CLINTON — Sonata is a great name for a car. Hyundai probably picked it as the moniker for its mid-size sedan because it sounds so musical and Italian, both great things for an aspirational car company in Asia.
Now there's a new reason it makes a great car name: everyone seems to be singing the Sonata's praises.
Unless you've been in hiding for the past four years, isolated from all things automotive, then you shouldn't be surprised to learn that Hyundai doesn't suck anymore. It used to build cheap, throwaway cars, but now Hyundai has turned things around.
The current generation Sonata is a big reason why.
For starters, it looks amazing. You can set it next to virtually any other four-door car in the world and walk away saying, "Wow!"
Its design stands out because so many other sedans have taken the boring, safe route and ended up with dull, lookalike cars as a result.
In an effort not to offend anyone, most family cars have started to look pretty much the same. Hyundai's swoopy, curvy style was a gamble, but it worked.
Thankfully, its beauty is more than skin deep. The Sonata is also one of the best driving cars in its price class, with a lineup of sophisticated and efficient engine/transmission combinations that let it drive with a luxurious tautness, which is a hard mixture to get right.
The suspension feels firm but not too rough. It feels smooth but not too squishy or bouncy. The end result is a car that provides enough feedback to satisfy the enthusiasts and enough comfort for people who want to just sit back and relax over long stretches of highway.
Hyundai nailed the overall driving feel, especially with the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine. It makes 274 horsepower — seriously, almost a muscle car-like number — while still earning a 34-mpg highway fuel economy rating. Few engines are capable of making such a huge amount of power while using so little fuel, something that easily justifies its price premium over the base engine.
Sonata pricing starts at $20,895, or $24,895 if you want the
Granted, the base engine is no slouch. It makes 200 horsepower, which is considerably more than the 2.4- or 2.5-liter engines in the 2012 Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion and Chevy Malibu, all while getting 35 mpg on the highway.
Either way you go, you'll be getting a remarkable powertrain.
And to top it off, the Sonata still has the best cabin in its class.
It's not only a comfortable, practical and pleasant place to spend lots of time on the road, but all the parts fit together so well that Hyundai needs to give lessons to other car companies — even some luxury brands — on how to make their interiors feel more solid and upscale.
As a whole, the Sonata is a tough car to beat. It does so many things exceptionally well, from styling to practicality and even pricing, that it's obvious why people are singing its praises.