First drive: Hyundai Sonata 2011 on rental run

First drive: Hyundai Sonata 2011 on rental run

One look at this visual stunner and the Toyota-obsessed crowd out here, for some reason, go ga-ga over this fluidic sculpture thinking it’s a Lexus. Park this elegant piece of machinery next to an Avalon or Lexus ES, and the next moment will be a moment of realisation for the public with the truth finally striking their heads with one question – “Does Toyota even know how to design cars?” But every moment spent in the new 2011 Hyundai Sonata is “almost” awesome. Yes, still almost! It is definitely not the overall best mid-sizer out there. But that said, a tad more revisions and the new Sonata will beat the competition easily.

I’ve had the opportunity to drive the car, possibly among the first from the general public, probably apart from magazine test drivers. What I had with me was a rented mid-option Sonata that comes with features like 17-inch alloys, panoramic roof, electrically-folding mirrors and auto-headlamps for a price which alone outshines the competition. I tested the car by taking it for a spin on the Sharjah–Kalba road along with a buddy.

The very excitement I had when I saw this car from outside lived up as much even when I stepped inside. The interiors are equally beautiful and a treat for the eye. There is soft-touch plastic material on the top dash panels, except for the dome covering the gauges, which is hard plastic. The centre and lower dash panels are hard plastics, but all that are definitely of quality levels that Toyota should envy. The upper door panels are of soft-touch plastics, though due to the design, some of the lower door panels which are of hard plastics extend way upwards. Overall, fit and finish seem excellent.

The driver, passenger and rear passenger seats were all very comfortable and gave good support for the back – the seats alone made life in this car a very comfortable affair. Legroom for the driver and front passenger is ample enough while it is above average in the rear. Headroom is ample in both front and rear zones. A/C is very strong and easily kept up with 40-degree outside temperatures with absolutely no tinting done on the windows. The A/C has rear vents to keep the rear passengers cool. The very moment I turned the key to ignition, I was welcomed by some cute graphics showing “Sonata” on a tiny information screen located in between the speedo and rpm gauges. To summarise, the interior is just flawless.

Once on the road, the Sonata is quiet and exhibits exceptional comfort levels that would put a Camry to shame. There is a slight drone from the engine under hard throttle and wind noise starts becoming obvious at above 110 kph. Comfort is what Sonata is all about. The car is extremely smooth on the roads absorbing every road imperfection with absolute perfection. The smoothness and seating comfort coupled with a fairly noiseless interior make any long drive in this car a joy to cherish. Drive it for 600 km continuously and the driver or passengers travelling in this beauty shall never complain even about a wee bit of tiredness or discomfort. I personally felt the experience more Lexus-like, sans their leather.

However, all is not well. The suspension in the Sonata, which is tuned for extreme comfort, somewhat kills the handling aspect of the car. The senses one loses due to indulgence in the car’s looks and comfort will soon be regained once the straightness of the road transform into tight bends. The suspensions are so soft that rocking the steering while driving straight is a jiggly affair. Drive into a roundabout like you do in a Ford Mondeo and all that visual treat becomes history! At the limit, the rear of the Sonata has a tendency to slide outwards. This is not to say that it is bad; handling is fair…just fair! The car also exhibits moderate body roll. Steering feedback is negligible. Limits of Sonata are definitely better than the Camry; more or less on par with Altima, not as good as Accord or Mazda 6, and nowhere near the Ford Mondeo. Probably the 18-inch wheels on the top-spec model may improve the handling characteristics by a tad.

The engine advertised for 178 hp and 229 Nm of torque does not live up to expectations and this reminded me of the new Accord. It takes a good 10 seconds to hit 100 kph from standstill with no sign of any enthusiasm, and affairs over 160 kph make the engine seem underpowered. However, the engine which has done only about 2200 km cannot be performance tested for actual figures, the unit being too new for it. Fuel economy is good though.

The 6-speed gearbox is one of the most confused units out on market. Even a slight incline on the road and the gearbox immediately goes into an upshift-downshift cycle, cycling between as much as 3 gears at a time! However, the shifts are very smooth and unnoticeable. There is a manual mode available which is just there for holding gears on uneven roads rather than an option for speed demons, as even in manual mode the car automatically upshifts gears just before the red line, which is at about 6500 rpm. There are F1-style paddle shifters too, probably for the married ex-enthusiasts to watch and reminisce about the good old days. That said, the manual mode is responsive in upshifts and downshifts with only a negligible delay.

