The 2011 Hyundai Sonata is Full of Interesting Shapes, None of Them Cohesive

February 24, 2010
The 2011 Hyundai Sonata family sedan was unveiled to the American populace en masse recently on Super Bowl Sunday. Odd thing is, these ads didn’t talk much about the styling or features of the new model but rather talked about its alleged build quality.

Aren’t we supposed to wait to make judgments about build quality until after actual production models hit real world streets? Or is Hyundai just concerned the Americans just might not accept the “unique” styling of their bread and butter sedan? Because while this Hyundai has a definite look all of its own, it is dominated by design cues that clash so violently with each other you might easily wonder if they will just tear the car apart.

The exterior is dominated by deep slashes in the bodywork and a swooping rear roof-line that brings to mind a 1990’s Chevy Caprice. While there are attractive aspects to specific pieces of the exterior design (nice tail-lights) the whole is such a conflicting mish-mash that it makes the 2011 Sonata look like a floundering fish gasping for air. White models suffer from this visual trait most especially.

You do have to hand it to Hyundai, however, for giving the 2011 Sonata very ample rear legroom and a huge 16.4 cubic foot trunk. They truly worked a feat of packaging magic on this one because from the outside the Sonata does not appear like a car with a spacious back seat or trunk.

Whereas the last generation Sonata’s dash had a classy simplicity about it, the new one has a modern angularity that only serves to make the interior feel frigid. The steering wheel is even an awkward shape and polished black piano trim (which always shows fingerprints) features on the dash right next to silver effect trim. Make up your mind with the materials choices already Hyundai!

The dashboard appears to have been assembled with precision and care but some of the plastics in portions look low-rent. Controls for the navigation system also appear to have been directly lifted from an Infiniti while the climate controls are a near direct copy of the ones found in many a Volvo. At least Hyundai didn’t decide to go crazy and come up with unique designs everywhere in the 2011 Sonata.

Where Hyundai finally scores points back with the 2011 Sonata is in the powertrain department. At launch there is only one motor, a 2.4 liter direct-injected four-cylinder good for 198 horsepower and 184 pound feet of torque. EPA estimates a class leading 22 city/35 highway for this engine when mated to the new Hyundai engineered six-speed automatic. A six-speed manual remains optional on the base GLS.

The Sonata is also available in sporty SE or upscale Limited trims where features like navigation, push button start, rear view camera, Bluetooth, XM and leather-clad power seats rule the day. Prices are reasonable given the features count found on each model and Hyundai should be applauded for its impressive work on the engine and transmission. What it comes down to, however, is how you feel about the 2011 Hyundai Sonata’s styling. And that is a personal decision only you can make.

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