2008 Hyundai Sonata Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
August 19, 2008

If you can live without top-level refinement and the absolutely latest technology, 2008 Hyundai Sonata is a fine little mid-size sedan, and considering its price, a genuine value.

TheCarConnection.com's team of family-sedan experts looked at reviews from around the Web to write this comprehensive profile of the 2008 Hyundai Sonata. Editors from TheCarConnection.com have also driven the Hyundai Sonata in order to provide you with firsthand advice about this car. This review also compares the 2008 Hyundai Sonata with other vehicles in its class, to give you the best information and to help you make a great purchasing decision.

The 2008 Hyundai Sonata is the latest version of the Sonata, completely revamped for the 2006 model year. It's a generically handsome vehicle with some strong character lines, although editors from TheCarConnection.com don't quite know from where Hyundai took its inspiration. As a company, Hyundai doesn't have a long or good design history to draw from.

Regardless, the 2008 Sonata is good-looking, outside and in. Its proportions are well balanced, and its detailing is pleasant, if not remarkable. The two-tone interior of high-line Sonata models is easy to like, and the placement of controls is fairly straightforward. The base Sonata GLS has nice cloth inside, and the seats are comfortable. However, there are some minor issues having to do with materials quality and more road noise than most editors like to hear.

Review continues below

The 2008 Sonata comes in three models; GLS, SE, and Limited. Every model can be had with an efficient 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 162 horsepower. Hyundai's 234-hp, 3.3-liter V-6 is a reasonably priced option. The Sonata used to be a V-6-only car, but with fuel prices as they are, Hyundai saw an opportunity. The high-mileage combination of the 2.4-liter/five-speed manual transmission generates 21 mpg city/31 mpg highway. The V-6 with a five-speed automatic is impressively efficient, delivering 19 mpg city/28 mpg highway.

On the road, the 2008 Hyundai Sonata rides well and is agile enough. The car compares well to the base Honda Accord and Toyota Camry models, but falls a bit short on beating out their higher-line editions in terms of refinement and quietness.

All 2008 Sonata models include stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes, and side curtain airbags. Performance in government crash tests was good, and the IIHS crash results earned this sedan an "acceptable" rating.

Every 2008 Hyundai Sonata includes these standard features: AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 audio, air conditioning, cruise control, and a tilt steering wheel. Moving up to the SE adds 17-inch alloy wheels with 55-series tires, a spoiler, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a power driver seat, along with a five-speed automatic transmission on the V-6 models. Also included on SE models are steering-wheel audio controls, chrome trim, a telescoping steering wheel, and a trip computer. The 2008 Sonata Limited picks up a multidisc CD changer, a subwoofer/amplifier, a power driver seat, and heated front seats. The sole option is a sunroof. Obviously, Hyundai isn't making a name for itself by outdoing the competition in luxury or gadgets. Hyundai (like Kia) is focusing on offering a solid vehicle at a terrific price.

Hyundai also backs it the 2008 Sonata with a 5-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, plus a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty on the powertrain. This excellent coverage goes a long way toward addressing quality concerns over this Korean mid-size sedan and shifting the opinions people have.

As in several other classes of vehicle (for example, the subcompact car and compact SUV), the Toyota and Honda entries are the benchmarks. The Toyotas tend to be more comfort oriented, while the Honda models drive with a sportier élan. This generalization holds true in the mid-size sedan class. About the only ding to either car is that the styling of their current generations hasn't won wide acclaim. Toyota gets a green star because it offers a hybrid-powered Camry, and the Hyundai does not.

While the Toyota and Honda entries top the mid-size sales charts, there are other consideration-worthy mid-size sedans from Nissan and Ford. Both the Altima and Fusion possess a sporty driving personality similar to the Honda. The Ford's quality ranks with Toyota's. The Nissan Altima offers some unique powertrain solutions, including the availability of a continuously variable transmission and a hybrid powertrain. Like the Accord, there is also an Altima Coupe.

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2008 Hyundai Sonata

Styling

The 2008 Hyundai Sonata's styling isn't quite cutting edge, but it's pleasing enough.

The 2008 Hyundai Sonata is good-looking, outside and in. Its proportions are well balanced, and its detailing is pleasant, if not remarkable.

According to Automotive.com, "the Hyundai Sonata 2008 remains refreshingly clean and spare, with sharply angled headlight housings and a quiet, clean-cut grille topped with a sliver of chrome," while Cars.com notes that "jeweled projector headlights sit up front," and "chrome-tipped dual exhausts are installed with the V-6 engine," adding that on the Hyundai 2008, "the horizontal taillights look a lot like those on the previous-generation Honda Accord." Kelley Blue Book comments "some might argue the Hyundai Sonata 2008 design is also somewhat generic"; however, they praise "the Sonata's new styling, even if it's squarely on the conservative side" and "don't see any single design feature likely to turn anybody away from the car."

