car's high-quality feel and handling dynamics are better than those of any other Korean car we've driven.
A chassis equipped with four-wheel independent suspension, rack-and-pinion
steering, and four-wheel disc brakes gives the Sonata its excellent handling
manners. And if the Michelin tires were more interested in gripping the road
instead of suppressing noise and wear, the car might even have handled better.
Five ways to more fans
Also adding to the Sonata's appeal is the availability of a manual transmission in all Sonatas, regardless of whether they are equipped with the V-6 or 2.4-liter four-cylinder. Precious few sedans in the United States are available with the combination of a V-6 and manual transmission.