2006 Hyundai Sonata: Opinions?

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Hi all.
I've got a new car on my wish list for 2006; probably won't happen but a guy can dream....
Right now I drive a 2004 Chevy Malibu Classic, which is fully adequate
but no more. I've always been partial to GM but less so lately. I've driven darn near everything in my day, but never a Hyundai---or for that matter any Korean car. Never even ridden in one, as far as I recall.
Like a lot of folks, I've started to pay attention to Hyundai lately because word-of-mouth is their cars keep getting better and more reliable all the time, plus the prices are much lower than Toyota or Honda and a bit lower than GM, and of course the great warranty.
The past few days I stumbled across some great reviews of the '06 Sonata. Looks almost like my dream car: Roomy mid-size sedan, FWD, 5-star crash-test ratings, powerful 4-cylinder engine but still (supposedly) 33 mpg highway, ABS, traction control, side airbags, 16-inch wheels, a great warranty, etc.
All for $18K fair market value for a bare-bones model with automatic transmission, which is what I want. A key point is the features I want that are options on the Malibu or even the Camry and Accord are standard on even the base Sonata.
So, what's it like driving this car every day? I like a smooth ride but decent handling and steering; yes that's a tough combination to find, which is one reason I like Chevy; they have issues but their suspensions/steering/braking suit me. Is the 33 mpg estimate anywhere near accurate in the real world? What are the quirks or little problems unique to this model? Oh, and since winters are moderately rough here in northeastern PA, what are the OEM tires and how do they handle in the snow and ice?
Thanks in advance for all advice and guidance.
Regards, Eric M
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Hi Eric,
I have about 3500 miles on my 2006 Sonata and love it for the roominess and handling. I just returned to Georgia from a 700 mile trip to Reading, Pa. We were loaded down with 3 people and as many gifts and luggage as would fit! We got 31.7 miles per gallon at 75-80 mph for the trip. Around town we get about 28 miles per gallon with some 15 mile open road trips to the next town. Can't tell you anything bad about it. The tires on my GLS model are Michelins. I have the 4 cylinder engine with 164 HP, which is more than enough for merging into traffic. No need for the 6 unless you enjoy paying the crooks for gas.
Tom

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Tom wrote:

Tom, that is encouraging. I have just over 450 miles on my new GL (2.4/ 5 speed) and it still has half a tank in it. It had 184 miles when I picked it up so it isn't THAT good on fuel.
What are the EPA ratings for your GLS? Mine is 24/34 as I recall. I think the 4 cylinder EPA ratings are for either transmission, but I'm not sure if the auto has the same rating as the stick. Do you have the standard 4 speed auto with your 4 cylinder or did you get the 5 speed auto?
I agree that the 4 cylinder has plenty of pep for normal driving. I test drove the V-6 with the 5 speed auto and the GL that I ended up buying. I bought the GL as its performance was nearly as good as the V-6 with the automatic. I didn't drive a 4 cylinder automatic as I've always preferred stick shift given a choice.
I'm anxiously awaiting my first fill-up to see how it does. I know it may be a little low during break-in, but I think it is doing pretty well even on this first tank.
Matt
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Hi,,
I just looked at my sticker for the GLS and it's rated at 24/33 mpg. On the first trip over roads at 55 mph, it averaged 34.5 mpg. It has the standard 4 speed auto. I have a 2002 Honda Civic also that has consistently given me 40 mpg. It's an LX with 4 speed. Reluctantly, I have to sell it since I'm now retired as of today and I don't need all these cars anymore. I know it will go fast when I park it out front with gas the way it is. I looked at the new Civics and almost bought one except for the fact that the Sonata had more interior room in all directions. It's amazing how much room is in there, isn't it?
Tom

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Tom wrote:

It looks like the auto only costs you one MPG on the highway as compared to the stick. It is amazing how good the new automatics are. I remember when a stick shift was good for at least 10% better fuel economy.
I still like shifting my own gears, even if there isn't a mileage benefit. I hate automatics that are always shifting in the mountains. I guess the Hyundai automatic will hold the gear if you slip the shifter into the "shiftronic" slot, but I still decided to go with the manual after driving both.
Yes, the room in the Sonata is truly impressive. The car has a lot to like. I've mentioned already a few nits I don't like, but they are mostly minor, other than the lousy heater ... that is significant in PA winters.
Matt
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Yea, for the past 40 + years I've gone back and forth from sticks to auto's. I'm like you - I like to shift when I want but on this one, I yielded to the wife who can't drive stick. Once I tried to teach her on my old 356B Porsche and when she shifted without ever touching the clutch pedal, I figured that was enough. :O) I've had a 69 427 Vette with a 4 speed that was the ultimate and a 67 Cougar 390 Gt with a stick. Both were a LOT of fun. The shifting is so smooth on the Sonata that you couldn't even notice as it slipped out of lockup on the hills of Virginia. My Dodge Ram truck was constantly shifting up and down. Very annoying. Glad to see it go.

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Tom wrote:

Thanks for the info, Tom. I live about 70 miles northeast of Reading. Hope you had a nice trip.
The mpg sounds encouraging. My experience has been that big sedans with a 4-cylinder, (I mean 'big' by 4-cylinder standards, i.e. over 3,100 lbs.) fall far short of the EPA ratings unless you drive 55 mph with cruise control on a flat stretch of highway.
Smaller cars can get closer to sticker fuel economy ratings at normal highway speeds; I don't mean race-car driving, I mean the 65-80 mph that's standard on all highways these days. There's a point past which one cannot defy the laws of physics.
I guess living in Georgia you don't have to worry about the Michelin tires' snow/ice performance. If anything maybe it's the opposite; are they OK on very hot pavement in the summer?
Where I live we get the worst of both worlds. The winters are bad enough that the roads are slippery to downright dangerous at times, but not quite bad enough that dealing with winter becomes everyone's top priority, as in New England or upstate NY.
Most folks here stick with all-season tires, though they make sure there's plenty of good tread left on them. (Tire dealers love places like this. No one with any sense lets their tires get below 5 or 6/32 tread on a vehicle they drive in winter.) I run winter tires when I can afford it; I've got a set on my Malibu Classic now.
If I do buy a new Sonata it will stretch my budget pretty tight so I would like to use the OEM all-season or touring tires for at least the first winter, especially with ABS, traction control and stability control. The Michelin MXV line gets mostly good reviews but not much mention of their winter performance.
Regards, Eric M

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Eric wrote:

I live about 150 miles northwest of you, near Lawrenceville, PA.

I haven't owned snow tires in 20 years, other than on my K1500 pickup which I use to plow my driveway. I've found the all season tires to be adequate for all except one or two days of the year, and then I drive my truck!

I know my GL has Michelin tires, but I didn't check to see if they are the MXVs. They are the standard 16" Michelins that come on the base Sonata. We haven't had much snow since I got the car, just a couple of inches, but my driveway has been snow covered since Thanksgiving and is uphill for half of is 3/8 mile length. The Sonata has had no problem coming up the driveway and does better than my Chrysler minivan.
The only bad thing about the tires is that they seem to have just the right size grooves to pick up the size stones/cinders that PennDOT lays down. These tires just pummel the car with stones when driving on the highways. I wish the dealer would hurry up and get my mudguards in!!!
Matt
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Matt Whiting wrote:

Hi Matt.
Are you in Tioga County, near the NY state border? If so I'm surprised you rely on all-season tires. Of course they take better care of the roads up there, but still. (Please don't get me started on PennDOT; good luck with the mud guards.)
ERM
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We're a daring lot up here Eric. Not sure where Matt is from, but I'm up in Oswego county and that's all we rely on. Almost nobody uses snow tires up here. Brian and I had a discussion about that very thing not so long ago. He's one of those wimpy guys from New England...
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Mike Marlow wrote:

If it works for you, that's great. How hilly is it where you live? The problem 'round here is the elevation. Plus the roads curve and wind through the hills. Plus the area is growing fast and most of the newbies have no clue how to drive in winter.
I live in Monroe County in northeastern PA; the foothills of the Poconos. The difference in weather and road conditions between where I live, in the valley, and 12 miles north, west and uphill from here can be unreal.
I've found that real winter tires help enough to make them worth getting; as usual it comes down to money.
It's true that some of the best all-season tires have reached the point where they are almost as good in light-to-medium snow, slush or slop as average snow tires. One of these days I'm going to try the Nokian WR all-season tire.
Still there's no all-season tire that will perfrom as well on ice as will a good winter tire, as far as I've seen. Ice can be a real probelm here.
Of course, people get excited when the forecast calls for 6" of snow---which should not be a huge problem if your road is plowed, you have good tires, (even all-seasons) and you know how to drive. It's the coating of ice that falls without warning and coats the road that's the real danger.
Thanks for the advice.
Regards, Eric M
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Eric wrote:

Quite hilly. Look at a topo map to get a feel for it.