In real life, the above-mentioned demerits do not matter a lot. The new Sonata is indeed Hyundai’s answer to the Japanese Top Three and it is capable of taking the competition with ease. If this is the pace at which Hyundai moves on, then they are definitely on the verge of kicking the popular boys out of the game. In terms of comfort, practicality, affordability, maintenance costs and appearance, the Sonata has already posed a major threat to the leading brands. A few more minor improvements and the Sonata has the potential to be the class leader. I feel it is already one of the best family cars in the market.

Photos by Vivek Menon.

What do you think?



  1. I hope they dont start using this model in the taxi fleet..

  2. some how i feels it just feels short

  3. i find it too expensive although its 1k less than camry but in the end of the day, its Hyundai no resell, no reliability,
    the mid optioned sonata is for 72000 SAR
    which almost the same as Accord.
    I would always prefer buying an Accord or Camry until an less I get sonata as a company maintained car.
    We look for investments,
    P.S these are the prices in KSA.

  4. Good review, Vivek…!

    Good coverage, and matched with some good photography. Also like the bit going with the Ford Mondeo loyalty. 🙂 Me digg.


  5. ^Thanks Niloy 🙂 …

  6. I’m sorry- you only get the 178hp version. The 198 hp version moves along nicely here in the states – i test drove one the other day- 0-60 in about 8sec. Do you get the SE model? Supposed to have more of a ‘sport’ tuned suspension and a couple more horsepower.

  7. HYUNDAI IS THE BEST…………………..
    NO OFFENSE 4 OTHERS…………………..

  8. Ya it will go for taxi…so whats the harm, you want space and comfort in taxi, the previous generation sonata’s are doing quite well, sticking shoulder to shoulder with camry’s and altima’s…. if car is good, people will buy it no matter whether its used by taxi, hotel, police or RTA, ofcourse someone who has incompetent vehicle amongst your family and friends, doesn’t have anything to say, so he will say he didn’t buy a Altima, Camry or Tahoe because they are used by taxi companies, though his car may be standing in garage every second day…

  9. Mayer: u said you people look for investment??? Cars are NOT investment, all cars loose their values once u take them out of the dealer. Hyundai Sonata is the answer for people that want more than a bland, boring and ugly like the Camry or Accord. The new Sonata is the answer for people wanting reliability instead of broken cars like Fords and GM cars.

  10. Good to see this put up. Once again, nice review.

    By the way, saw it as a Taxi here in Riyadh for the first time last night.

  11. Hide the ‘H’ badge and put a ‘L’.It will be ES350. BTW those tunnel pictures – at what time you were clicking.

  12. I saw a black 2011 Kia sportage test prototype pass in front of me in qusais while waiting at a red light. looked pretty big.

  13. i think people are taking the wrong way… it is an excellent effort by hyundai. but is enough to sway expats to buy this?….

    i think not

    people forget mazda 6 is still out there as a tough competitor

  14. ^ as much as I would approve of the tremendous efforts put in by hyundai, what prado says is a strong point.

  15. ^^^ I myself own a Mazda 6 and i lean towards the Sonata 🙂 . Look-wise, i think they both are in different leagues – the 6 looks cool n funky while Sonata is all about elegance!.a strong point Mazda 6 has in it’s favour is that its slightly faster and handles with much more confidence. However, costlier spare parts cost, harsher ride, lesser options for higher-priced mid-option trim etc. all gives the Sonata an edge over the 6..

  16. @KVP: that was around 8.50pm 🙂

  17. @ Lucid:

    Yes you are right, i also saw couple of new SONATA Taxi here in Riyadh…
    Saudi is different………
    So saudi taxi guys are also running new CAPRICE as a Taxi…. What to Say,…..
    I wonder when they will start using GMC Yukon as a TAXi… I think very soon… 😉

  18. Went to Al-Quoz distribution center of Hyundai, saw every color combo available in UAE. Myself, ordering the black ext. + wine interior w/Nav tomorrow. I checked with usb and my Android OS phone was working with it flawlessly.