The two-tone interior of high-line Sonata models is easy to like, and the placement of controls is fairly straightforward. The base Sonata GLS has nice cloth inside, and the seats are comfortable. Although Edmunds opines that the interior of the Hyundai 2008 is "not exactly high on style," according to Automotive.com, "the overall look is clearly competitive with most in the class and better than some." Cars.com notes a bit more luxury inside the Hyundai Sonata 2008 passenger compartment: "the cabins are highlighted by soft, padded surfaces--even storage bins are lined. Overall, the interior is nicely done." They especially like the cockpit, saying the "gauges are ordinary but amply sized for legibility," while "controls are logical and within easy reach." ConsumerGuide adds that the 2008 Hyundai Sonata's "simple, white-on-black gauges are easy to read in any lighting condition...but the high-set audio deck places some functions just out of easy reach."

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2008 Hyundai Sonata

Performance

The 2008 Hyundai Sonata offers decent, if not stellar, road manners and acceleration.

Unless you're expecting a driving experience like that of an upscale European sportscar, the experts at TheCarConnection.com believe you'll be pleased with the 2008 Hyundai Sonata.

The 2008 Sonata comes in three models; GLS, SE, and Limited. Every model can be had with an efficient 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 162 horsepower. Hyundai's 234-hp, 3.3-liter V-6 is a reasonably priced option. The Sonata used to be a V-6-only car, but with fuel prices as they are, Hyundai saw an opportunity.

Automotive.com reports "a 162-horsepower four-cylinder engine comes standard, a 234-hp V6 is optional...acceleration is brisk with the four-cylinder and brings a grin to the face with the V6. Hyundai officials say the V6 can accelerate from 0-60 miles per hour in about 7.5 seconds, with a top speed of 130 mph." Cars.com states "both engines get an Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle rating." While "four-cylinder Sonatas have adequate pep around town, and their passing reserves are comparable to rival midsize sedans," ConsumerGuide contends that "V6 versions are notably stronger in all driving conditions."

Cars.com states that "a five-speed manual gearbox is standard in Hyundai 2008 GLS and SE models, and a four-speed Shiftronic automatic with a manual-shift provision is optional," while "a new five-speed Shiftronic automatic couples with V-6 engines." Automotive.com is singularly impressed: "the Shiftronic automatic transmission moves between gears smoothly, kicking down for passing with minimal hesitation...the automatic offered responsive performance while tackling the hills of San Francisco." This source adds that "in manual mode, the Shiftronic will upshift automatically when the engine bumps up against redline; it declines to downshift at all, leaving that to the driver's preferences." On the other hand, ConsumerGuide notes that the Hyundai Sonata's "4-speed automatic is prompt to downshift for more power, but the 5-speed unit used on the V6 hesitates briefly before downshifting and tends to hunt between gears on hilly terrain."

The EPA says the Sonata’s high-mileage combination of the 2.4-liter/five-speed manual transmission generates 21 mpg city/31 mpg highway. The V-6 with a five-speed automatic is impressively efficient, delivering 19 mpg city/28 mpg highway. ConsumerGuide provides more realistic figures: "4-cylinder Sonatas with the automatic transmission averaged 25.9-26.4 mpg in mostly highway driving," while the test SE V-6 "averaged 18.8 mpg in city/highway driving and 15.6 including gas-eating performance runs."

On the road, the 2008 Hyundai Sonata rides well and is agile enough. The car compares well to the base Honda Accord and Toyota Camry models, but falls a bit short on beating out their higher-line editions in terms of refinement and quietness. The 2008 Hyundai Sonata's "steering is light and direct, with good on-center feel and directional stability," according to Automotive.com, which adds that "brakes are mostly linear, and equipped with Electronic Brake-force Distribution, which improves stability and reduces stopping distances by balancing brake force on the fly between the front and rear tires." ConsumerGuide reports that "the suspension struggles to balance control and comfort," noting that the Hyundai Sonata 2008 "is compliant over small surface imperfections, but it reacts harshly to sharp bumps and ridges." Edmunds says while "the suspension is still on the soft side and the steering remains a bit vague, the 2008 Hyundai Sonata smothers bumps well while handling precisely and keeping its composure in turns." Kelley Blue Book comments that it "drives like a small car," which "on the plus side...means more nimble and confident handling," but "on the flip side...means a ride less insulated from rough roads."

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2008 Hyundai Sonata

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Hyundai Sonata has large-car room and improved interior quality.

The 2008 Hyundai Sonata is reasonably quiet and comfortable, in the opinion of reviewers from around the Web and those at TheCarConnection.com.

