We've already caught a Korean preview of the new Sonata as it rather slickly though liltingly transforms from the 2008 model to the 2009 version. But now we're gonna catch this revamped mid-size in the flesh, right here at the Chicago Auto Show. This isn't exactly the kind of ride you ooh and aah over, but given that Hyundai is making a serious effort to win over American hearts and minds this week, placing not one but two ad buys during the Super Bowl and pulling the trigger on its downscale-luxe Genesis, whatever adjustments (however minor) they're making to the packaging of their main player in the dog-eat-dog, kill-your-dad, eat-your-mother mid-size realm is notable. After all, the Genesis may build buzz and get folks into dealerships, but Hyundai still needs to move product in volume segments. The company says the '09 Sonata will hit dealership later this month. Details and the press release, après la jump.
Camry killer? Accord assailant? Well, not yet, and maybe not ever. But galdurnit, we dig Hyundai's moxie. And any company that proudly announces it has upgraded its cupholders for "more capacity and holding power" surely has its savvy appetites aimed squarely at conquering Big Gulp Nation (building Sonatas in Alabama doesn't hurt, either). Engine-wise, the four-banger delivers adequate mpg, and the frisky V6 gets a horsepower boost. Interior upgrades are arguably more important, as consumers have in the past associated Hyundai with way-cheap—if not children's-toy caliber—in this area.
However, one wonders when this is all going to crack, as Hyundai's main competitive advantage over Toyota and Honda in this segment is, duh, price. The base 2009 Sonata will still come in just south of 20 grand, in all likelihood, and of course the phat Hyundai warranty continues to mean that dealers are trading sales now for profit erosion later. And some point, Hyundai will have to stop undercutting the other contenders in the "I don't want to think about my car" mid-size sedan contest and go toe-to-toe with the leaders. You don't have to spend that much more to get the Camry, after all. Hyundai's bells and whistles are all great, but the brand just isn't really all there yet. To buy one of their cars is to save to dough but continue to shoulder some risk.
Personally, we think performance might be the way to escape this bind. Give us a more refined Mazda, in other words. A little less tuner, a little more subdued snap on demand, across the trim levels, not just for the SE (less whine, more whoosh, if ya catch our drift). With the '09 Sonata, it seems like they're pointing the ship in that direction. And hey, if it doesn't work—diesels!
The '09 Sonata is a decent-looking car in a tough segment, and we wish it the best. But when you compete almost entirely on price, you never, ever make it easy on yourself.
2009 SONATA: TRANSFORMED FROM THE INSIDE OUT FOR A MORE PREMIUM AND FUEL-EFFICIENT MID-SIZE SEDAN EXPERIENCE
CHICAGO, February 6, 2008 - As gas prices and competition in the mid-size sedan segment surge, Hyundai is introducing its refreshed Sonata at the 2008 Chicago Auto Show today. The 2009 Sonata features an all-new interior, enhanced suspensions and revised powertrains boasting both improved fuel economy and horsepower. The 2009 Sonata will be available at Hyundai dealers later this month.
The Sonata combines refined design, proven dependability, spirited performance and an extensive list of standard features to increase its appeal to a broader range of customers. For 2009, Sonata raises the bar for value and standard safety technology in the mid-size segment. Hyundai's sales leader boasts new features ranging from standard USB/iPod auxiliary inputs to available navigation and sport-tuned suspension. Combined with Sonata's continued leadership in safety - it remains the only mid-size sedan under $20,000 with standard Electronic Stability Control (ESC) - the 2009 American-made Sonata is the smartest choice in the competitive mid-size sedan segment.
CHOICE OF TWO MORE POWERFUL AND FUEL-EFFICIENT POWERTRAINS
The 2009 Sonata debuts Hyundai's second-generation Theta four-cylinder engine. The Theta II 2.4-liter DOHC inline four-cylinder engine delivers more horsepower and quicker acceleration, while also improving fuel economy. In fact, the Sonata I4 is now more fuel-efficient than both Camry and Accord four-cylinder engines, delivering an impressive 22 mpg city/32 mpg highway fuel economy rating with the standard five-speed manual transmission or the newly available five-speed automatic transmission with SHIFTRONIC®. The Theta II is rated at 175 horsepower and 168 lb.-ft. of torque. This high-tech, all-aluminum, 16-valve engine now features Continuously Variable Valve Timing (CVVT) on both camshafts and a Variable Induction System (VIS) for better engine breathing. A version of this engine also meets Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (PZEV) standards.
