Hyundai's new Sonata is the real deal
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a Lexus? How about a Mercedes? Believe it or not, this is the new 2011 Hyundai Sonata, packed with more curves than a Victoria's Secret catalog; more slopes than Aspen and Vail combined. Just when you thought family sedans were all starting to look as visually exciting as a Maytag washer-dryer, up pops this daring dynamo from the East. And that would be "East" as in east of the Mississippi, as these days all new Sonatas are assembled in Montgomery, Ala. But this new Hyundai is much more than a pretty face. It's beautifully built, fun to drive, well-equipped, backed by that awesome 10-year/100k powertrain warranty, and with prices starting at $19,195, it's an astonishing value.And I like Hyundai's forward-thinking with this car. Instead of offering a V-6 option, because everyone else does, they said "nope, four-cylinder only." So they developed a state-of-the-art 2.4-liter four-banger with a direct fuel injection system that's normally reserved for cars costing twice the price. It means an impressive 198-horsepower and best-in-class highway fuel economy of 35 to the gallon. In fact as a little exercise in trying to see just how abstemious the new Sonata could be, I drove with economy in mind over a 100-mile section of I-75 on my way back from Fort Myers. The result? A staggering 50.2 mpg. Three Sonata models are up for grabs, kicking off with the 6-speed manual GLS at $19,195 (an extra $1,000 for the automatic). Next up is the sporty, tight-riding SE at $22,595. Top of the range is the lovely Limited at $25,295. I think the base GLS with the optional six-speed automatic is my favorite of the bunch. With its long list of standard equipment - even an iPod connector is standard - it doesn't feel like an economy model. This is one Sonata that'll have you singing all the way to the bank. Tampa-based automotive writer Howard Walker can be contacted at email@example.com.