1995 Hyundai Sonata
A terrific value for the money
Hyundai got its toehold in the United States with inexpensive little cars, and it's now reaching up both in size and quality with its all-new midsize Sonata. This 4-door sedan will have to compete with the likes of Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Ford Taurus and a host of others.
That may seem like stiff competition for Hyundai, but the Sonata definitely has its own attributes: It may be more car for less money than any other midsize sedan you can buy.
Additionally, the people at Hyundai - both in Korea and the United States - have made great efforts to bring quality up to par, and the current lineup reflects the results of that work. Current Hyundai vehicles are solid, respectable products.
The Sonata is available in three trim levels: base, mid-range GL and upper-crust GLS.
From the outside, the Sonata is cleanly styled and well proportioned, although somewhat on the bland side. But it's also handsome in a quiet way.
The base engine is a 137-hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. It's available with a 5-speed manual transmission or an optional 4-speed automatic.
We think many buyers will prefer the 3.0-liter V6, available as an option on the GL and standard on the GLS. It makes only slightly more horsepower - 142 hp - but a lot more torque, which is what gets a car away from a stoplight and up to freeway-merging speed.
Furthermore, the V6 is a lot smoother and makes driving more effortless. The V6 is available only with an electronically controlled 4-speed automatic.
Safety features include Hyundai's innovative dual airbag system, which utilizes a single sensor located under the dashboard. This eliminates the multiple sensors of other arrangements and their lengthy wiring.
According to Hyundai, this simpler system offers superior reliability. Of course, it stands to reason that if a vehicle requires repair, a less complicated system is less likely to be serviced incorrectly.
Anti-lock brakes (ABS) are available as an option, but only on cars fitted with the V6 engine. The ABS utilizes four channels - one for each wheel - unlike some ABS systems that treat the rear wheels as a single entity.
The new Sonata is built on a frame that's measurably more rigid than that of the previous model. This keeps things straighter and tighter, longer. The all-new chassis features a MacPherson strut front suspension, while in the rear is a new multi-link layout that contributes to improvements in both ride and over-the-road handling.
With the 4-cylinder engine, the Sonata has disc brakes in front and drums in the rear. With the V6, you get a 4-wheel disc system.
The interior is where the new Sonata really shines. It's a true midsize car as rated by the EPA, and five full-size adults can travel comfortably in its generous interior. We assure you that even a person sitting in the middle of the backseat will be fairly comfortable. Very few cars of this size can match the Sonata's price, and very few cars at this price can match the Sonata's size.
The ample trunk measures 13.2 cu. ft., and in the GLS a 40/60 folding split rear seat allows for longer, or more, cargo. The trunk lid opens high and a low liftover height makes access easy.
Slide behind the wheel and the instruments are easy to see, controls are easy to reach, and operation of the various functions is clear and straightforward. The power-window switches, for example, employ a logical scheme of push-down to open, pull-up to close.
In the base and GL versions, upholstery is cloth; leather is available as an option with the GLS.
Standard equipment on every Sonata includes air conditioning, power steering, tilt steering column, full wheel cover, center console, AM/FM stereo with a cassette player and all-season radial tires.
There are the usual options, including a variety of sound systems all the way up to a high-powered AM/FM stereo with cassette and CD players.
Although the Sonata is solid and well-constructed, the execution of detail does not quite match that of, say, the Camry or Accord. Compared with these two, a few of the corners, seams and joints tend to not line up as neatly.
Still, with the Camry and Accord we're talking about two of the toughest competitors on the market. The Sonata is no worse than many domestic products on fit-and-finish and better than quite a few of them. And our test-drive experience showed the Sonata to be free of rattles and squeaks, and nothing was loose or falling off. We think Hyundai has come a long, commendable way on quality.
Another pleasant aspect of the Sonata is its driving behavior. The engineers have paid careful attention to the details that make a car easier to live with in daily driving.
We found, for example, the steering to be quite good in both feel and response. Particularly in very tight maneuvers, such as those in crowded parking lots, the Sonata's steering remains light and responsive to the touch.
Lots of detail changes have been added, resulting in an improved level of ride and handling over those of previous Hyundais. A longer wheelbase and a wider track help the vehicle's stance on the road and enhance its stability.
The ride is smooth and even, with a minimum of harshness or pitching around.
This comfortable ride is matched by responsive handling in the kinds of maneuvering where most drivers need and want it. The steering gives positive feedback at highway speeds, yet requires only easy effort at lower speeds. It's a very competent around-town, day-in, day-out sedan. And frankly, we have to admit, we didn't expect a Hyundai to feel quite this good.
Though the 4-cylinder engine is certainly capable, we strongly recommend the optional V6. It's a Mitsubishi design, and it gives respectable performance with significantly more smoothness than the 4-cylinder.
The V6 isn't a real go-getter, but it is well suited to the needs of most drivers. Acceleration is smooth and responsive, and there's adequate reserve power for making it up to freeway speeds or for passing.
The fuzzy logic of the V6's automatic transmission acts as a substitute for a skilled driver, who would shift the transmission to different gears to suit conditions. It features a dual-mode selector switch, with economy and power settings to suit different drivers of the same household.
The base Sonata carries a base price of just $13,804; with automatic transmission it's $14,614. The high-line GLS, which includes the V6 and automatic, a full complement of power accessories, gas-pressure shock absorbers, alloy wheels with high-performance tires and upgraded sound system, is just $17,804.
If you add a package consisting of a CD player, power sunroof, leather and ABS, and then you tack on floormats and the $405 destination charge, you're still at only $20,756. That's for an absolutely fully equipped midsize sedan with a generously sized interior, big trunk, great ride and handling, decent performance and a fuel economy rating of well over 20 mpg on the highway.
No matter how you cut and slice any of those prices, the Sonata, in either base form or as a fully loaded GLS, is a heck of a deal.
So if you're looking for sedan value for your hard-earned bucks, you'll have to do quite a bit of shopping to beat the Hyundai Sonata.
|Model Line Overview|
|Base Price (MSRP)|
|Safety equipment (Standard):|
|Safety equipment (Optional):|
|Specifications As Tested|
|Model tested (MSRP):|
|Options as tested:|
|Gas Guzzler Tax:|
|Price as tested (MSRP)|
|Horsepower (hp @ rpm):|
|Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm):|
|EPA fuel economy, city/hwy:|
|Head/hip/leg room, f:|
|Head/hip/leg room, m:|
|Head/hip/leg room, r:|