First Test: 2011 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T
Is the Turbo Sonata Really as Sweet as it Sounds?
In case you missed the memo, Hyundai is on a serious roll. You could say something of a California roll, what with the way the Korean giant has tweaked the recipe of a Japanese staple (affordable cars) and turned it into something all its own. And if I may keep the pun rolling, the company shows no signs of stopping now.
Take the 2011 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T. This is Hyundai's fresh, aggressive challenger to one of America's most competitive segments -- the V-6-powered family sedan. No longer content to follow Honda, Nissan, or Toyota, Hyundai is ceding the V-6 territory in favor of a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with class leading output (274 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque) and fuel economy (23/34 city/highway mpg) on regular unleaded. Sound too good to be true? Just wait, there's more.
As it did with the regular 2.4-liter, normally aspirated Sonata, Hyundai has created the ultimate box checker in the Sonata turbo. Just look at the chart Hyundai compiled and posts on its media site:
|SONATA 2.0T VERSUS ITS RIVALS|
|Hyundai Sonata 2.0T||Buick Regal||VW Passat||Ford Fusion Sport V6|
|Engine||2.0L 274-hp 269-lb-ft||2.0L 220-hp 258-lb-ft||2.0L 200-hp 207-lb-ft||3.5L 263-hp 249 lb-ft|
|Power to weight ratio||12.4||16.7||16.7||12.8|
|Fuel economy (city)||23||18||22||18|
|Fuel economy (hwy)||34||30||31||27|
|Chevy Malibu V6||Toyota Camry V6||Honda Accord V6||Nissan Altima V6|
|Engine||3.6L 252-hp 251-lb-ft||3.5L 268-hp 248-lb-ft||3.5L 271-hp 254-lb-ft||3.5L 270-hp 258-lb-ft|
|Power to weight ratio||13.6||12.9||13.1||12.4|
|Fuel economy (city)||17||20||20||20|
|Fuel economy (hwy)||26||29||30||27|
It's carefully parsed data to be sure, but there is no denying it combines to make for some pretty flagrant braggadocio: The Sonata turbo is at the top of the heap -- on paper at least. But what about where the rubber meets the road? We hit the test track then dug through our archive of comparison tests to find out.
With a 0-60 time of 6.5 seconds and quarter mile of 15.0 seconds at 94.7 mph, the Sonata 2.0T is legitimately quick. But the big surprise is how it completely embarrasses the all-new 2011 Buick Regal CXL. That premium-priced, turbo 2.0-liter is a full second behind at 60 mph and needs 15.7 seconds and 92.8 mph to finish the quarter mile.
The Sonata turbo is also faster than the V-6 Ford Fusion Sport (6.8 sec/15.2 sec @ 94.0 mph) and splits times with the V-6 Honda Accord EX-L (6.5 sec/15.5 sec @ 95.5 mph), V-6 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ (6.5 sec/15.1 sec @ 93.7 mph) and Passat 2.0T (6.7 sec/15.0 sec @ 93.4 mph). Those times were pulled from comparison tests we did in the February 2008 and June 2008 issues.
The Sonata turbo does not fare quite so well against its other V-6 rivals, however. Though the Sonata recently passed the Altima for the number-three spot in segment sales, the Nissan isn't that easy to pass on the road. The V-6-powered Altima SE we tested back in 2008 needed only 6.3 seconds to hit 60 and 14.8 seconds and 96.1 mph for the quarter mile.
The Toyota Camry is faster still -- a 2007 SE model we tested laid down a 6.3-second blast to 60 and a 14.6-second quarter mile at 96.8 mph.
Hit the other pedal, and the results are bit harder to tease out. Stopping distances vary more than acceleration times; we often consider differences of a few feet to be statistical ties. One thing that's clear from our data, however, is the Buick Regal CXL exacts sweet revenge with a 60-0-mph stopping distance of just 113 feet. All the rest cluster within half a car length (7 feet or so) of 130 feet. The Sonata turbo's 126-foot number is behind Camry (124 feet) and ties Fusion (126 feet). Malibu (133 feet), Altima (131 feet), and Passat (127 feet) all fall a bit short. Only the Accord (137 feet) sticks out as considerably longer than the rest.
Though the numbers are again right on top of each other, the Sonata acquits itself well in the handling department, losing out to only the Altima and Passat, while considerably outsticking the Camry in max lateral acceleration. Buick again makes up for the stomping it received in the acceleration testing:
| ||Lateral Acceleration||Motor Trend Figure Eight|
|2011 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T||0.81 g (avg)||27.9 sec @ 0.61 g (avg)|
|2011 Buick Regal CXL||0.83 g (avg)||26.8 sec @ 0.64 g (avg)|
|2008 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ||0.79 g (avg)||27.6 sec @ 0.63 g (avg)|
|2008 Ford Fusion Sport||0.79 g (avg)||27.9 sec @ 0.61 g (avg)|
|2008 Honda Accord EX-L V-6||0.78 g (avg)||28.0 sec @ 0.60 g (avg)|
|2008 Nissan Altima SE 3.5||0.83 g (avg)||27.3 sec @ 0.64 g (avg)|
|2007 Toyota Camry SE V-6||0.78 g (avg)||27.8 sec @ 0.61 g (avg)|
|2008 VW Passat 2.0T||0.81 g (avg)||27.7 sec @ 0.61 g (avg)|
There's no denying, then, that the Sonata turbo is running near the front of the pack in objective measures. But wait, Hyundai has one more trick up its sleeve, and it's the Sonata's coup de grace -- pricing. The Sonata turbo handily undercuts the field with an entry price of just $24,865. Speaking strictly of horsepower-per-dollar, the only other way to get this much power for under $25,000 is to start shopping V-6-powered sport coupes -- like the Hyundai Genesis Coupe, for example.
As with absolute power, the Sonata turbo is the undisputed leader in price, but it's not without challengers. The (slightly) faster and better-handling Altima is nipping at the Sonata turbo's heels with a starting price of $25,490 and the also-impressive Camry is right behind at $25,650 to start. From there, though, the Hyundai enjoys a clear lead over the rest of the competition. Next in line is the Fusion Sport at $27,380 followed by the Malibu at $27,750, the Accord at $27,830 and the Passat at $27,945. As with the acceleration test, the Regal trails the pack with the highest starting price by far at $29,495, which is only slightly less than our Sonata turbo's as-tested price.
So, what have we learned? From a pure numbers perspective, there is nothing fishy about the roll Hyundai is on. As its performance on our test track reveals, the all-new Sonata 2.0T lives up to the hype. It not only ticked off a few more boxes, but likely its chief rivals as well...
|2011 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T|
|Price as Tested||$29,900|
|Vehicle layout||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door, sedan|
|Engine||2.0L/274-hp/269-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|Curb weight (f/r dist)||3442 lb (61/39%)|
|Length x width x height||189.8 x 72.2 x 57.9 in|
|0-60 mph||6.5 sec|
|Quarter mile||15.0 sec @ 94.7 mph|
|Braking, 60-0 mph||126 ft|
|Lateral Acceleration||0.81 g (avg)|
|MT Figure Eight||27.9 sec @ 0.61 g (avg)|
|EPA city/hwy fuel econ||23/34 mpg|
|CO2 emissions||0.72 lb/mile|