2010 Hyundai Sonata

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The Car Connection
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Senior Editor
October 16, 2009

Buying tip

If you like the 2010 Hyundai Sonata, you might be able to swing a deal toward the end of the model year; for 2011 an all-new Sonata is on the way, and a Hybrid version will follow shortly thereafter.

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

The refined and roomy 2010 Hyundai Sonata lands solidly in the middle of a crowded field of mid-size family sedans, with just a little more value for the money than most of the rest.

So that you're better able to compare the 2010 Hyundai Sonata with other vehicles in its class, the editors of TheCarConnection.com have driven the Sonata and compiled an authoritative Bottom Line that uses firsthand observations and impressions. Then TheCarConnection.com assembled a comprehensive full review with excerpts from other respected sources from around the Web.

Although the 2010 Hyundai Sonata still hangs in the second echelon of mid-size sedans, after well-known nameplates like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, there's no reason why it shouldn't be compared directly with those mainstays. The Sonata is an excellent package with well-coordinated styling, a spacious interior, and the usual choice of four-cylinder or V-6 engines. After a comprehensive mid-cycle refresh last year that included a new four-cylinder engine, a substantially redesigned interior, and an update of available tech features, the Sonata carries into 2010 with no significant changes.

Last year the Sonata got a light touch-up at the front and rear, with most of the sedan's sheetmetal carried over; that's fine as the Sonata is nicely proportioned, if a bit conservative. The Sonata gained a new interior last year, most notably refinished in soft-touch plastics and padded surfaces, with a matte-metallic finish that's comparable to what's used in Lexus vehicles and Hyundai's upscale Genesis. Overall, the feel is surprisingly sophisticated, though there are still a few hard finishes in places.

The 2010 Hyundai Sonata lineup is somewhat abbreviated compared with previous model years; the V-6 is no longer offered with the base GLS. Sporty SE and upscale Limited trims are still available with the four or the V-6. The 2.4-liter, 175-horsepower four-cylinder engine comes with with a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic, but you'll be hard-pressed to find a stick. That's fine, as the four works just fine with the automatic; it's smooth in everyday driving with just enough torque for comfortable passing. The available 249-hp, 3.3-liter V-6 isn't that much quicker, with the Sonata feeling significantly heavier with this engine. Fuel economy ranges from 21/31 mpg for the four to 19/28 mpg with the six. Handling isn't quite as responsive and nicely weighted as you might find in the Mazda6 and Ford Fusion, but for ride and handling it does compare with the base Honda Accord and Toyota Camry models. Sporty SE models still manage an absorbent ride.

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Ever since this generation of Sonata made its debut in 2006, interior space has been significantly better relative to other mid-size sedans. The front seats in any of the versions are quite comfortable but a bit flat, while in terms of backseat space the 2010 Sonata qualifies as a large car, like the Honda Accord, with the backseat contoured just right. Interior appointments in general feel high quality, with plenty of padded surfaces, and doors open and close with a solid sound. The high-mounted radio and climate controls are easy to use, and cup holders and storage abound.

The Hyundai 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.
Electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, and side curtain airbags are included across the model line.

You don't need to step up beyond the base 2010 Hyundai Sonata GLS to get a well-equipped car. The GLS offers an AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 audio with USB and auxiliary jacks, air conditioning, cruise control, and a tilt steering wheel. A spoiler, 17-inch wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a power driver seat, and steering-wheel audio controls are all part of the sporty SE. The Limited gets a multidisc 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. One area that disappoints is the low-rent Bluetooth interface on the GLS, which is mounted like a speakerphone on the headliner. No matter which model you choose, the warranty coverage is very strong: five years or 50,000 miles basic, and ten years or 100,000 miles on the powertrain.


2010 Hyundai Sonata


The 2010 Hyundai Sonata isn't anything special from the outside, but it has a top-notch interior.

The 2010 Hyundai Sonata comes in three trim levels, all with essentially identical styling: GLS, SE, and Limited. Last year the Sonata got a light touch-up at the front and rear, with most of the sedan's sheetmetal carried over; that's fine as the Sonata is nicely proportioned, if a bit conservative. Last year, the Sonata also got a more substantial redo inside, with new soft-touch plastics and padded surfaces, plus a matte-metallic finish.

From the outside, “most casual observers would be hard-pressed to tell the difference" from the recent exterior face-lift, opines Leftlane News. 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."

Meanwhile, there are plenty of proponents of the exterior. MyRide.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."