  19. hey mash, if possible cud u review the mazda 6…

  20. “lol” no, but Vivz can.

  21. Nice info about this car… AND VIVEKKK WELL DONEEEE BROOOOO :DD

  22. ^^^ Mash…permission to review my own car!!! 😀

  23. @Rhymes: thnx bro 🙂

  24. I wish the likes of Hyundai would stop lifting design cues (read it copying) from other established brands, esp Merc. Sonata started with Jaguar and then moved on to Accord and now rests on Merc CLS…riding these inferior spin-offs can hardly be fun though may make sense from utility point of view

  25. How can you compare sonata with camry and accord price wise, I was at toyota showroom few days ago and the GLX with sunroof costs around 90k, sonata has more gadgets and spec for 73k, its much cheaper, the basic accord model is around 84-88k, so the sonata is class leading in price issue, and talking about investment and resell value, i think cars are no investment anymore and it is a matter of rates, If I buy an accord or camry with 90k and sell it with 30-40k after 4 years then it is the same for buying sonata for 73k and selling it for 18-22k after 4 years, both cars lost 40-50k of their price, in fact the sonata may be better in this case because its spare parts and running cost will be lower along these 4 years.

  26. ^^^ we do have sensible people out here :)..well said Samer!

  27. Bravo hyundai…. makes the camry look like crap and the accord look soo damn ugly…. For a family cruiser id get it..

  28. Does anyone has details (price) of some typical spares of new Sonata. These days even Camry spares have become expensive as compared to older generation Camry’s. And the reputation of new Camry is not as it used to be, my friend has a car workshop and he says he has fixed many engines of 2007 and 2008 model Camry’s in the past year, dunno whats happening to Camry. The best person to give an input about cars is Taxi drivers, and they say these days Camry’s are not as reliable as they used to be.

  29. I owned a hyundai coupe for a year now… 2002 model with a 100000 km… Cost me AED 5000 of usual consumables along with labor costs such as tires set, brake pad set, radiator, battery, a pair of axle boots and generous maintenance in 1 year… If you ask me if i will buy a hyundai again? I tell you yes… My car was very reliable and never gave me issues, i trust Hyundai and i will buy their products again.. Especially with toyota cheaping out lately; the new camry is a disgrace compared to the previous generation…

  30. hyundai is not a competitor to toyota. nissan and honda are. camry was launched 3 years ago, while sonata was launched this year. ofcourse, sonata will have the opportunity to look better when it comes to design. just wait till the new camry comes.

    a 2002 coupe with aed 5000 worth of consumables? I own a 2008 camry and i dont think i spend more than 2000 aed/year.

    with my camry i dont have to worry about ANYTHING. i have 3rd party insurance for only 520 dhs. if my car gets cancelled, i can repair and export to many countries without losing much resale value. I bought my camry in 2009 for 42k and right now I have offers of 37k even if im not sellign it. even if my camry breaks down completely, i can fix it easily as all garages know how to do it and used spare parts is abundant for my car. can hyundai give you any of these benefits?

    dont take my word. honestly, the pro’s hate owning hyundai’s. ask the real pro’s who spend their whole lives dealing with each and every problem/issue that cars face (garage owners and mechanics). do not ask the sales man who can read brochures for you in a showroom.

    btw, my advice to roj is to sell his coupe before it faces mechanical issues (then you’ll know why the majority prefer japanese cars). i dont like camry because i own one, i like it because it has given me a lot of benefits that no other brands can give in this country.

  31. Bro W.A….change your calendar….its 2010 now! 😀 😀

  32. Hi Guys,

    I am big fan of this new Sonata 2011 model. really value for money. But a little confused to make decision of buying it. From last 3 months i have seen only 2 Sonata on road. Whereas my daily travel is around 300 km from Dubai to Abu Dhabi.

    So all suggestion are welcomed for the selection between Sonata 2011 / Malibu / Altima. Resale is not my concern, running cost and fuel economy is most concerned element for me.

    Thanks for your suggestions….

