In 2010, you could pick up a new Hyundai Sonata for around $18,000, which made it one of the best deals in the mid-size sedan market.
That price applied to the base GL, mind you, equipped with a four-cylinder engine and a manual transmission. But the equipment level was high with air conditioning, power windows and heated seats all standard.
There were two engine choices. The 2.4-litre four-cylinder or a lively V-6 and there were two transmissions: five-speed manual and five-speed automatic. Available extras included leather interior, a navi system and satellite radio.
The V-6 developed 249 horsepower and featured Hyundai's version of a continuously variable valve timing system. It was as good as anything else in this segment – unobtrusive and well-behaved. The transmission utilized Hyundai's Shiftronic manual shift feature, and the V-6 delivered highway fuel economy virtually identical to that of its four-cylinder stablemate. All things considered, the V-6 was a better engine choice than the four-banger, but, either way, Hyundai engineers put the emphasis on comfort over handling with this generation of the Sonata and, under way, it had a 1990s Buick-ish feel to it. Don't look for snappy handling here, because it isn't that kind of car.
If this generation of the Sonata had a failing, it was in its interior, which had one of the least-inspiring layouts in this market segment. Highway noise was another sore point. At more than 80 km/h, the volume level inside the car rose. The Camry, for example, was quieter, as was the Chevrolet Malibu.
On the other hand, the Sonata offered 462 litres of trunk space, which compared favourably against the Malibu (428 litres) and the Honda Accord (338 litres). There was also a 60/40-folding rear seat, with all kinds of pass-through space. And, although the interior was bland, there was lots of headroom, rear legroom and more than enough elbow room for five adults.
There were virtually no differences between the 2009 and 2010 Sonatas, but a completely revamped and much more contemporary model was on the way for 2011. With its state-of-the-art styling, it's hard to believe it even came from the same company.
There are no safety recalls for the 2010 Sonata, either from Transport Canada or the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But NHTSA has 13 technical service bulletins on file. These range from questionable oxygen sensors, to issues with the front transaxle, to transmission shift "quality", to a range of updates for service personnel. Some complaints from owners include wonky exterior door handles, issues with premature brake wear, a low-beam headlight defect that "erases the field of view for objects alongside the road" and "swimmy" steering – 41 complaints in all here.
Consumer Reports likes the 2010 Sonata, but not overly so. it praises its four-cylinder fuel economy and V-6 smoothness, and it receives good marks in most areas, with the exception of the electrical system, brakes and "body hardware." The four-cylinder models get an "average" used-car verdict, while the V-6 models fare better, garnering an above-average grade. Some comments from owners: "Not a safe snow car," "Very comfortable seating, especially driver's seat," "Fair amount of high speed wooshing noise" and "Suspension jittery."
Market research firm J.D. Power is a big fan and gave the 2010 Sonata one of its dependability awards. It gets an "among the best" rating for overall dependability, and "better than most" for predicted reliability. That said, it got a below-average grade for style, and just average marks for overall performance, design and quality. The short version: not the most exciting set of wheels out there, but probably reliable.
It has held its value well. From a base price of $22,500 in 2010 (dealers heavily discounted this car and it was actually advertised for less than $18,000 in some areas), it's held steady at about $13,000 for the base GL, going up to the high teens for a loaded V-6 Limited version.
2010 Hyundai Sonata
Original Base Price: $22,499; Black Book: $13,450-$16,400; Red Book: $13,325-$17,175
Engine: 2.4-litre four-cylinder/3.3-litre V-6
Horsepower/Torque: 175 hp/168 lb-ft for four
249 hp/229 lb-ft for six
Transmission: Five-speed manual/five-speed automatic
Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 10.8 city/6.9 highway (V-6/automatic; regular Gas
Alternatives: Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu, Volkswagen Passat, Kia Magentis, Dodge Avenger, Suzuki Kizashi, Nissan Altima, Mazda6