Last year, the Sonata gained a completely reworked interior, and reviewers are enthusiastic about the look and feel. Leftlane News thinks the “revamped interior moves Hyundai upward into premium territory,” and Edmunds says that the Limited improves upon base Sonatas, describing it as "particularly upscale," and "certainly the most elegant environment one can inhabit for less than $25,000.” It reminds MyRide.com of Hyundai’s seven-passenger Veracruz crossover, and 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.”

Review continues below

2010 Hyundai Sonata


The 2010 Hyundai Sonata performs well enough for most sedan buyers, but it's not especially inspiring.  

You won't mistake the driving experience of the 2010 Hyundai Sonata for that of a luxury car or a sport sedan, but considering its low price and emphasis on space, comfort, and features, you're bound to be pleasantly surprised with the way the Sonata performs—especially with the refined and fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine.

GLS, SE, and Limited trims are offered for the 2010 Hyundai Sonata. 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).”

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.”

TheCarConnection.com’s impression of smoothness and zip in the new four-cylinder is confirmed by ConsumerGuide reviewers, who remark that the new four 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.” ConsumerGuide adds, “the V6 is still quite strong, providing snappy takeoffs and good passing response.”

At 22 mpg city, 32 highway, the four-cylinder is a very fuel-efficient choice. The V-6 with a five-speed automatic is also impressive, delivering 19/29 mpg. Edmunds calls the fuel economy “good for the family sedan segment.”

Overall, the 2010 Hyundai Sonata handles pretty well, but it's no revelation. 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." 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.”

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2010 Hyundai Sonata

Comfort & Quality

With large-car interior space and an excellent, high-quality interior ambiance, the 2010 Hyundai Sonata has the goods to impress.

The 2010 Hyundai Sonata has a roomy interior, with plenty of padded surfaces and a good, high-quality look and feel to interior details. Overall, the Sonata transmits refinement beyond its affordable price tag.

Like the Honda Accord, the 2010 Hyundai Sonata qualifies as a large car by EPA standards. There's a "greater distance between the driver and windshield pillar [that] enhances the sensation of roominess," according to Cars.com.  ConsumerGuide 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." Leftlane News notes "amazing legroom," but ConsumerGuide says that the seats “could use slightly firmer padding for best comfort.”

With a large trunk, plus a rear seatback that's split 60/40 and folds flat to expand cargo space, the 2010 Hyundai Sonata is surprisingly versatile. Yet some sources criticize the lack of small storage spaces. According to ConsumerGuide, “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."

With last year's interior redesign, materials in the 2010 Hyundai Sonata were significantly upgraded, with fit-and-finish improvements to match. “The look and feel of these components are so much better and more harmonious,” Motor Trend observes. ConsumerGuide reports “the cabin is assembled with care from nicely textured materials. ConsumerGuide also notes that "engine noise rises with speed, but it isn't annoying," and Motor Trend points out that interior noise was substantially improved with the improvements made for '09, “particularly the white noise and engine sounds that used to creep in from the center stack/IP area.”

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2010 Hyundai Sonata


The 2010 Hyundai Sonata has all the right features but isn't a high achiever for occupant protection.

The 2010 Hyundai Sonata has quite good crash-test ratings, along with all the expected safety features, but a straight-A student it's not.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the Hyundai Sonata five out of five stars on all frontal and side impact protection tests, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, considered the more stringent agency, awards the Hyundai Sonata its top mark of "good" for frontal offset crashes and its second-best mark of "acceptable" for side impacts.

The Sonata doesn't skimp in safety features, though. Front-seat side-impact airbags with head protection are standard, along with side-impact bags, electronic stability control, and anti-lock brakes.

Cars.com reports that the Hyundai Sonata’s "visibility is great, courtesy of big mirrors and abundant glass."


2010 Hyundai Sonata


The 2010 Hyundai Sonata includes a lot of features for the money, though options aren't quite up to those of the class leaders.

Hyundai typically offers a few more standard features for the dollar than rival models, and the 2010 Sonata is no exception.

TheCarConnection.com finds the standard-equipment list 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." MyRide.com notes that the Sonata now includes “USB, AUX and iPod inputs for the audio system.”

The sporty SE adds alloy wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a power driver’s seat, and steering-wheel audio controls, while the top-of-the-line Limited model adds automatic climate control, leather heated seats, a sunroof, and upgraded trim.

Car and Driver notes that since the Sonata "is already fairly well equipped, options are few." Most notably, the Premium Package adds an Infinity audio system with six speakers, a subwoofer, a component amplifier, and power tilt-and-slide sunroof. The package no longer includes the CD changer, auto-dimming mirror, or Homelink for 2010.

A navigation system with voice control was new for 2009. MyRide.com reports the system “offers up a sharp but slightly small screen, and we found it easy enough to use during our short time with the car.” CNET proclaims that the voice command features “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.”

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