2009 Hyundai Sonata

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The Car Connection
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
May 13, 2009

Buying tip

Hyundai already has its eye on the next Sonata—this fall, a new version with an optional hybrid powertrain could be unveiled. If green is keen to you, it’s worth a look later this year.

features & specs

4-Door Sedan I4 Automatic GLS
4-Door Sedan I4 Automatic GLS PZEV
4-Door Sedan I4 Automatic Limited
22 city / 32 hwy
22 city / 32 hwy
22 city / 32 hwy

TheCarConnection.com still rates the Honda Accord as the family-sedan champion, but the 2009 Hyundai Sonata lands solidly in the upstart tier that includes the Mazda6, Ford Fusion and Chevrolet Malibu.

The car experts at TheCarConnection.com have driven the 2009 Hyundai Sonata and have compiled this road test and review from a wide range of respected automotive Web sites. This review also compares the 2009 Hyundai Sonata with other vehicles in its class, to give you the best information and to help you make a great purchasing decision.

The 2009 Hyundai Sonata may be one of the less well-known vehicles in its mid-size sedan class, but it’s not for lack of trying. Hyundai’s endowed the four-door with a pleasing style, great interior room and the traditional choice of four- and six-cylinder engines. This year, they’ve only made the Sonata better by fitting a brand-new interior and a new four-cylinder engine, and by adding some high-tech features high on the shopping lists for today’s family sedan buyers.

Let’s start with styling. The 2009 Sonata gets a light touch-up on its front and rear ends. It’s essentially the same as the previous version, and that’s welcome. The Sonata’s a handsome sedan with some strong character lines but mostly, a generically good-looking shape. Inside lies real change: the Sonata gains a new interior this year, and it’s beautifully rendered in soft-touch plastics on most of the surfaces you’ll touch on a regular basis. The matte-paint finish reminds TheCarConnection.com’s test drivers of Lexus—and of Hyundai’s much more expensive Genesis sedan. A broad band of metallic-finish plastic gives the dash elegant wings, and the high-mounted radio and climate controls are visible and easy to use. A few hard finishes live in places you’ll hardly see or use. It’s state of the art in a class with some classy cars.

Hyundai’s trimmed the Sonata lineup for 2009, leaving it with a base four-cylinder GLS, a sporty SE edition and an upscale Limited. Both the SE and Limited can be outfitted with a new 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 175 horsepower or a 3.3-liter V-6 with 249 hp. A five-speed manual is available on the GLS and SE four-cylinders, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find one. A five-speed automatic is the only other transmission, and in tandem with the four-cylinder, it’s a smooth and adept freeway cruiser with enough torque for comfortable passes. The V-6 isn’t that much quicker. Fuel economy ranges from 21/31 mpg for the four, to 19/28 mpg with the six. On the road, the 2009 Hyundai Sonata rides well and is agile enough. It compares well to the base Honda Accord and Toyota Camry models, but steering isn’t as nicely weighted as in a Mazda6 or a Ford Fusion. The Sonata’s firm shocks and softer bushings give even the SE versions an absorbent ride.

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Interior room has been a strength of the Sonata since it was last completely redesigned for 2006. Along with the richly appointed cabin, there’s a wealth of usable space inside. The front seats in the SE version are well trimmed but a little on the flat side—though plenty wide for American backsides. The back seat has legroom that qualifies this as a large car, just like the Honda Accord, and the seatback is reclined at a perfect degree. Doors open and close with a solid sound, there’s enough trunk room for weeks of luggage, and cupholders and storage abound.

All 2009 Hyundai Sonata models include stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes, and side curtain airbags. The Sonata earns five stars for front and side-impact safety from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) calls it "acceptable” for side impacts.

A well-equipped car in base form, the 2009 Hyundai Sonata offers up AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 audio with USB and auxiliary jacks, air conditioning, cruise control, and a tilt steering wheel. The SE adds 17-inch wheels, a spoiler, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a power driver seat and steering-wheel audio controls. The Limited gets a multi-disc CD changer, a subwoofer/amplifier, and heated front seats. A sunroof and a navigation system are available, and the Sonata now offers an Infinity premium audio system. There’s Bluetooth as well, but the Sonata’s setup is mounted like a speakerphone on the base car’s headliner—a less convenient solution that contrasts with the steering-wheel controls offered on most other sedans in the class. Hyundai also backs the 2009 Sonata with a 5-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, plus a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty on the powertrain.


2009 Hyundai Sonata


The 2009 Hyundai Sonata remains generically handsome—only now, it sports a terrific interior.

The 2009 Hyundai Sonata is good-looking, outside and in. Its proportions are well balanced, and its detailing is pleasant—and its newly revamped interior is a standout. It comes in three trim levels all with essentially identical styling: GLS, SE and Limited.

