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2003 Sonata

Overall rating:  Product Rating: 4.0

Reviewed by 22 users

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Sonata GLS - What a surprise!

by rbinck:      Sep 17, 2003 - Updated Sep 20, 2003

Product Rating: 5.0 Recommended: Yes 

Pros: Roomy, big trunk, comfortable, great warranty
Cons: I personally don't like 4 door cars.
The Bottom Line: If you are looking for a new car to purchase, give the Sonata a look.

My wife and I took a trip to the Seattle area and arrived realizing we had not made a rental car reservation. When we got over to the rental car counters, every booth had a long line except for a few. We stopped at the Dollar booth and they told us they were out of cars as there was something or another going on. We moved down to Thrifty, which did not have much of a line, beginning to get a little worried if we were going to get a car. It was important for us to get a car as we had dinner plans over in Wenatchee.

Thrifty said we were in luck they had a car and since we were going to rent for a week, they would give us a discounted price. The price was less than I expected, so I was pleased, but not sure what I was going to end up driving at this point.

When we arrived at the rental lot after a fairly pleasant van ride, I began to notice all of the passenger cars there were Hyundai's. I remarked to my wife that it looked like we were going to be driving a Hyundai. She was immediately less than enthusiastic, but when we got into the car, her attitude immediately changed.

Car Description
The car they gave us was a 2003 Hyundai Sonata GLS, pearlescent white with a tan cloth interior. We noticed as we were loading our luggage it had a really roomy trunk. The initial closing of the doors also surprised both of us, as the outside noise seemed to be completely gone. And we were right outside of an airport! I handed my wife the rental agreement folder to place in the glove box and even that was a surprise. She remarked as to just how substantial the glove box door was and upon checking it, I had to agree. We haven't even put the car in gear and already liked it!

The engine in the car was a V6 and had plenty of power, although as is typical of the foreign V6 cars, the first few miles per hour seem to take a long time. Nothing like a throaty V8 to pump out torque, I guess. As you can probably tell, I am used to an American made V8 hot rod, but this Sonata did well in the performance department. In fact, once the car was above about 10mph, it performed very well. Looking at the manufactures specs, it looks like the 5 speed manual transmission would cure the sluggish start as the drive ratio is much better than the automatic.

The car we rented had the optional power operated moon roof and it was surprisingly quiet even when it was open.

All in all I thought the car was very easy on the gasoline and I was impressed with the gas mileage we got considering the performance. I didn't keep track of it, but I could tell the gas mileage was good. The manufacturer claims 19 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. Couple this with the $ 17,000 price tag, 100,000 mile or 10 year warranty I understand the cars come with, and you have a formula for some long term savings.

Ride and Handling
I would rate the ride as good considering the size and weight of the car. The seats were comfortable and were plenty adjustable for me. After about 4 hours of driving the seat did begin to get a bit hard, though.

The handling of the car seemed ok, although I did not put it through its paces either. We were on vacation, so I just drove normally. I did have one occasion to make a pretty quick stop and the brakes performed as one would expect. The steering seemed bit quicker than what I am used to, but after a couple of days, I was used to it.

I found the looks of the car to be very pleasing. It reminds me somewhat of a Jag. The cat eye headlights do that, I suppose. Speaking of headlights, these are some great ones. Night driving in some cars gives me a feeling that I am overdriving my headlights, but in the Sonata I did not get that feeling at all.

Other Nice Things
I particularly liked the gearshift in this car. Rather than the PRNDL floor shifter you get in most cars, this one had what Hyundai refers to as SHIFTRONIC™ manual shift mode. This shifter has the normal Park, Reverse, Neutral and Drive on the left hand side of the shifter, But once you are in the Drive position, you can move the shifter to the right where you have two positions for manually shifting the transmission from gear to gear. To shift to a lower gear you pull back momentarily on the shifter and to shift to a higher gear you push the shifter forward… very cool! This came in handy on some of the mountain roads we encountered.

Another neat feature of this car is the 60/40 fold down rear seats. This would allow long items, such as skis, to be transported. Both seats may be folded down, so there is quite a bit of width in the trunk pass through. The car comes with child seat anchors and passenger assist grips (3) over the doors. From the manufacturer’s web site other features include:

Independent Front and Rear Suspension
Front MacPherson Strut Suspension w/ Gas Shocks
Rear Multi-Link w/ Trailing Arms Suspension
Front and Rear Stabilizer Bars
Power Assisted 4-wheel Disc Brakes
17.2 Gallon Fuel Tank
Power Assisted Rack and Pinion Steering

Adjustable Driver Seat
Deluxe Full Cloth Seat Trim
Front Door Map Pockets
Cloth Headliner
Full Instrumentation w/Tachometer and Warning Lamps
Fully Trimmed Cargo Area (including Trunk Lid)
Driver's Footrest

P205/65R-15 Michelin Tires
Body Color Front and Rear Bumpers
Body Color Bodyside Moldings
Aerodynamic Halogen Head Lamps
Body Color Dual Power Remote Side Mirrors
Body Color Door Handles
Tinted Glass
Front Fog Lights

Non-CFC Air Conditioning
AM/FM stereo CD player w/ 6 speakers
Cruise Control
Quartz Digital Clock
Power Package (Windows, Door Locks, Mirrors)
Tilt Steering Column
Variable Intermittent Windshield Wipers
Electric Rear Window Defroster w/Timer
Front Dual Cup Holders
Remote Trunk Lid Release
Remote Fuel Door and Hood Releases
Deluxe Center Console Armrest with Covered Storage Area
Driver & Passenger Side Visor Vanity Mirror
Cargo Area Lamp
Low Fuel Indicator
Front Side Window Defogger
Main Console Storage Area Below Ashtray
Central Overhead Room Lamp

Front Dual Airbag System (Second Generation)
Side Air Bag System (Front Seat Mounted)
Remote keyless entry system with alarm
5-MPH Front and Rear Bumpers
Rear 3 point Non Passive ALR/ELR Seat Belt Sys (All Positions)
Front 3 point Non Passive ALR/ELR Seat Belt Sys (ELR Drivers Only)
Passenger Presence Detection (PPD)
Side-Impact Protection
Child Seat Anchor
Adjustable Shoulder Height
Anchors - Front Seat Belts
Front Seat Belt Pretensioners w/ Force Limiters
Energy Absorbing Front and Rear Crumple Zones
Energy Absorbing Collapsible Steering Wheel
Transmission Safety Interlock
Parts Marking (VIN Labels) on 14 Major Body Parts
Center High Mounted Stop Lamp
Day/Night Rear View Mirror
4 Spoke Soft Grip Steering Wheel with Airbag
Energy Absorbing Collapsible Steering Column

If I were looking to buy a new car (which I’m not) I would give Hyundai a good look. I was very impressed with the quality, fit and finish and overall performance of this Sonata… and that’s saying something for a died-in-the-wool Detroit hot rod person.

Amount Paid (US$): 17000
Product Rating: 5.0
Recommended: Yes 

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