Sonata's 3.3-liter V6 engine has also been improved for more performance and efficiency. It now pumps out 15 more horsepower and three more pound-feet of torque (249 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm and 229 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,500 rpm). The first member of Hyundai's "Lambda" V6 engine family, this newly refined powerplant features all-aluminum construction, dual overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, CVVT on both camshafts and stiffer hydraulic engine mounts for optimum power, efficiency and refinement. A variable intake system is added for 2009, which further broadens its power curve, improving off-the-line acceleration and passing performance. New mileage figures for V6-powered Sonatas are 19 mpg city/29 mpg highway, which represents unsurpassed V6 fuel economy in the mid-size sedan segment.
All V6-powered Sonatas use Hyundai's five-speed SHIFTRONIC automatic transmission, which features an overdrive lock-up torque converter for improved highway fuel economy. Neither Accord nor Camry offer manual-mode operation as standard equipment. The automatic transmission has a new reducing valve and solenoid valve for smoother shift quality while the manual transmission has been refined for more precise shifts.
A NEW, WELL-CRAFTED INTERIOR THAT IS STILL A "CLASS ABOVE"
The pleasant surprises continue inside where Hyundai designers have thoroughly revamped the cockpit to create the ambiance of an upscale, premium sedan. The sophisticated look is achieved thanks to a completely new center console and instrument panel, which borrows design cues and rich materials from the premium Hyundai Veracruz. The Sonata continues to be classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as a Large Car, truly a "class above" Camry, Altima, Fusion and Malibu (all are categorized as mid-size cars). Even in trunk room, the Sonata shines. Sonata's 16.3 cu. ft. of trunk space give it an eight percent advantage over the Camry, and a 16 percent advantage over Accord.
Music lovers will welcome the 2009 Sonata's inclusion of standard auxiliary input jacks (3.5 mm mini-jack and USB input) to accommodate and charge audio devices such as iPods®. Among the other refinements are the addition of dual-zone climate controls for the driver and front-seat passenger, and two-stage front seat warmers. A new factory-installed touch screen navigation system is now available as well.
More contrast has been added to the Camel and Gray interiors, and for the first time ever, Cocoa Brown is available. The front cupholders are also upgraded for more capacity and holding power. Hyundai's signature blue backlighting for interior gauges, switches and buttons highlights the vehicle's modern interior design.
SUPPLE RIDE, AGILE HANDLING
An advanced four-wheel independent suspension system combines a supple ride with sharper handling and steering response for Sonata GLS and Limited models. Up front is a double-wishbone system with coil springs, revalved, twin-tube, gas-filled hydraulic shock absorbers, and a larger 26 mm stabilizer bar. The system's lower control arms increase handling precision while reducing vibration, and bushing size has been increased to better absorb the shock from road impacts.
In back, a new sophisticated multi-link system provides excellent handling along with superb ride quality and noise isolation. The rear spring rates have been increased by five percent, shocks revalved and the sway bar thickened from 15 mm to 16 mm. All together, this suspension now provides superior control of ride motions for a more dynamic driving experience.
The high-performance Sonata SE becomes an even more exciting and willing partner for enthusiastic drivers with its own unique sport-tuned suspension. The new sport-tuned suspension features a 15 percent stiffer front spring rate, 10 percent stiffer rear spring rate, unique strut valving at all four corners and 27 mm front and 17 mm rear stabilizer bars along with unique 17-inch alloy wheels and tires.
All Sonatas also now have quicker ratio steering for a crisp feel on turn in.
SOPHISTICATED EXTERIOR DESIGN
The design team added a more refined touch to Sonata's exterior design, with new bumpers, lamps, wheels and grille creating a more elegant, dynamic and taut stance.
The unibody design crafted of high-tensile steel features a concave hood design, distinctive rear-door cut lines, strong Z-lined body-to-bumper interfaces and four-barrel jeweled projector lens headlights. New chrome bodyside and bumper moldings match the chrome grille and chrome-accented exterior door handles on Limited models. The model range offers a choice of seven new colors.
UNSURPASSED ACTIVE AND PASSIVE SAFETY
On the safety side, 2009 Sonata's front collision performance has been further improved by tweaking the design of the engine subframe. The Hyundai Sonata is expected to earn the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) top five-star crash test rating for front and side impacts. This accomplishment was made possible by Sonata's strong body structure and advanced airbag technology. Sonata delivers an unsurpassed commitment to both active and passive safety technology. Every Sonata has lifesaving ESC as standard equipment. This is important because NHTSA has reported that ESC results in 35 percent fewer single-vehicle crashes and 30 percent fewer single-vehicle fatalities in passenger cars.
The Sonata also features a state-of-the-art braking technology package. The package includes four-wheel disc brakes and an Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) that includes Brake Assist, which provides maximum braking force when a panic stop is detected, and Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) to automatically adjust the braking force to front and rear axles based on the vehicle loading conditions.
