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2011 Hyundai Sonata First Look

From "What" to "Whoa" in One Model Year

2011 Hyundai Sonata Front End In Motion

Rarely does a car change as substantially from one year to the next as the Hyundai Sonata. The outgoing 2010 model was a market afterthought, whereas the completely redesigned 2011 version put the entire midsize segment on notice. The new Sonata has rapidly climbed the best-seller rankings - and it has done so without a V-6 offering.

Hyundai offers three flavors of the 2011 Sonata. There's a naturally-aspirated model, which is powered by a 2.4-liter I-4 that makes 200 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque and is rated at an impressive 22/35 mpg city/highway. In place of the traditional V-6, there's the turbocharged 2.0T. As the badge implies, it is powered by a boosted 2.0-liter I-4 that makes 274 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. Surprisingly, the extra power results in a minimal fuel economy hit, with the Sonata 2.0T being rated by the EPA at 22/33 mpg city/highway. Naturally-aspirated Sonatas can be had with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic, but turbo models are limited to just the six-speed auto.

The third version is Hyundai's first production hybrid. Motivated by a modified version of the base 2.4-liter four, tuned to make 166 horsepower and 154 pound-feet of torque and a 270-volt electric motor that cranks out a maximum of 40.2 horsepower and 151.2 pound-feet of torque, the Sonata Hybrid earned a rating of 36/40 mpg city/highway from the EPA and can, according to Hyundai, make it up to 62 mph purely on electric power. As with the Sonata 2.0T, a six-speed automatic is the only available transmission.

Naturally-aspirated Sonatas are available in three trims - GLS, SE, and Limited -turbo Sonatas are available in just the latter two. The GLS is the only trim offered with the six-speed manual but it isn't a complete stripper. The differences between it and the SE aren't huge. GLS Sonatas come absent a power driver's seat, automatic headlights, and have cloth upholstery instead of leather and 16-inch steel wheels instead of 18-inch alloys. The Sonata Limited, meanwhile, comes standard with a sunroof, seven-speaker audio system with HD radio, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, automatic climate control, rear seat vents, 17-inch wheels, and heated front/rear seats. All three trims can be fitted with a navigation system, so the shift-it-yourself crowd in the GLS isn't going find itself wanting for tech features. The Sonata Hybrid is equipped similarly to a Limited.

Despite recent improvements in overall quality as well as public perception, Hyundai continues to provide the generous warranty coverage that it has become so well known for. All Hyundais are covered with a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty plus 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper coverage and Hyundai provides 5 years of roadside assistance regardless of miles. Additionally, as part of its Hyundai Assurance program, the automaker guarantees the trade-in value of its vehicles for the common trade-in window of 24 to 48 months provided the vehicle is being traded in for another Hyundai. In the case of the Sonata, a 55% residual value is guaranteed for months 24-30, 50% for months 31-36, 47% for months 37-42, and 43% for months 43-48.

Pricing for the Sonata is comparable to the rest of the midsize segment. Base GLS models start at $20,145 (including a $750 destination fee), 2.4-liter SEs start at $23,545 and 2.4-liter Limiteds start at $26,245. Turbocharged Sonatas are pricier, with 2.0T SE models starting at $24,895 and 2.0T Limiteds top the range out at $27,795. Getting the keys to a Sonata Hybrid will set you back somewhat less, a total of $26,545.

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