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Driving the 2011 Hyundai Sonata

Excellent room, styling and fuel economy ambush competitors.

by on Jun.15, 2010

Len Katz Photography

Maintaining momentum with a strong redesign. Len Katz Photo.

Funny thing about incremental gains in automobiles, they eventually add to something big.

Last year was something big for Hyundai Motor America as it picked up more than one percentage point of U.S. market share during the worst business climate since the Great Depression.

Over the previous decade, the Korean maker edged slowly along, picking up a tenth of a point each year. However, taxpayer financed “Cash for Clunkers,” coupled with years of product refinement, reasonable pricing, along with some deft marketing of an extended warranty made for what was a ten-fold increase in the rate of gain.

The momentum has not stopped. This May marked the seventeenth consecutive month of year-over-year share gains for Hyundai. Year to date, Hyundai sales are up 23% to 205,000 vehicles compared with 2009.

The volume car at the heart of the lineup is the completely redesigned for 2011 Sonata sedan that is just appearing. So far, this sixth generation version has been well received. To find out why, I spent a week testing a pearl white Limited model – $26,315 delivered. There are leases advertised starting at under $200/month for less well-equipped models.

What emerged after several hundred miles of testing was a comfortable, fuel efficient (26 mpg average) and generally pleasant car. This bodes well for Hyundai, but not for competitors, since Sonata is, arguably, the most important launch thus far for the upstart Korean maker.

Critical Reviews!

If there is a problem here, it is caused by the companion company Kia with its Optima derived from the same corporate parts bin. However, that is a nit, and a longer-term marketing separation issue for the parent company as each brand grows.  Kia sales through May at 138,000 are up 15%. The overall market is up 17%, but that number is heavily influenced by Detroit Three fleet sales, which have doubled compared to the year before, and are running at 30% of units wholesaled. (more…)

First Look: 2011 Hyundai Sonata

Derivative, yet expressive, styling and high technology take on Honda, Toyota and, well, everyone else.

by on Dec.03, 2009

Hyundai 2011 Sonata

Sonata is aimed at the very heart of the expanding mid-size car market.

There is no question that Korean automaker Hyundai is doing well in the unprotected U.S. market. The industrial giant has picked up two market share points this year as its relentless pace of new product introductions and savvy marketing and advertising left domestic and Japanese competitors in its rearview mirror.

Increasing sales in a depressed market is no mean feat. Moreover, it is now clear that Hyundai is moving into its next phase of expansion.

So here comes the sixth generation Sonata, already on sale elsewhere, to do battle with a weakened Honda, severely wounded Toyota, as well hapless General Motors and Chrysler, among others. Sonata is aimed at the very heart of the expanding mid-size car market and brings to the sales battle both technology and fuel economy boosts that have promotional and, depending on how you view the styling, emotional appeal.


Hyundai Theta II Engine in Production in Alabama

The revised four-cylinder will power the 2011 Sonata.

by on Nov.24, 2009

Hyundai Theta II 2.4-liter Inline Four

Excellent specific output of 85 horsepower/liter in a naturally aspirated engine.

A revised four-cylinder engine, dubbed Theta II, started production at Hyundai’s Motor Manufacturing of Alabama assembly plant this week. The 2.4-liter gasoline engine adds direct fuel injection and other revisions to the Korean-designed and manufactured Theta engine.

Theta currently is produced in Namyang, Korea at volumes of more than 2 million units annually, with an emphasis on exports.

Theta II adds gasoline direct injection (GDI) and a variable induction system to produce 200 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 186 pound-feet of torque at 4,250 rpm. This results in an increase of 25 horsepower and 18 pound-feet of torque when compared with the older design. More telling, perhaps, is the excellent specific output of 85 horsepower/liter in a naturally aspirated engine.

In the next Sonata, Hyundai claims that the EPA certification now underway will result in a 35 mpg highway rating, which would be the highest in the class.

Direct News Injection!

Direct News Injection!

Hyundai announced late in 2008 that it would lead the industry with the then newly proposed CAFE standards of 35 mg by 2020. It would accomplish this by achieving that efficiency level five years earlier in 2015. The plans put in place then to do this have served the Korean maker well, and, potentially, gives it another marketing advantage besides its 120,000-mile engine warranty.

Since then, of course, CAFE standards have been revised under the Obama Administration to 35.5 mpg by 2016, and most — if not all –automakers are now pursuing the same technologies that Theta II uses.