  33. I have seen a new sonata, mid trim level yesterday as I want to buy one…….. This looks like a very pretty car, I was not too sure about the other aspects of the car like handling and drive, but this article has cleared alot of doubts in my mind. I am going to get one very soon….
    @ Shahzad, C’mon man lets buy one this is the time to show the bullys of car market that people will buy better and cheaper cars if available, not the dull plastic cage of camry, so they have to bring their prices down!!!!!!!!
    And if u are buying I am buying we have two more cars on road, and many more will follow 😉

  34. People always says resale value, now just imagine if drive any midsizer for 5 years u will loose at least 2/3rd of the price of every car…..
    This Sonata has definitely a WOW FACTOR, every time u will see the car, u will say ‘WOW this beauty is mine’!!!!!!!!!

  35. lolll SAB .. Yea what if A beautiful Accord passes by me then ??? Then i would say Ohh wat Shit i am driving..even though Sonata is beautiful foh sure but i cant see much sonata’s on the road? Why ??? No doubt how many beautiful model they offer, Still Accord , Camry and Altima Rules the market !!

  36. ^^ You call Accord beautiful?? i really and truly hope u r talking about the old Accord here…if its the new Accord, then Sonata is far ahead in terms of looks and will definitely not let the Accord pass by in a drag! The only time I may miss an Accord would be in the bends; but why would I wann’ take a Sonata or even the Accord for driving on twisty roads at high speeds?? I would bet my life on the Mazda 6, Audi or Ford for that! And Camry rules coz narrow-mindedness rule while Altima rules coz that 2.5 Nissan engine rule!!! 🙂

  37. Rhymes!!!!!! from where r u going to get ” A Beautiful Accord” there is none in the market or Honda Showrooms….. all they have a beefy and goofy looking sedan called Accord…..

  38. Hi Guys!!!!!!!!
    I have been looking for a midsize sedan, Sonata and Chevorlett Epica are the cars which are in the price range that I am looking for between 65000-70000, which one is better, need help in deciding>>>>>>>>>>>>

  39. Hyundai Sonata or Chevorlett Epica which one is better please tell, these 2 cars are in my budget, confused which one to buy
    Please Help!!!!!

  40. hyundai

  41. For Sonata 2011 I vote, but again a bit confusing. Till now no sonata seen on the roads other than those two ? why ? can anybody explain. Whereas showroom people always saying all stock booked ????? Defiantly I will buy new sleekly sonata 2011 but …. question is still there why sonata is not seen on roads ? what you suggest why not to buy Tucson 2011 full option in same price range 82,000/- AED instead of buying mid option Sonata 2011 for 74,500/- AED.

  42. Hi Guys !
    Good News. Hyundai Elantra is on the way. Check this out. Low Budget Sleekly Cars comming to the town….

    Bad News for Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus and Chevy Cruze….

    J U S T C H E C K this out….



  43. Started the paperwork for Sonata 2011, hope it turns out to be a good choice!!!!!!!!

  44. hi vivek, what do you mean?

  45. hey bro…could u help me in chossing between new Sonata and Altima

  46. Yes Vivek,
    Simple formula of selecting cars is to rate it with compression

    Monthly Budget:
    Safety Features: Air Bags, ABS, EBD
    Exterior: Shape, Wheels
    Interior: Feel, Comfort, Drive, Sound System
    Gadgets: Bluetooth, MP3, IPOD, Sunroof
    Economy: Fuel, Service, Maintenance

    Rate for Both Cars from 1-10 each feature. Get the Sum of rated values. This is mathematical way to decide. Otherwise everybody listen to its Heart…. 😉

    and be calculative.
    My choice is go for Sonata 2011 Mid Option. 74,500 AED i think. Just add extra cost for AMP and Woofer.

    Best of Luck.

  47. I’ve got my new Sonata just now and I am very thrilled about it, this is car is simple beauty and its a pleasure to drive!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  48. Proud owner of the new Hyundai Sonata with sun roof option. Great Car. Very smooth ride. AC is good..although people doubted whether hyundai had taken car about it. Taxi drivers having the old Sonata were not happy.

  49. ^Good looking car. Keep us posted on issues.

