The 2009 Hyundai Sonata earned a spot on our list of Best Reviewed family cars for winning over critics with its value and quality -- elements that make it a noteworthy budget alternative to class heavyweights like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. While bang for the buck is clearly a good thing, no one's ever going to accuse the current Hyundai Sonata of being exciting to look at. Its traditional 3-box design is about as vanilla as you can get. But that's about to change. Big time.
Last week, Hyundai unveiled the 2011 Sonata in Korea (the 2010 car carries over unchanged from '09), and it's a wholesale departure from the current car in the looks department. The conservative, traditional sedan shape is gone. Hyundai's stylists have gone upscale and penned the new Sonata to have a more rakish, coupe-like roof profile -- similar to the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class and the Volkswagen CC in that respect. Risk-taking was apparently encouraged, as the '11 Sonata sports a huge new grille that's probably going to look overwrought to some folks. The car displayed in Korea also boasts a highly-styled, modern, premium-looking interior.
The experts have begun weighing in already, and they mostly like what they see. Motor Trend calls it "immediately more eye-catching than its predecessor." Car and Driver has a similar reaction, saying, "Here, finally, is the Hyundai that really is going to stop people in their tracks." Consumer Reports' automotive web editor Jeff Bartlett had a very different reaction upon seeing the 2011 Sonata's new, more tech-heavy interior. He jumped on Twitter and decried the changes: "Noooo! 2011 Hyundai Sonata replaces stone-simple interior with modern complications. Very disappointed."
One thing that's unlikely to change is the Hyundai Sonata's value-oriented pricing approach, as that's been the secret sauce crucial to the inroads its made in the murderously competitive midsize family sedan segment. The new car's U.S. debut is expected to take place at either the 2009 Los Angeles Auto Show in December or the 2010 Detroit Auto Show in January. We're hoping for the latter, since we'll be there in person. Regardless of the venue, though, Hyundai's poised to make a lot of noise with a radically different new Sonata.