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New Car/Review

1999 Hyundai Sonata GLS

By John Heilig

Hyundai Full Line factory footage (4:26) 28.8, 56k, or 200k

ENGINE:                  2.5-liter V-6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE:       170 hp @ 6,000 rpm/ 166 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION:            Four-speed automatic
FUEL ECONOMY:            20 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, 23.1 mpg test
WHEELBASE:               106.3 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 185.4 x 71.6 x 55.5 in.
CURB WEIGHT:             3128 lbs.
FUEL CAPACITY:           17.2 gal.
LUGGAGE CAPACITY:        13.2 cu. ft.
TIRES:                   205/60HR15
INSTRUMENTS:             Speedometer, tachometer, fuel gauge, 
                         water temperature, digital clock.
EQUIPMENT:               Power windows, power door locks, power mirrors,
                         power seats, cruise control, air conditioner, 
                         AM-FM stereo radio with in-dash CD player, 
                         four-wheel disc brakes, dual front air bags, 
                         side air bags.
STICKER PRICE:           $18,507

Almost from the time I first set foot in the 199 Hyundai Sonata, I was impressed with the car.

For one, it has a new grille and I liked the new appearance. I liked the new exterior lines that make it look "almost" like an Infiniti. I said almost because the Sonata's not quite there yet. Sonata has a nice aerodynamic shape that is very fitting for what is a decent mid-size car.

I remember my first Sonatas, and while I liked the car it still had the "tinny" feel of early Korean cars. So the first time you slam the door of the new Sonata and you hear a solid sound, you know you're in a new car. Hyundai has learned from being in the American market for a few years.

The next thing that impresses you is the stylish dash. The instrument panel isn't ultra-modern as in a Lexus, but it's functional. There is a decent amount of wood (or simulated wood) trim. Actually the comparison is closer to a Buick. The color is taupe with a dark wood trim.

I was also impressed with the analog HVAC system. It was efficient at warming up the car quickly in cold weather. My wife and I both complained about the lack of heated seats that help the cause along, but that was a minor complaint from two old people.

Once you put your foot on the accelerator and start moving, you discover the other new feature with the Sonata. Under the hood is a 2.5-liter, 170 horsepower V-6 engine that moves the Sonata along at a good clip. While a 2.4-liter four is still available in the lower-spec Sonatas, the bottom line shows that the V-6 is the obvious choice. The engine has adequate power to do anything any sane person would want to do with the Sonata. We were able to maintain speed with all the other cars on the road. Acceleration was good (although that's when the engine makes some noise because of the automatic transmission), and we had decent fuel economy.

I guess what impressed me the most was the relative silence of the engine. Under normal operation there's essentially no noise emanating from under the hood. It's doing its job under there and it's doing it relatively quietly. Under acceleration and when the transmission downshifts and the engine ramps up there is some noise.

The engine is hooked to a four-speed automatic gearbox that could have used a better choice of gears. A better choice would have improved acceleration. When you tromp down on the pedal, there's always a slight delay before everything kicks in. You can learn to deal with this delay and time your acceleration accordingly, but when you only have the car for a week, it is a problem.

Front passengers sit in cloth-covered individual bucket seats. IN the rea ris a split bench that's big enough for three people and has decent legroom. The split feature (60/40) is nice because it increases trunk capacity, while still enabling you to carry more than two passengers. We did our job of trying to fill the trunk on a couple of shopping trips. It's rated at 13.2 cubic feet and with the addition of the back seat for emergencies, there's a lot of carrying capacity in this sedan.

When Hyundai first came on the market in the United States it did it with the compact Excel (now called the Accent). The model range has increased somewhat over the years.

What is impressive now about the Sonata sedan, which I always generally liked, is the addition of a V-6 engine. This engine puts the Sonata in the same class as Honda, Camry and Taurus at a price that's about $5,000 less than the competition.