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2006 Hyundai Sonata

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San Francisco:  Something truly remarkable, even awe-inspiring, is happening at Hyundai. In 20 years in the American market, the Korean company has gone from a provider of marginal quality econoboxes to a producer of a range of appealing models, including a large, handsome, powerful sedan known as the Sonata.

You could see it coming. The 2004 Sonata got the J.D. Power and Associates ďMost Appealing Entry Midsize CarĒ rating, and surprised everybody by also grabbing kudos for highest initial quality in that category too. Now, the 2006 Sonata is bigger and better, and thatís not just a sales pitch.

The new Sonata competes with the class-leading midsize Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, among others. But with 121.7 cubic feet of total interior space, the 2006 Sonata is now classified as a large car in the states. Hyundai added an inch or two here and there to do it. Even trunk space is up to 16 percent to 16.3 cubic feet.

The new car is completely redesigned and restyled, looking like a blend of popular models. Thereís a bit of Accord in the rear, some Audi in the side view, and plenty of Hyundai up front. Inside and out, the looks will please many and offend no one. My Dark Cinnamon test car looked dignified and a little sporty with its 16-inch alloy wheels.

The interior has the same blend-of-winners look. Without anything tacky or ostentatious, the gently curving, padded dashboard and doors evoke the aforementioned Japanese leaders, but also offer a hint of Mercedes-Benz and Audi. Materials are very nice, fit-and-finish are tight, and even the artificial wood wears an appropriate shade and gloss. Silvery needles in the gauges look expensive. The matte silver trim is nicely done. The climate control knobs move with precision and weight. Thereís even a lined toll drawer, visors with pullout extensions, and pull-down grips that return to there resting positions slowly. Much research and homework were obviously done.

The newness doesnít stop at the sheet metal and interior. You can choose from two new engines, a 2.4-liter inline four rated at 162 horsepower and 164 lb.-ft. of torque, or a 3.3-liter V6 that puts out 235 horsepower and 226 lb.-ft. of torque. The four comes standard in the base GL model and the mid-level GLS model. The GLS also can be ordered with the V6, while the LX top of the line model has the V6 as standard equipment, as well it should. You can get a five-speed manual only in the four-cylinder cars.

Fuel economy numbers for the four-cylinder GL with manual transmission are 24 City, 34 Highway. The V6 gets 20 City, 30 Highway. My V6-equipped tester averaged 20.3 mpg.

My tester was a GLS with V6, which is likely to be the most popular model. Every Sonata comes with features buyers want, like power windows (with power up and down for the driver), power locks (with alarmed keyless entry), and power mirrors (heated).  More amazing, even the base car comes with air conditioning, cruise control, a complete audio system with MP3, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Most incredible of all is the list of standard safety features on every Sonata, including Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Traction Control System (TCS), and Anti-lock Brakes with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD).  This parade of lifesaving acronyms uses computer technology to keep you and your family safe, and is normally not standard equipment on cars in this market segment or price range. In case the high-tech systems canít prevent a crash, you also get six standard airbags, front, side, and front and rear side curtain.

Driving the Sonata is as pleasant as you might expect. Itís very quiet inside, which adds to the sense of high quality. GLS level upgrades include 16-inch alloy wheels, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, trip computer, shinier trim pieces, and more. The LX level brings in eight-way power heated leather seats, automatic temperature control, 17-inch alloy wheels, auto-dimming mirrors, and more.

The new Sonata rolls out of a spanking new billion-dollar plus plant in Montgomery, Alabama. Twenty-eight percent of the parts are U.S/Canadian in origin. Assembly of imported cars in America has been around for decades, but this is new for Hyundai. The company claims that this American-built Sonata was specifically designed with the U.S. market in mind, and I can believe it.

My test car, with no options, came to a mere $21,495. The GL starts at just $18,495, and the LX lists at $23,495. These prices include freight and handling charges. Any options will move these modest numbers higher, but with the Sonata, options are things like sunroofs and subwoofers, not necessities.

Hyundai rolls on, with newer and better cars every year. The luxury Azera sedan is just arriving. Advice to competitors: Be afraid!  By Steve Schaefer  © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

Hyundai Home Page

Byline:  Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo © AutoWire.Net
Column Name: 
 The new Sonata is bigger and better
 The 2006 Hyundai Sonata
Word Count:  
Photo Caption: 
 The 2006 Hyundai Sonata
Photo Credits:  
Hyundai Internet Media
Series #:   2005 - 52

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