It's time to shop for a new car. For the next few weeks I'm chronicling my search, reviewing the process, the products, the marketing, the sales experience and the transaction.
Day 12: The pretender is a contender
And the Hyundai Sonata is exhibit one.
I went to drive the Sonata because of the buzz it's been receiving and to see if the car drives as good as it looks. And while it's no BMW or Audi, this car is surprisingly good. I drove a Sonata SE that had every option except a navigation system and a power moonroof, which stickered at $23,500. The first thing that impressed me was the fit and finish. Nice paint, even seams on the hood and trunk lids, and the exterior styling is quite good.
On the inside cloth seats with leather bolsters looked and felt supportive. The driver's area wrapped around me and everything was right where I'd expect it to be. The controls, switches and levers all had a quality feel, right down to the push button start.
On the road the Sonata was quiet, solid and the 200 hp 4-cylinder engine was impressive, not spectacular. This car is as good as they come in this segment and I'd definitely rank it ahead of a Camry or Accord based on the styling, driving experience and overall value.
I'm not going to buy a Hyundai for the same reason I'm not going to buy a Malibu: it's not a true sports sedan and that's what I really want. But if I had to make a living trying to convince people to buy the Malibu instead of the Sonata, I'd be looking for another job.
This is a damn good car.