2011 Hyundai Sonata Review

Front 3/4 view from above of red 2011 Hyundai Sonata

Imagine this showing up on your doorstep. If you're a driver, it's a treat.

If you're Toyota or Honda, it's the nightmare that's been coming a long, long time.

This is the 2011 Hyundai Sonata SE...the blip that's been getting bigger in the Toyota and Honda rear-view mirrors for years now. Now, as with many Korean automobiles, it's arrived. The kinks and cultural disconnects that relegated Korean vehicles to second-tier status when compared to their Japanese and American competition have been banished. This is the real deal...what the Koreans can build with no excuses.

And it's good. Very, very good.

Hyundai proved that by putting one in the test fleet with exactly one option...floor mats, which added $100 to the MSRP of $22,595 (freight and handling adds another $720 for a final tab of $23,415).

Rear 3/4 view of 2011 Hyundai Sonata parked in front of house

Does that look like a $23,000 Korean car? Nope. Not to us, either. And the styling is the first revelation. It's simply stunning...it looks like a much more expensive automobile. In the week we had the test vehicle, the sight of people walking through parking lots, seeing it, admiring it, checking the nameplate and doing a double-take became a common one. Forget (for a moment) the Japanese. If Hyundai can keep the momentum, the Germans will have to worry soon, at least when it comes to styling.

And the Sonata doesn't fall down in motion, with a more-than-adequate 2.4 liter 4-cylinder mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters (EPA mileage estimate: 22 city/35 highway).

Package that with Electronic Stability Control, ABS with Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Brake Assist, four-wheel disc brakes, sport-tuned suspension and steering and 18-inch alloy wheels (all of this standard for that $22,595 base price), and the car is a delight to drive...quick, light and responsive.

Interior shot of 2011 Hyundai Sonata

And yes, the above picture is the interior of the new Hyundai Sonata. Not only is it not bargain-basement rental car fodder, it appears the interior and exterior design teams talked to each other, got along and worked together to create a flowing design inside and out. Far more involving than most vehicles, without going into the button and gadget overload that Honda has fallen into in recent years.

And this is where the rest of your standard equipment comes in. Ready? Remote entry, power windows, locks and mirrors, sport seats with leather bolsters and cloth inserts, power driver's seat with power lumbar support, 60/40 folding rear seat, metalgrain interior accents, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, steering wheel mounted cruise, audio and phone controls, air conditioning, an AM/FM/SiriusXM/CD/mp3 audio system with 6 speakers, iPod USB and auxilary input jacks, Bluetooth, an advanced trip computer....and a full tank of gas.

And Hyundai's still backing it all up with a 5 year/60,000 mile new vehicle warrant, 10 year/10,000 mile powertrain warranty, a 7 year/unlimited mile anti-perforation warranty and 5 year/unlimited mile roadside assistance.

It wasn't many years ago that I could have given you a reason other than a low price and a big warranty to even think about a Hyundai. Now, with the new Sonata, I can't think of a reason it shouldn't be on your short list when shopping for a new family sedan.