Last year, the all-new Hyundai Sonata arrived like a bolt of lightning from above. Dramatically styled, stuffed with features, competitively priced, and returning some of the best gas mileage figures in the mid-size class, the 2011 Hyundai Sonata continues to sell well. It’s worrying the product planners at Toyota, Honda, Chevrolet, and Ford, and it should.
“Fluidic Sculpture” design cues aside, Hyundai took the gamble of ditching a V-6 option for their mid-size model. Instead, the company offers only fours, which cuts weight and reduces the space needed to house the engine and transmission. The standard engine is a 198-horsepower, 2.4-liter four mated to a six-speed automatic or a six-speed manual, the latter rated at 24 mpg city, 35 mpg highway, and a combined number of 28mpg. Performance junkies can order the more powerful, turbocharged 274-hp, 2.0-liter engine, which cuts mileage a bit.
But it’s the 2011 Sonata Hybrid model that’s the true gas mileage champ. The EPA rates it at 35 mpg city, 40 mpg highway, giving a combined rating of 37 mpg. The Sonata Hybrid differs from most other hybrids in its ability to return better highway mileage than the city driving number.
U.S. drivers spend more time at highway speeds than in city driving, Hyundai engineers point out, so they tuned their first-ever hybrid to run in all-electric mode at up to 70 mph. That’s far higher than either the Ford Fusion Hybrid, at 47 mph, or the even lower Toyota Camry Hybrid, which runs solely on electric power only up to about 30 mph.
Roomy inside, the 2011 Hyundai Sonata rides smoothly but could use some tightening up of its steering—it’s prone to wander on some highway surfaces—as well as more work on suppressing interior noise. We’d like to see a bit less glossy plastic, but Hyundai makes the best of what it has, with an interior almost as stylish as the outside is.
But the 2011 Sonata delivers on features in a big way. For less than $20,000, you can get a spacious, stylish, and well-equipped mid-size sedan that includes satellite radio, Bluetooth, and a USB port. The 2.0T turbo version comes in about $25,000, and even the Sonata Hybrid is base-priced at $25,795 before shipping. That’s in the same ballpark as the Fusion Hybrid and Camry Hybrid, along with the more distinctive Toyota Prius hatchback—which, unlike the three sedans, is a dedicated hybrid vehicle with no gasoline-only alternative. And it’s even in range of the Honda Civic Hybrid, which is a whole car class smaller and largely foregoes the ability to run on electric power alone.
For more details, see the full review of the 2011 Hyundai Sonata lineup on our sister site, TheCarConnection.