If it is worth it to you, then that is all that matters.

This has been my experience.

True. Also true that no winter tire performs as well on dry or wet pavement as an all season tire. Which do you have more of?

6" isn't even a problem on unplowed roads unless it has an unusually wet and heavy snow (think spring).
Matt
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I thought for sure that last comment above would have brought Brian out - he's been almost MIA for the past couple of weeks. Maybe someone should go over to his house, just to check...

I'm pretty familiar with with Monroe County and the surrounding area. Driven through there a lot. As far as snow fall goes, we'd call the annual accumulation down there "a dusting". But... black ice is a common enough occurrance as you encounter the Poconos.

That's where the rubber hits the road - so to speak. In the conversation that Brian and I had this became one of the pivotal points. Brian really likes what his snows do for him so in my opinion, that makes them worth the money for him. I've had snows and I never saw enough benefit to them in the upstate NY climate. We get 300 inches of snow a year around here and it's not uncommon to plow snow with the car such that it's piling up over the hood, just to get down the road I live on and up into my driveway.
As I pointed out in my discussion with Brian, for the most part I do not use any of the cool tires. I take the 60 series tires off that come on so many cars today and put on a 70 or 75 series that give me a better cut into the snow. I also pick tires with aggressive sipe and tread patterns that bite snow and drain water. I'm anal about that. Tires like these will do more for a car - even on ice, than a lot of people realize. Depending upon the manufacturer, they can still be found labeled Mud and Snow, which is what an aggressive ASR used to be called, but that nomenclature seems to be disappearing these days in favor of the simple ASR.
The one exception to what I say above is the tire that came on the Grand Am I bought this year. It's an '03 and it came with a brand new set of some Japanese(?) M&S radials. They're a 50 series tire and I was convinced that I'd be replacing those quite quckly. Well - I didn't get around to it and guess what... They have a very aggressive sipe and tread and they chew through the snow in an unbelieveable way. They've handled hard pack extreemely well too. So... the jury is out on these tires. Whereas I would have condemed them initially and proclaimed them unsuitable for winter use, they're still on the car now and I'm giving them their due. But.. it's an extreemly aggresive tread for this style of tire. We'll see how they hold up in terms of mileage, etc.

I'll add that they are good in heavy snow as well as light to medium - as long as the tire is a good deep tread tire with sipes that create nubs that weep to the sidewalls and good shoulders. That is a different design than the more sporty low profile ASR that is so common today.

Correct. We have excellent snow removal around here, owing to the amount of snow we get, but we can still find ourselves driving through a foot or more of snow on a fairly regular basis. It's just a matter of the snow falling faster than the plows can make their routes. Cars just go through it. The bigger problem is on the interstates (I-81) where the hardpack can build up and drivers are too stupid to allow for that. I don't care if you have snows, studs, or metal cleats - hardpack is not a 75mph driving surface. For the most part - I'd rather have some snow on the roads in the winter. Snow is traction.
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Mike Marlow wrote:
(SNIP)

Yep. A big problem here is melt and refreeze. The temperature fluctuates a great deal, especially as you get out of town and head uphill.
(SNIP)

In a way you are actually lucky to get that much snow, in re road care. People---including those charged with plowing and treating the roads---have to take the weather seriously as a matter of survival. Around here it's different.

I'm no expert, but as far as I know all tires that meet the "Mud and Snow" standard---which can't be that tough, based on some of the tires I've seen---have "M+S" marked on the sidewall.
My standard for running all-season tires in the winter is: Must be a matching set of 4 radial tires, marked "M+S," must be graded "A" for traction, must have at least 6/32 tread depth left with all 4 tires within 1/32 treadwear. I wish I knew more about tread design and technical aspects but I'm no mechanic.
(SNIP)

Yep. It's the same way out near Erie. As noted, there are actually some advantages to getting that much snowfall each winter, assuming the road crews and drivers know how to deal with it. (That will never happen here.)
Thanks for all the advice on tires for winter driving, guys. I think we've about talked it out. I'm interested in hearing what it's like to drive the Sonata on a daily basis, if anyone would care to share.
Regards, Eric
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Eric wrote:

