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Motoring: Affordable fun in the turbo-charged Sonata

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | April 4th, 2011

The Hyundai Sonata has been one of the longest standing models in Hyundai's line-up. For most of its life, the Sonata was their flagship model, a title that now belongs to their excellent Equus sedan.

So the Sonata might have lost its crown within the company, but it is fighting back with style.

For the 2011 model year, the sixth-generation version of the Sonata has hit the market, and its stunning design is sure to cause its competitors some sleepless nights.

Penned at their design studio in Irvine, California with a team lead by Philip Zak, the idea was to create a very "fluidic sculpture." The end result is a very coupe-like sedan, and it does look rather attractive. This is not an original idea, however, since the Germans have been at it for a few years with cars like the Mercedes-Benz CLS and the VW Passat CC.

The Sonata is a lot more affordable than either of those cars — pricing for the base model starts at $22,649.

You will have to pay more for the one I am featuring this week, the Sonata 2.0T, because this one comes with a turbo. The motor in question is a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder unit that has a rather large turbo attached to it. The end result is 274 hp and 269 lb/ft of torque, mated to one of the best six-speed automatic gearboxes in the business. This stylish family car turned out to be one extremely quick machine.

I honestly didn't know what to expect when I first got in, but a few minutes later, I was smiling, because the turbo rush is instant and shoots you past normal traffic at a rate that would please everyone.

What's more surprising is how different the steering and the chassis felt to the normal Sonata. Everything in the 2.0T model felt tighter and more responsive. I quite liked that.

I also liked the interior. It is spacious in the front and adequate in the rear, plus the trunk is huge.

The quality of materials they used is quite impressive — Toyota should take notes from Hyundai in this department. It can also come very well equipped. My tester had heated leather seats, sunroof, keyless entry and start, automatic climate control, premium sound system and a touch screen navigation system. In terms of features, it can play ball with its much more expensive German rivals.

But all is not rosy in the Sonata 2.0T world. There are two things that I don't really like about this car. My first complaint is the seats, which are just not comfortable and supportive enough. I had the same complaint about the base model Sonata last year, and sadly the issue remains. My second issue is with the soundproofing. This car is noisy on the road, and I am not talking about a loud exhaust, but about road and wind noise. Yes, the winter tires on my tester did further aggravate road noise, but there is no excuse for wind noise, and for a car that looks as slippery as this one does, that came as a big surprise. The older generation Sonatas were excellent in this department, so it seems Hyundai might have cut costs in this area.

Still, this is not a bad vehicle. It is better looking than most of its competitors and thanks to the turbo (which replaces the old V6 model Sonatas), it is much more fun to drive than most of its competitors.

Prices start at $31,749 for the Sonata 2.0T. The loaded model with this engine is still just $33,499.

It won't cost much to run either, because I averaged 10.4- litres/100km with this car, which is excellent for a car that can shame a few sport coupes at traffic lights.
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