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Auto review: Rich-looking Sonata makes impression

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press

More Information

2013 Hyundai Sonata Limited

BASE PRICE: $21,195 for GLS; $23,545 for SE with non-turbo engine; $25,095 for SE with turbo; $25,845 for Limited.
PRICE AS TESTED: $29,865.
TYPE: Front-engine, front-wheel drive, five-passenger, large sedan.
ENGINE: 2.4-liter, double overhead cam, direct injection, four-cylinder engine with dual CVVT.
MILEAGE: 24 mpg (city), 35 mpg (highway).
TOP SPEED: NA.
OPTIONS: Limited premium package (includes panoramic sunroof, navigation system, rearview camera, Infinity premium audio) $2,900; Shimmering White exterior paint $200; carpeted floor mats $110; iPod cable $35.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - 12:01 am

Family sedan buyers are moving upscale, and they’re doing it by buying a Hyundai.

With front styling that’s similar to a Mercedes-Benz and a tastefully designed interior, the 2013 Hyundai Sonata looks far more upscale than its starting retail price of $21,970.

The base Sonata includes a six-speed automatic transmission, keyless remote entry and Bluetooth hands-free phone calling.

Better yet, the Sonata offers luxury features at regular family sedan prices. For example, the 2013 Sonata Limited comes standard with leather-trimmed seats, sunroof, fog lamps, alloywheels, premium audio, push-button start, dual climate control and heated front and rear seats for less than $26,700.

The Sonata also comes with something that luxury brands don’t: A five-year/60,000-mile limited warranty and 10-year/100,000-mile warranty on the powertrain.

The nearly 16-foot-long Sonata is one of the biggest four doors in the segment and, according to Hyundai, provides 45.5 inches of front-seat legroom. It’s enough for a 6-footer to have to adjust the driver’s seat forward, not necessarily back. In fact, the Sonata is classified as a large car, rather than a mid-size, by the federal government.

Yet, its pleasant ride and handling manners are like that of a smaller sedan, and the Sonata’s turning circle of 35.8 feet is less than that of the mainstream and mid-size Honda Accord and Toyota Camry family sedans.

The Sonata also is a recommended buy of Consumer Reports, where the reliability of its non-turbo and non-hybrid models is rated as average. In addition, the 2013 Sonata earned five out of five stars in overall crash testing by the federal government.

Starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $1,300 less than the $23,270 starting retail price for a 2013 Accord with continuously variable transmission that a driver operates like an automatic.

Note that a rearview camera is standard on all 2013 Accords, but it’s a $275 option on the base 2013 Sonata.

Meanwhile, the starting retail price for a 2013 Sonata is $1,240 less than the $23,030 MSRP plus destination charge for a 2013 Camry with automatic transmission.

The Sonata’s sleek design, which has garnered a trophy case of awards, was so striking to friends and family that a few initially mistook this Hyundai for a Mercedes. Their impressions of upscale travel deepened upon entering the test Sonata Limited and seeing the stylish dashboard design.

Everything, it seemed, was where it was expected to be — from the "eco" button to the left of the steeringwheelto the decently sized buttons in the middle of the dashboard for selecting audio modes.

The Sonata’s eco mode electronically adjusts performance for more leisurely acceleration and gets the transmission into higher, more fuel-efficient gears more quickly than normal.

The Sonata’s interior, including shaped front seats, deftly combines modern tastes with practical, easy-to-use buttons and knobs without making it seem like an older person’s car.

Simply, both older and younger families will find much to like in the Sonata.

On paper, the back-seat legroom of 34.6 inches that Hyundai reports in its specs looks acceptable, at best. The 2013 Accord sedan reports in with 38.5 inches. But the legroom in the back of the Sonata is eminentlyusable, and even with the front seats back on their tracks, passengers’ knees don’t have to touch the front seatbacks.

Entry and exit is a bit constrained, though, by the Sonata’s sleek, coupe-like roofline.

The test Sonata drove comfortably in city traffic and on highways. Nearly all passengers thought the Sonata moved along with V-6 power and were surprised to learn all 2013 Sonatas have four-cylinder engines. The test Sonata didn’t even have a turbo four cylinder. Yet it moved with vigor and pleasing acceleration and didn’t have a buzzy, four-cylinder sound.

This base engine — a 2.4-liter, double overhead cam unit — benefits from gasoline direct injection to deliver from 190 to 198 horsepower, depending on the emission controls, and from 179 to 184 foot-pounds of torque at 4,250 rpm. This compares with 189 horses and 182 foot-pounds of torque at 3,900 in the 2013 Accord and 178 horsepower and 170 foot-pounds of torque at 4,100 rpm in the 2013 Camry.

According to the federal government, the non-turbo, non-hybrid, 2013 Sonata that was the tester is estimated to get 24 miles per gallon in city driving and 35 mpg on the highway. But the test car averaged close to 24 mpg in combined city/highway travel in rather aggressive driving and without the "eco" mode turned on.

The Sonata’s suspension — MacPherson struts in front and independent multi-link in back — is not sophisticated the way suspensions are on luxury cars from BMW and Mercedes. But the isolation from major road bumps is impressive in the Sonata, and the overall ride was controlled but not taut.

In the tester, there was road noise that came into the cabin on rough pavement.

Standard safety features in the Sonata include traction control, antilock brakes, brake assist and electronic stability control. There are only six air bags, while the 2013 Camry has 10 standard air bags. Many newer safety features, such as lane departure warning and blind spot monitor that are offered on the Accord and Camry, are not available on the 2013 Sonata.

Last summer, the 2013 Sonata was part of a 22,512-car safety recall because curtain air bags might inflate even if there was no car crash. The problem stemmed from a manufacturing error, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.