I'll be happy to post my impressions once I've driven mine a little more. I'm just about to fill the tank for the first time, so I don't even have an initial impression of the gas mileage as yet!
If there is something specific you would like to know, let me know and I'll my current thoughts, but with only 400 miles of driving, keep in mind that they will be INITIAL impressions only.
Matt
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Matt Whiting wrote:

It's kind of hard to put in words, but what does the Sonata 'feel' like on the road. As I mentioned I like a smooth ride---not floaty and disconnected like a Merc. Grand Marquis, but definitely to the smooth side of average---but also like decent handling, i.e. when you turn the steering wheel the car actually turns right away, and you're not scared to drive in heavy freeway traffic for fear you won't be able to correct in time if someone does something stupid.
That's why I keep coming back to GM despite some issues with durability and refinement. In most cases GM suspension and steering feel right for me.
The Malibu Classic I drive now just 'feels' good on the road. When I hit a bump, on the one hand I know it's a bump; on the other hand it does not throw either me or the car for too big a loop. If I steer sharply to avoid the bump, the car will respond right away but will not run off the road, (or if it does it's my fault).
My old Saturn sedan was even better in this respect. If I could do it over again I would have kept that car and run it into the ground. Problem was it was just too damn small; the Malibu/Sonata ('06)/Camry size is just right for me.
Regards, Eric
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Eric wrote:

This one is hard to say as feel is pretty subjective. I haven't driven many GM cars lately, just the occasional Grand Am rental car. The Sonata definitely rides smoother than the Grand Am and has more precise steering. I like a little more feedback in the steering than the Sonata provides, but it isn't bad. It is also much quieter than the Grand Am, but probably not much more so than some Buicks I've driven in the past. Braking is very good. I find the electronic throttle to be the worst aspect. It doesn't have the tactile feedback that conventional throttles have and is very light. This is especially trouble-some when starting out with the standard shift tranny. The engine is quiet so you lack sound feedback and don't have much feel from the clutch and throttle. It is hard to watch the tach and also watch traffic. I find I either overrev to 2000 RPM or occasionally stall it, and I've driven standard shift for 30 years, including OTR trucks. I'm slowly getting used to it, but it definitely isn't an easy stick to drive, at least starting out.
I'd say go test drive one. That is the only way to accurately gauge if the feel will suit you.
Matt
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Well - the Sonata in our family is my wife's car. It's an '04 GLS and we both love it. Every time I drive it I continue to be impressed with how smooth the car goes down the road. It's a beautiful little car. Very nicely done inside, though I'm really a leather interior guy, so I wish it had that. The seats sit too high for my preference and they're kind of hard, but not so much so as to be uncomfortable.
Remember all that snow we get? Well, it's on the factory Michelins with about 28,000 on them and they just chew right through everything we've faced so far this winter. The car handles very nicely on snow and ice and is quite predictable. That makes a big difference in how well a car is in the winter.
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Mike Marlow wrote:

Thanks for the info. If I do get a Sonata it will almost certainly be the '06 model. That's a quantum leap improvement over previous generations by most accounts. That's what made me consider Hyundai in the first place.
Note that I don't have to buy a car this year---my Chevy is holding up OK so far---and it would stretch my budget tight to get a new Sonata. Still it sounds so good from what I've read and heard that I am seriously considering it.
Of course if someone is giving away a low-mileage '04 or '05 Sonata for pennies on the dollar value, I would consider it....
Eric M
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Matt Whiting wrote:

This is the crux of it. What you say is true....but compare the potential down-sides to the trade-off.
Snow tires on dry pavement don't handle as well in turns or stay as straight and true on highway trips, (depending on wheel alignment) and the gas mileage might go down a click. OTOH, snow tires on icy or even slippery roads can save your life---or at least save your car and prevent or lessen injury---compared to all but the very best all-season tires.

Right again, but you have never seen some of the new transplants to this area from the city out there on the roads in their first winter in the Poconos. Even in their SUVs with ABS, traction control and in some cases AWD they can't handle it. As one of you guys said, winter driving is much more about the driver than the equipment....still I'll take good snow tires when I can afford them.
Regards, Eric
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