In the event that a crash is unavoidable, the Sonata features six airbags—including dual front, front seat-mounted side-impact, and front and rear side curtain airbags—along with active front-seat head restraints. Other passive safety features include shingle-style rear-seat head restraints for improved visibility, three-point seatbelts for all seating positions, front-seat seatbelt pretensioners and force limiters, and a rear-seat Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system for child seats.
THREE ENHANCED, WELL-EQUIPPED MODELS
From the well-equipped GLS, to the sport-focused SE, to the downright luxurious Limited, the 2009 Sonata lineup addresses the needs and desires of mid-size sedan customers with a highly competitive mix of features and benefits. Each model delivers a level of standard equipment that is a cut above competing models.
The 2009 Sonata GLS continues to provide value and a sizable price advantage compared with its four-cylinder competition, undercutting the lesser-equipped base 2008 Honda Accord and 2008 Toyota Camry. All Sonata models have offered standard ESC since May 2005. This is important, as NHTSA claims ESC is the most effective lifesaving technology since the seatbelt. In comparison, Toyota still offers ESC only as an option on the 2008 Camry, while Honda Accord has only recently matched Sonata with standard ESC on the new 2008 Accord, more than two years after Sonata made this commitment to active safety technology leadership.
Sonata features a new, sophisticated 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine matched to a smooth-shifting five-speed manual transmission, with a new five-speed SHIFTRONIC automatic transmission optional.
The Sonata GLS features an impressive array of standard active and passive safety features including ESC, a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), six airbags, ABS and active front head restraints. Other standard features include power windows, door locks and outside heated side mirrors, keyless entry with alarm, an AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 audio system with USB/iPod® auxiliary inputs, 60/40 split fold-down rear seatback, air conditioning, cruise control and tilt-adjustable steering column.
The Popular Equipment Package includes automatic headlights, chrome window belt moldings, woodgrain interior accents, power driver seat with adjustable lumbar support, steering wheel audio controls and a trip computer. A sunroof is also available.
SONATA SE - I4 OR V6 PERFORMANCE, REMARKABLE VALUE
The sport-focused SE adds a unique sport-tuned suspension as standard equipment, matched with a smooth-shifting B&M Racing five-speed manual transmission (2.4L four-cylinder) or optional five-speed automatic (3.3L V6). Other performance-oriented SE features include 17-inch alloy wheels with unique, handling-focused 215/55R17 all-season performance tires, rear decklid spoiler, fog lights, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, special cloth seats with leather bolsters, and an eight-way power driver's seat with adjustable lumbar support. SE tires feature stiffer sidewalls and a unique tread design for more responsive steering and capable handling. The Sonata SE V6 adds dual chrome exhaust tips.
Other standard features include automatic headlights, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, chrome window belt moldings, telescoping steering wheel and a trip computer. The Premium Package includes an AM/FM/XM/6-CD Changer/MP3 audio system with USB/iPod® auxiliary inputs, six speakers, subwoofer and component amplifier, power tilt-and-slide sunroof, and an electrochromic auto-dimming rear-view mirror with HomeLink® and a compass.
The feature-packed Sonata Limited is a fully equipped luxury model for mid-size sedan buyers who want it all—at a great price. The interior features luxurious leather seating surfaces, a standard Infinity AM/FM/XM Satellite/6-CD Changer/MP3 audio system with six speakers, subwoofer and component amplifier, an eight-way power driver's seat, heated front seats and power sunroof. Other upgrades include automatic temperature control, an electrochromic auto-dimming rear-view mirror with HomeLink and compass, sliding center armrest, premium scuff plates and 215/55R17 tires. The Sonata Limited is so well equipped that the only option besides the engine choice is a navigation system. Sonata Limited four-cylinder and V6 models feature a five-speed automatic transmission with the added control of SHIFTRONIC manual shifting.
The all-new 2009 Hyundai Sonata is protected by the Hyundai Advantage, America's Best Warranty. Coverage includes five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper protection, 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, five-year/unlimited mileage roadside assistance and seven-year/unlimited mileage anti-perforation coverage. In addition, Sonata buyers receive 24-hour roadside assistance coverage at no extra charge for five years (no mileage limit) that includes emergency towing, lockout service and limited coverage for trip-interruption expenses.
HYUNDAI MOTOR AMERICA
Hyundai Motor America, headquartered in Fountain Valley, Calif. is a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Company of Korea. Hyundai vehicles are distributed throughout the United States by Hyundai Motor America and are sold and serviced by more than 780 Hyundai dealerships nationwide.