Automotive.com says the Hyundai Sonata 2008 has "enough interior room to meet the EPA's definition of a large car...roomier in almost every dimension than most of its mid-size competitors, with a full-size edge in creature comfort." Cars.com notes this Hyundai 2008 "has recessed rear head restraints and can seat up to five occupants," and that a "60/40-split folding rear seat is installed," providing "greater distance between the driver and windshield pillar [that] enhances the sensation of roominess." ConsumerGuide had some complaints, however, reporting that some testers "have difficulty finding a comfortable driving position. Taller adults in particular may feel that they sit too close to the steering wheel, even with the telescopic steering column set to its furthest forward position."

Storage and cargo room aboard this Hyundai 2008 vehicle is generous and well done, according to Automotive.com: "the rear seatback is split 60/40 and folds to allow the transport of long objects, such as skis and snowboards or gardening tool, [but] storage bins and cubbies are about average for the class." ConsumerGuide disagrees: "abundant interior storage is highlighted by a generous glovebox, two-tier center-armrest console, and large door map pockets." Cars.com reports that Hyundai Sonata 2008 "cargo volume totals 16.3 cubic feet...maximized thanks to strut assists that open the trunk from the sides, as opposed to the arm-style hinges many competitors use, which encroach on luggage space when shut."

ConsumerGuide postulates that "some newer rivals meet and exceed Sonata for overall build quality," and Automotive.com finds fault with "some rough edges on a few plastic molds and a less-than-lustrous finish on some dash panels." Kelley Blue Book is kinder, saying that "the attractive environment also features nicer materials and cleaner designs than many might expect, with the possible exception of the center of the instrument panel, and the 2008 Hyundai Sonata's designers have done a fine job in minimizing the effects of inexpensive plastic." Edmunds concurs, remarking "the Hyundai 2008 Sonata's cabin exudes a fair amount of quality via the precise feel of most controls and an abundance of soft-touch surfaces."

"Wind and road noise is decently muted," says Automotive.com. Consumer Guide notes that "engine noise rises with speed, but it isn't annoying."

Hyundai also backs it the 2008 Sonata with a 5-year/50,000-mile basic warranty plus a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty on the powertrain. This excellent warranty coverage goes a long way toward addressing quality concerns over this Korean mid-size sedan and shifting the opinions people have.

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2008 Hyundai Sonata

Safety

You'll ride in safety and security aboard the 2008 Hyundai Sonata.

High crash-test scores earn the 2008 Hyundai Sonata an excellent safety rating from TheCarConnection.com.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the Hyundai Sonata 2008 five out of five stars on all frontal and side impact protection tests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which is considered more stringent, awards the Hyundai Sonata its top mark of "good" for frontal offset crashes and its second-best mark of "acceptable" for side impacts.

There is no shortage of standard Hyundai Sonata 2008 safety equipment. "Safety features on all Sonatas include the mandatory dual-stage front-seat airbags; front-seat side-impact airbags for torso protection; and full-coverage side curtain airbags designed to provide head protection," according to Automotive.com. In addition to these airbags, Cars.com notes that the 2008 Hyundai Sonata four-wheel-disc anti-lock brakes "incorporate electronic brake-force distribution," and that "all seating positions have three-point seat belts."

Cars.com also reports that the Hyundai Sonata 2008's "visibility is great, courtesy of big mirrors and abundant glass." Automotive.com acknowledges that "outward visibility is good, although the wide C-pillars constrict quick, over-the-shoulder traffic checks for lane changing."

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2008 Hyundai Sonata

Features

The 2008 Hyundai Sonata base model has enough features to satisfy most drivers.

The 2008 Hyundai Sonata offers a great deal in terms of standard features.

Experts at TheCarConnection.com find the Hyundai Sonata 2008 list of standard equipment to be impressive, as did Kelley Blue Book, which calls it "one of the Sonata's key selling points...the base Sonata features a sophisticated 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a five-speed manual transmission, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD/MP3 sound system, cruise control, keyless entry, power windows and door locks, heated power side mirrors and leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel."

Car and Driver notes that since the Hyundai Sonata 2008 "is already fairly well equipped, options are few." Hyundai Sonata 2008 options are grouped into "packages," according to Automotive.com: "The Popular Equipment Package adds automatic headlights, chrome window belt moldings, upgraded interior accents, power driver seat with adjustable lumbar support, steering wheel audio controls and a trip computer...the Premium Package for either Hyundai 2008 SE adds an Infinity AM/FM/XM/6CD/MP3 audio system with six speakers, subwoofer and component amplifier; power tilt-and-slide sunroof; and an electrochromic auto-dimming rear view mirror with HomeLink and a compass...The Hyundai 2008 Limited features leather seating surfaces, eight-way power driver's seat, heated front seats, automatic climate control with filtration, electrochromic auto-dimming rear view mirror with HomeLink and compass, telescoping steering wheel, and a sliding center armrest."

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April 13, 2015
For 2008 Hyundai Sonata

The best of the three I've owned.

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I have the Limited model. The designers went all out on this one. Take the inside finish of the doors for instance. I compare this every year to various makes at auto shows and I have YET not seen one that is... + More »
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Styling 7.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 7.0
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