The rise of Hyundai
from being a mediocre automaker producing decent but unexciting cars to one that makes top quality cars with a design language that's both exciting and unique, is quite extraordinary. I remember growing up knowing that Hyundai's were boring to look at, nothing more than small and cheap boxes. In other words, they were forgettable and lost amongst their Japanese and American competition. How times have changed.
The basic formula for Hyundai went like this: build cheap and unstylish cars that most can afford, then build them with better quality and a great warranty, and finally, add superb quality, a fantastic warranty, and revolutionary design. If you're familiar with automotive and especially Asian auto industry history, this working model is very close to that of Toyota
, only 20 years later. And how American domestic automakers soon grew nervous about the Japanese onslaught, the South Koreans are now doing the exact same thing to the Japanese (and the Americans and Germans).
Which brings us to a culmination of Hyundai's latest efforts, the new 2011 Sonata. Already a well established and hot selling mid-size family sedan, the previous generation Sonata was an excellent car that made the Honda
Accord and Toyota Camry
seem overpriced and matched their build quality and reliability. The only thing lacking was a more dynamic design. With the introduction of the Genesis luxury sedan in 2009, the automaker proved it could build affordable luxury on par with the competition. The new Sonata was designed at the Hyundai Design Center in Irvine, California.
Dubbed "fluidic sculpture design," it's a wonderful combination of the 21st century sedan melded with a four-door coupe styling. With bits of chrome throughout, the exterior gives the impression the Sonata is a much more expensive luxury sedan.You literally have to see the car in person to fully appreciate its curves and beautiful lines that are simply striking. None of this can be said about the current Accord and Camry, which look dull by comparison. Inside the car and you'll notice a generous amount of space as the Sonata is now classified by the EPA as a large car.
The Accord, Camry, and Chevrolet Malibu
are classified as mid-size. Ouch, Hyundai just one-upped them all in not just size, but also design. Even the Malibu, once the best-looking of the bunch, now seems dated. The center console also continues with the "sculpture" design theme with its thoroughly modern dash. It's almost too easy to mistaken it for something coming from Infiniti
and, at the same time, simply makes Lexus
's interiors look as dull as their Toyota brethren.
Optional features include leather seating, power driver seat, dual-temperature climate control, and a power sunroof. A navigation display with a high-resolution touch screen is also optional. What's especially interesting is that Hyundai won't offer a V6 engine. The standard engine will be a direct-injected 2.4-liter four-cylinder producing 198 horsepower. A turbocharged version with 2.4 liters will soon be introduced. Both versions of the engine promise to deliver maximum fuel economy and performance, as Hyundai predicts that V6 engines will soon become extinct for midsize sedans before 2020.
Two transmissions will be on the table, with a traditional six-speed manual or Hyundai's all-new six-speed automatic, which the automaker predicts will be much more popular. With a base price starting at just $19,200, the Sonata has never been more affordable. Even the top-of-the-line Limited model has a base price of $25,300. Try comparing those numbers along with the long list of standard features with some of the competition. Hyundai's rise from building hard-topped golf carts to offerings such as the 2011 Sonata is really incredible.
If the trend continues, Honda and Toyota may soon find themselves setting Hyundai cars as their benchmarks.