By Al Vinikour
DC Awaits First Global Fours by Joseph
Joint venture with Mitsu, Hyundai pays off next fall.
Once upon a time there were great big companies in a
Thus, when another attempt was
made to raid their kingdom — this time by Japanese with funny names like
When their ample bellies stopped
shaking and their eyes cleared the horrible realization that they’ve been
successfully invaded was so paralyzing they still develop nervous B.O. in
Over time the Detroiters and their Japanese rivals reached an accommodation, one that basically reads, “Let us live and we’ll give you the South.” As the Japanese, and their European colleagues took over Southern states in a move not seen since the mid-1860s, all have become oblivious to a new challenger to their turf — the Koreans.
For many years Korean manufacturers tried to gain a foothold in North America, but their notoriety was primarily limited to being the standard for manufacturing vehicles the public did not want to buy (just like the early Japanese imports). Thus, for the most part they have been ignored and allowed to market in this hemisphere, the thought being they made everybody else’s vehicles look better by comparison.
After years of diligence towards
improving quality and attempting to produce a good product at an affordable
The latest case in point is a vehicle that should strike fear in the hearts of import and domestic mid-size sedans salesman throughout the land. I’m referring to the new 2006 Hyundai Sonata. This vehicle not only sets a new standard for cost-effectiveness in a family sedan, it pushes even higher the already lofty levels of safety equipment and interior room in the class.
Let’s talk about that interior,
which is so spacious that even though Sonata is a mid-size sedan,
The Sonata sits on a 107.4-inch wheelbase, is 188.9 inches long, 72.1 inches wide, 58.0 inches high and has a ground clearance of 6.3 inches, in case you were thinking of taking it off-roading. With a curb weight between 3253 and 3458 pounds (depending on the powertrain) it’s hefty enough to be solid but light enough to provide good gas mileage, ranging from 24 mpg city and 34 mpg highway (again depending on powertrain selection). With its 17-gallon fuel tank the range is about 530 miles.
Speaking of powertrains, in the Sonata Hyundai offers a choice of two engines: a 2.4-liter four-cylinder producing 162 horsepower and 164 pound-feet of torque, and a 3.3-liter DOHC V-6 with 235 horsepower and 226 lb-ft of torque.
A five-speed manual is standard with the four-cylinder and a four-speed Shiftronic automatic is optional. A five-speed Shiftronic automatic is standard with the V-6. V-6-powered Sonatas get a chrome-tipped dual exhaust to signify the threat underhood. As it should be, there’s a tailpipe on either side of the rear bumper, not like some alleged high-performance V-8s.
The four-cylinder will better suit more level geography although it certainly is powerful enough to handle anything you want it to do. It’s relatively quiet and exceedingly smooth.
The real star is the V-6. It’s quiet, smooth and, while not a high-horsepower screamer like some of its competition, it’s the best all-around choice. Although I generally have a radio blasting and couldn’t hear a tornado if it stopped by to say hello, I drove the V-6 with no audio distractions and was quite pleased by what I didn’t hear.
The Sonata comes in three trim levels — the base GL, GLS and the top-of-the-line LX. There are lots of standard features on the GL, like power windows, cruise control, remote power door locks, Michelin MXV 16-inch tires and wheels, air conditioning, a dual-tier console with fixed armrest storage box, 12V power outlets in front and rear, and an AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with six speakers. It’s only available with the four-cylinder engine and standard five-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic.
The GLS adds the optional V-6 with the five-speed automatic. Standard power is the four-cylinder and four-speed automatic. (Manual transmission is not available in the GLS.) Other GLS features are 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels, solar control glass (with the V-6), and chrome window belt moldings, with optional eight-way power driver’s seat and steering wheel-mounted audio controls.
The LX comes standard with such items as a tilt and telescoping steering column, leather seating, eight-way power driver’s seat, premium sill door scuff plates, the V-6 engine/five-speed automatic transmission, Michelin Pilot 17-inch tires, and an air conditioning system with automatic temperature control, with an optional AM/FM/six-CD changer with six speakers and MP3 capability, subwoofer, high-power component amplifier audio system and other things you’d expect in an upscale model.
Instrumentation is sharp and the gauges are well placed. Controls are ergonomically friendly with the majority of them located in a handsome center stack console.
As if the Sonata doesn’t shine enough with its other attributes it really struts its stuff in the safety area. Every ’06 Sonata is equipped with six standard airbags (dual front, front seat-mounted side-impact and front and rear passenger side-curtain airbags), standard active front head restraints, standard anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake Force Distribution and standard Electronic Stability Control with standard Traction Control System. Recent NHTSA studies show passenger cars equipped with stability control experience 35 percent fewer single-vehicle crashes and 30 percent fewer single-vehicle fatalities, so getting it free is surely a good thing.
As for electronic tschotschkes, XM Radio with 90-day free subscription will be standard in every Hyundai product beginning in the fall of ’06. A navigation system will be available sometime during the product cycle.
Still want more? Sonata is covered by a five-year/60,000 bumper-to-bumper warranty and ten-year, 100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, as well as five-year/unlimited mileage roadside assistance and seven-year unlimited mileage anti-perforation coverage.
The moral of this story is simple: Laugh and the world laughs with you. Laugh at your competition and the world might just be laugh at you.
2006 Hyundai Sonata
Engines: 2.4-liter DOHC four-cylinder, 162 hp; 3.3-liter V-6, 235 hp
Transmissions: Five-speed manual (GL); four-speed automatic (GL or GLS); five-speed automatic (GLS or LX); front-wheel drive
Length x width x height: 188.9 x 72.1 x 58.0 in
Wheelbase: 107.4 in
Standard safety equipment: Dual front, side and side curtain airbags; stability control; traction control; anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution
Major standard equipment: Air conditioning; cabin air filter; AM/FM/CD/MP3 with six speakers; power windows/locks/mirrors; cruise control; remote keyless entry w/alarm
Fuel economy (EPA city/hwy): 24/34 mpg (four-cylinder w/manual); 24/33 mpg (four-cylinder/automatic); 20/30 mpg (V-6/automatic)
Warranty: Five years/60,000 miles; ten years/100,000 miles limited powertrain