Hyundai's front-wheel-drive Sonata comes in three value-priced models for 2008: GLS, SE, and Limited. Each is available with either a 162-horsepower, 2.4L four-cylinder engine or a 234-horsepower, 3.3L V6. The GLS and SE four-cylinder models have a standard five-speed manual transmission; a four-speed automatic is optional on those trims and standard on the Limited. All three trims get a five-speed automatic when equipped with the V6.
With the standard five-speed manual transmission, the four-cylinder models return 21 city, 31 highway, according to the new, more stringent EPA estimates.
A four-wheel independent suspension brings a smooth ride; it's a double-wishbone setup in front with a multi-link arrangement in back. Hyundai says that the Sonata has torsional stiffness that is 29 percent higher than the Honda Accord, which allows a more comfortable ride not to the detriment of handling.
The Sonata stands out for having a roomy interior; its cabin ranks it as a large car by EPA standards, while its 16.3 cubic-foot trunk space also gives it an advantage over most of the competition.
All Sonata models come with more safety features than is typical for the mid-size class, especially when compared with other four-cylinder models. Electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes are standard across the line, along with active head restraints and six air bags.
The base GLS model also comes with standard keyless entry, alarm, split folding back seats, air conditioning, cruise control, and a CD/MP3 sound system that also offers XM satellite radio. A Popular Equipment Package on the GLS adds upgraded trim, automatic headlamps, a power driver's seat, and steering wheel audio controls. The mid-range, sporty SE model brings larger 17-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, a leather-wrapper steering wheel, and fog lamps. A Premium Package on the SE adds an upgraded audio system with six-CD changer and subwoofer, a power sunroof, garage door opener, and compass.
At the top of the range, the Limited brings aluminum side moldings, chrome accents and trim, leather seats, upgraded audio, automatic climate control, and heated front seats. A power sunroof is the only significant option.