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 2009 Hyundai Sonata—especially with its revamped four-cylinder engine.
The 2009 Sonata comes in three flavors: GLS, SE and Limited. All come standard with a 2.4-liter, 175-horsepower four-cylinder engine that “goes from 162 horsepower to 175 (green states get a PZEV rated I-4 still good for 168),” according to Motor Trend. “That'll play just fine with Camry (158), Accord (177), and Malibu (164).” Consumer Guide confirms TheCarConnection.com’s impression of smoothness and zip in the four-cylinder, remarking that it has “more usable power from a stop.” A 3.3-liter V-6 with 249 horsepower has 13 more ponies this year on SE and Limited versions, but as Motor Trend notes, it “can come to the party, but not lead it.” Consumer Guide adds, “the V6 is still quite strong, providing snappy takeoffs and good passing response.” A manual five-speed gearbox is available on four-cylinder Sonatas, while all others feature a new five-speed automatic that “comes with a manual shift mode that’s operated by moving the shift lever back and forth in a special gate,” MyRide.com reports. “We found it worked well enough, but not so much that we found ourselves relishing the experience.”
The EPA says the Sonata’s high-mileage combination of the 2.4-liter/five-speed manual transmission generates 22 mpg city/32 mpg highway. The V-6 with a five-speed automatic is impressively efficient, delivering 19 mpg city/29 mpg highway. Edmunds calls the fuel economy “good for the family sedan segment.”
The 2009 Sonata’s road manners are composed, short of compelling. "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 Sonata "is compliant over small surface imperfections, but it reacts harshly to sharp bumps and ridges." Edmunds says it “smothers bumps well and delivers a luscious highway ride, but with significant body roll and vague steering, it won't be challenging sportier competitors like the Honda Accord or Nissan Altima to a corner-carving contest any time soon.” 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."