Fuel economy is stellar no matter which transmission. The manual-transmission model gets an EPA-rated 24 mpg city, 35 highway while the automatic models get 22/35. The engine's direct-injection design aids that, along with improved aerodynamics and an overall curb weight that's lighter than most other mid-size sedans. The 6-speed automatic transmission is also an all-new unit offering a wide span of gear ratios for good performance as well as fuel economy.
The new 2011 Hyundai Sonata has a rather conventional suspension layout, with MacPherson struts in front and a multi-link, independent arrangement in back, along with front and rear stabilizer bars to help bring sporty handling along with a good, well damped ride. All Sonatas have front-wheel drive. GLS and Limited models get low-rolling-resistance tires aimed at improving fuel economy, while the SE gets stickier low-profile tires and a firmer suspension tuning.
Appearance-wise, the Sonata is completely new from every angle, inside and out, with a more flowing, curvaceous design throughout (Hyundai calls it Fluidic Sculpture). The new waterfall grill design dips low in front and a prominent body-side crease flows upward into the rear lights. The interior design "wraps around" the front occupants and flows through to the back, bringing climate-control vents, while the instrument panel itself follows a new, straightforward control layout that puts entertainment and navigation controls up high with large climate controls just below. Front and backseat appointments are plenty spacious for five adults--including enough space for taller adults in back.
In addition to the base GLS, two other Sonata automatic-only models of the Sonata are offered: the sporty SE and the especially luxurious Limited. The three models of the Sonata also get quite different interior appointments; lower-level Sonata models get a textured plastic material for the dash and doors, while SE models get more metallic trim and Limited models get woodgrain or piano-black trims. SE models add steering-wheel paddle-shifters and Limited models get a sport-shift mode for the transmission.
GLS models get a very generous array of standard equipment, including keyless entry, cruise control, air conditioning, tilt/telescopic steering wheel adjustment, steering-wheel controls, power windows, locks, mirrors and split folding rear seatbacks. SE models add sport seats, leather steering-wheel and shifter trim and push button start, plus fog lamps, "hyper silver alloy" wheels, performance tires and a chrome-tipped exhaust. At the top of the range, the Limited gets a long list of additional features, such as a sunroof, heated leather seats (front and back), heated mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control and rear-seat heat ducts.
All Sonata models get a USB interface as well as an iPod connector, plus XM satellite radio and a Bluetooth hands-free calling interface. A 3-month trial subscription for XM is included. A new wide-screen navigation system is optional on the SE and Limited, featuring real-time XM NavTraffic along with weather, stock, and sports information. Also included with the system are Bluetooth audio streaming capability and 8 GB of flash memory for storing music files.
Safety features are strong in the 2011 Sonata. All models get active head restraints for front occupants and include front side airbags, full-length side-curtain bags, electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes.