2009 Hyundai Sonata Preview

FAST FACTS
  • Refreshed midsize sedan

  • New, more powerful 4-cylinder engine

  • More power from V-6 engine

  • All-new interior

  • Exterior: wheels, bumpers, lights changed

  • USB/iPod auxiliary input standard

  • On sale in February 2008

Introduction

The best-selling Hyundai, the front-wheel-drive, midsize Sonata sedan gets a substantial refreshening for the 2009 model year. That car, unveiled at the 2008 Chicago Auto Show, is scheduled to go on sale in February 2008. Last redesigned in 2006, the Sonata competes against the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima, all of which have been upgraded in recent model years. For 2009, changes have been made to the Sonata's cabin, some exterior bits, and the car's on-road feel, but the biggest news is under the hood. The second generation of the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine makes its debut in the 2009 Sonata, now making 175 hp. A 3.3-liter V-6 engine, boosted to produce 249 hp, also is offered.

Model Lineup

Trim levels for the new, 2009 Hyundai Sonata remain constant from 2008. The Sonata GLS features power windows and locks; remote keyless entry with an alarm; AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 stereo; dual-zone air conditioning; cruise control; and more. Also, front-seat warmers are now standard. The SE is the sporty Sonata, coming with either the 4-cylinder or the V-6 engine. The SE includes a B&M Racing shifter with the manual transmission; 17-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires with stiffer sidewalls; fog lights; a rear spoiler; and special cloth seats with leather bolsters. The Sonata Limited gets leather seats; an Infinity 6-speaker stereo with a 6-disc CD changer; and a power sunroof. The only option on the Limited, sold with either the 4- or 6-cylinder engines, is the navigation system with touch-screen display.

For audiophiles, a USB port accommodates both iPods as well as flash-drive memory sticks. The 6-speaker stereo's faceplate will show song, artist and title information. The auxiliary connection charges the iPod.

Hardware

Hyundai calls its new 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine in the 2009 Sonata the Theta II. It makes 175 hp and 168 lb.-ft. of torque. Those numbers are up from 162 hp and 164 lb.-ft. in the first generation of the engine. The all-aluminum, 16-valve engine has continuously variable valve timing (CVVT) on its cam shafts, and a variable induction system (VIS). Besides power hikes, gas mileage improves to 22 mpg city/32 mpg highway. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard; a new 5-speed automatic with Shiftronic is an option.

The Lambda 3.3-liter V-6 engine makes 249 hp (up from 234 hp) and 229 lb.-ft. of torque (up from 226 lb.-ft.). This aluminum powerplant adds a variable intake system for 2009, which makes for better standing-start acceleration and passing power, Hyundai says. A 5-speed automatic transmission with Sportronic that allows manual shifting is standard. Hyundai says new transmission parts make for smoother shifting. Mileage is 19 mpg city/29 mpg highway, according to the EPA.

Sonata GLS and Limited models get a more agile ride, thanks to a new multi-link rear suspension setup. Sway bars are larger, spring rates are increased and even shocks gets revised valves. It results in better handling and a quieter ride, Hyundai says. Sporty SE models gets a new sport-tuned suspension with stiffer front and rear spring rates; special strut valving; thicker front and rear stabilizer bars; and 17-inch alloy wheels and tires.

Design

As usual for a mid-cycle refresh, the 2009 Hyundai Sonata gets new headlights, taillights and fog lights; a redesigned grille; and new bumpers. The design of the alloy wheels changes, too. Limited models get extra chrome, including the door handles, for a more sophisticated look. Seven new paint colors are available.

The redesigned cabin in the Sonata gets a new center console and instrument panel with blue back-lighting, both of which borrow styling cues from Hyundai's Veracruz crossover utility. Classified as a large car by the EPA, the Sonata also includes a 16.3 cubic-foot trunk. Tan, brown and gray shades are available, and even the cupholders are re-engineered to hold larger beverage containers, Hyundai says.

Safety

Electronic stability control (ESC) is standard fare on all 2009 Hyundai Sonatas. The anti-lock braking system (ABS) includes brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, which improve stopping in panic situations and adjust braking between front and rear axles depending on vehicle loading, Hyundai says. Six air bags-dual front, side, and side curtain-are standard.