LOOKS Sensual
AMBIANCE . Condo Max
COMFORT . Serene
QUALITY . Consistent
STEREO . Mid Level
FUN TO DRIVE . Cruise Liner
HEADS TURNED . Discreet Peepers
EMOTION . impressed
CACHET . High Class


Sticker . $18,062
Power .142 horsepower
0 to 60. 9 to 10 sec.
Test Mileage. 20.8 mpg
Seating. 5
Trunk. 13.2 cubic feet
Parking . Silent


Silky & Silent

The biggest problem with the Sonata, is the quizzical looks you'll get when you say "top-of-the-line" Hyundai. For better or worse the marque is typecast by those tinky Excels of $4995. yesterday. This car is much better and deserves a fresh audition.

They have stopped trying to market on money and put their eggs in a bigger basket. The Sonata is totally fresh and up to date. Big, silent, silky and refined, I was impressed with the ride and demeanor. The shape is soft and polished, given to no clutter and emphasis on sleek form, except for the bizarre new grille for '97. The environs are pastel, with an abstract flecking; relaxing and clean like a new condo. The power is smooth and easy, roads seem to glide under the wheels.

Big news for '97 is the optional V-6. Based on the Mitsubishi design, this is a torquer, well suited to an automatic. It runs well, but is no exciter and the transmission was on the jerky side and unwilling to wind out very much. On the upside, you won't find comparable power at anywhere near the price.

Comfort well tended, adjustable wheel, soft seats, dual airbags, attractive detailing and a decent audio set-up to soothe the commute. Huge trunk, roomy interior, tight solid feel. Material quality is way up, and just short of best in class.

On first impression, this is a desirable car, well-detailed, useful and stylish. An easy rider. There is a lot of reputation to rebuild, since previous Hyundai's were prone to trouble. Only time will tell, but it seems they are trying to make up for lost ground with a better product. Not a bad approach.