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."