  50. I got my 2011 Sonata mid-range more than a month ago. It’s been an absolute pleasure to drive due to it’s features, smoothness and a great fuel economy. I get about 650 km on a full tank of mixed city driving. It also elicits a lot of envious looks, and I feel the design is simply unbeatable for a mid-sizer. The A.c would be second to none, and cools down the car in 45C temperatures in less than 2 minutes.
    The only grouse I have is that it should have come with more air-bags and a climate control for this class. Also I was surprised to learn during my first service that I need to take my car to Rashidya service center for a recall regarding the sunroof. Still unsure what that means, as my sunroof seems to be working perfectly. any idea, Vivek?

    • yes suhail same happend with me on the sunroof… it stopped functioning and they replaced it saying that the car was designed to korean conditions and the sunroof get stuck due to some component which cannot handle the hot sun in the middle east

  51. Recall for sunroof?? that was not even officially known as far as I idea on that!

  52. There is a steering wheel recall where some nuts may have not been tightened sufficiently. Nothing about sunroof though.

  53. Hi Vivek,

    Could you tell me the dealer from whom you rented the Sonata? Would like to use it for a while before deciding to buy one. Thanks in advance


  54. Hi,
    I want to take new 4 wheel drive with Front and rear A/c and cruise control. Which one is best? What about Hyundai Santa Fe ? My budget is with in 80,000. I want to use this for going to Saudi(Umra) twice in a year. Please suggest me the 4 x 4 with in my budget (80,000 Qatar riyal).

  55. its better to buy toyota fortuner because it have more space in it and the santafe is not ot spacacious for umra toyota fortuner is best and its

  56. I saw the sonata in the Kuwait showroom and remember it having a 2.4L GDI engine, and that should be production around 200hp right? Is it only in Kuwait? AND IT IS PRICED UP KD6000 BASE MODEL

  57. Can guys who already own the Sonata tell me how the car is performing now.
    I am confused between this & Altima. I also considered Optima, but apparently there is a wind noise issue in 2012 model.
    My budget is around 80000. I dont really care about the resale value or the sportiness. For me its about a comfortable,reliable ride with decent handling.

  58. @karthik…. i bought mid class sonata 2011 in june 2010…. its around one and a half years.. i covered 30k and still the engine is just like new and very silent….. highlight is consistant fuel economy….. i get around 13 to 14 km /liter in a straight highway drive and 10 in the hard city drive……. never got any problems and the car still performs just as new….. recommended family car

  59. Hi !
    Am just out of Hyundai Showroom & am impressed with the Sonata 2012 model – top version.
    The price is 97k UAE Dirhams & considering the free maintenance package for 40000kms, should I grab one?
    Had enough of the Honda / Toyota service / spare expenses till now. Kindly advise.

  60. I am impressed too with the top option sonata….but unable to decide wether to buy sonata or santafe or tucson or honda crv or fortuner. Guys which is best for kuwait roads…

  61. which one is better 2.0 or 2.4 sonata 2012 please any.

  62. there is no 2,0 sonata…….

  63. Hi,
    Any Sonata Owners here updates on sonata performance,maintenance, howz their after sale support? im in confusion to buy sonata (mid version) or elantra (top version)?
    Guys, am waiting for immediate reply..

  64. I have a 2012 hyundai sonata 2nd options and its a wonderful car, however now after 2 years i have been facing several issues and the service centers in dubai are just a waste of time. They just dont know what they are talking about and also unable to fix the problems. My car is only 33500 kms driven and the car has started vibrating during the ac being on and also while releasing the brake after a small halt at a signal and while reversing. The company has dne the needful to change the mountings as well and yet im facing the same issues. Can anybody driving a sonata can they please help me out here if they are facing the same issue also while turning their steering towards the right if they hear a ticking sound.


    • I suggest you to go at any of the following workshops. I prefer to go Musafah as I found them very much professional. I have done 235K on 2011 model and I love this car… Don’t by Frustrated…. and visit any of the following workshops on your next due service and explain them the problem briefly….

      Musafah Workshop
      Ras Al Khor – Workshop
      Ajman Workshop

  65. could someone recommend me which car should i buy, Hyundai Sonata, Camry or Altima for a small family, my previous experience with KIA was awful.

Browse archives

Share This