A slight update gives the Sonata a new bumper and grille, but LeftLaneNews points out “most casual observers would be hard-pressed to tell the difference unless the 2008 and 2009 models were parked side by side.” Automotive.com thinks "the Sonata 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, "the horizontal taillights look a lot like those on the previous-generation Honda Accord." Kelley Blue Book comments "some might argue the Sonata 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 interior of the Sonata’s been renovated this year and reviewers are enthusiastic about the look and feel. LeftLaneNews thinks the “revamped interior moves Hyundai upward into premium territory.” It reminds MyRide of Hyundai’s seven-passenger Veracruz crossover. CNet notes that the cleaner design—with the radio and climate controls moved much higher on the dash—leaves “so much leftover space…that Hyundai places two small storage areas in the center stack, below the navigation unit.” The Limited improves upon base Sonatas, which Edmunds says “is particularly upscale, and is certainly the most elegant environment one can inhabit for less than $25,000.”

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2009 Hyundai Sonata


The 2009 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 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."

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2009 Hyundai Sonata

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Hyundai Sonata has large-car room and a noteworthy boost in interior quality.

The 2009 Hyundai Sonata is reasonably quiet and comfortable, and it makes a big leap forward in the quality of its cabin materials and feel, in the opinion of reviewers from around the Web and those at TheCarConnection.com.

The 2009 Sonata, like the Honda Accord, qualifies as a large car by EPA standards. Automotive.com says that means it’s “roomier in almost every dimension than most of its mid-size competitors, with a full-size edge in creature comfort." Cars.com observes a "greater distance between the driver and windshield pillar [that] enhances the sensation of roominess." Consumer Guide lodges 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." They admire the “redesigned front seats [that] have a longer bottom cushion for better long-distance comfort and support. Getting in and out of any seat is easy thanks to ample door openings, but rear-seat headroom is trimmed for taller passengers when the optional sunroof is ordered. A few sources complain that the Sonata’s seats were fine, but “could use slightly firmer padding for best comfort,” as Consumer Guide finds, though LeftLaneNews notes “amazing legroom.”

Storage and cargo room aboard this Hyundai 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." Consumer Guide agrees: “the door pockets and two-tiered center console bin are on the small side. A large, covered bin located under the climate/audio control stack compensates.” Cars.com reports "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."

Fit and finish have been substantially upgraded in the 2009 Sonata. “The look and feel of these components are so much better and more harmonious,” Motor Trend observes. Consumer Guide reports “the cabin is assembled with care from nicely textured materials. Closer inspection reveals some cost cutting, with hard plastics in many spots.” "Wind and road noise is decently muted," says Automotive.com. Consumer Guide notes that "engine noise rises with speed, but it isn't annoying," and Motor Trend points out a “substantial lowering of noise levels, particularly the white noise and engine sounds that used to creep in from the center stack/IP area.”

Hyundai also backs the 2009 Sonata with a five-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 consumer opinions.

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2009 Hyundai Sonata


You'll ride in safety and security aboard the 2009 Hyundai Sonata.

High crash-test scores earn the 2009 Hyundai Sonata an excellent safety rating from TheCarConnection.com.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the Hyundai Sonata  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 2009 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 2009 Hyundai Sonata four-wheel-disc anti-lock brakes "incorporate electronic brake-force distribution," and "all seating positions have three-point seat belts." Motor Trend underscores the standard electronic stability and traction control: “Camry and Altima charge you extra for these safety systems.”

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


2009 Hyundai Sonata


The 2009 Hyundai Sonata base model has enough features to satisfy most drivers, now that Bluetooth’s arrived.

The 2009 Hyundai Sonata offers a great deal in terms of standard features.

Experts at TheCarConnection.com find the list of standard equipment to be impressive, as does 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." For 2009 this list includes “USB, AUX and iPod inputs for the audio system,” MyRide.com reports. The SE adds “alloy wheels, power driver’s seat, steering-wheel audio controls and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob,” while the Limiteds “get pretty much everything available: standard leather seats with heated fronts, more chrome outside, automatic climate control inside, and a sunroof.”

Car and Driver notes that since the Sonata "is already fairly well equipped, options are few." 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,” while the Premium Package “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.”

For 2009 the Sonata adds an optional navigation system with voice control. MyRide.com reports the nav system “offers up a sharp but slightly small screen, and we found it easy enough to use during our short time with the car.” Even better, CNET proclaims, is the new voice command system: it “really floored us…It doesn't take much time with the onscreen help to figure out some useful commands. It also recognized our spoken commands with good accuracy, working just as well as the system we've used extensively in the Honda Civic.” CNET is disappointed that their Sonata “doesn't have Bluetooth cell phone integration as an option, especially as a hands-free law is about to come into effect in California,” but noted “Kia and Hyundai models will be getting a Microsoft system similar to the Ford Sync.” A vehicle tested by TheCarConnection.com sported a headliner-mounted Bluetooth speaker, a late running change for the 2009 model year.

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April 10, 2015
For 2009 Hyundai Sonata

The best car I've ever owned

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This car has been PERFECT ! It is dependable and can get 41 mpg on the highway at 60 mph. The paint and finish look as new as they did in 2009. Have no plans to sell it.
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