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The Automotive World Is Undergoing A Sea Change

2011 Hyundai Sonata

Seoulful Sonata SIXTH MOVEMENT

The automotive world is undergoing a sea change. China’s Buick sales help dictate which brands General Motors will keep or drop, no matter that Buick sales in the US are nothing to brag about; India has become a major player on the automotive scene with its Tata Motors’ purchase of Jaguar and Land Rover; and the Korean manufacturers, Kia and Hyundai, keep coming up with some of the handsomest designs in our market.

Case in point, the 2011 Hyundai Sonata, the sixth generation of the popular midsized sedan, and from looking at it I’d say it might be the most popular yet. Although pricing hasn’t yet been announced I can’t imagine they’d price it too much higher than the current, 2010 model, which ranges from $19,240 for the four-cylinder, stick-shift GLS, up to $27,270 for the V-6, Shiftronic Limited model. Unless they’re planning to move the Sonata up a notch, figure on pricing to be a bit higher, if for no other reason than that’s the way it usually goes.

Hyundai is in the midst of a seven model rollout in a span of 24 months, which they wordily call the “24/7 version 2.0 product initiative.” How 21st century. The Sonata is the second new model to debut, following the recent introduction of the new Tuscon SUV. Production of the Sonata will continue, as it has, at the company’s Alabama plant, helping muddy the argument of what constitutes an American car versus a foreign car.

You’ve gotta give the Koreans credit. Not only do they design a nice car, they throw a bit of cheek into their press release. Herewith:

The 2011 Sonata poses some intriguing questions:

• Why can’t a smart, solid sedan also have modern, sleek, sophisticated style?

• Why pay so much to get a taste of luxury?

• Why can’t an efficient four-cylinder engine give V6 power?

Naturally, they go on to answer all of those questions to their advantage. As well they should. The last couple generations of the Sonata got nothing but praise from the automotive press, which was also backed up by strong sales. Who knows, maybe they are in charge here.

You can see from the photo that the styling is modern and expensive-looking. Hyundai calls it “Fluidic Sculpture,” which “is a consistent, cohesive design language that will ripple through the entire Hyundai showroom.” You can see that not only has a lot of work gone into the design, but just as much thought went into describing it. In their press release, Hyundai makes no bones about who the Sonata’s competition is: Camry, Accord, Altima, Fusion, and Malibu (the EPA has designated both the Sonata and the Accord as “large” while the others are “midsize”).

So, what’s new for 2011? It will be available in GLS, SE, and Limited models, all with a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine with a direct-injection fuel delivery system, which is said to improve efficiency, and thus return greater gas mileage (23/35 city/highway with the Shiftronic transmission). No V-6 is offered, nor, according to Hyundai, is it needed. (Look for a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine next model year.) A Dimension audio system features a variable equalizer with normal, dynamic and concert settings. An advanced Infinity AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 audio system with touch-screen navigation that includes a 400-watt external amplifier, dedicated Dual Voice Coil (DVC) subwoofer, eight-channels and nine Infinity speakers available on the Limited. Depending on model, 16- ,17-, or 18-inch wheels are standard. Six airbags, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, Electronic Stability Control—it’s all there as you’d expect of a car in this category.

For years, Hyundai has been known for its 10-year, 100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, which is what really helped get them where they are today. Strangely, in all of the 2011 Sonata’s press releases I didn’t find any mention of the continuation of the warranty for the new model year. Hmm…an oversight? We’ll wait and see.

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