We can be as open-minded and enthusiastic as we like, older car aficionados still remember the trials and tribulations of Korean manufacturer Hyundai's first arrival in the Americas: the infamous but no less popular Pony topping the list of our grievances. This no doubt accounts for the fact that when we're thinking of buying a new car, the name Hyundai doesn't come spontaneously to mind. Neither does Kia, for that matter.
Which is admittedly too bad, as those early days are long gone. Current Korean vehicles, despite the claims of some supposedly expert Sunday drivers, are increasingly better assembled, increasingly reliable and, above all, offer virtually unbeatable value. And the 2009 Hyundai Sonata is probably the best example of this.
I have to mention a reservation from the get-go, however: even if the quality of the vehicles is increasing exponentially, the same can't be said for their style. The Sonata's exterior, for instance, has only been very lightly retouched for 2009. This is rather regrettable, as it could give secret agents lessons in inconspicuousness.
The interior gets more or less the same treatment. It's been slightly remodelled, but on the whole the design is exemplary in its sobriety and without eccentricities. In the end, this might be exactly what a typical buyer of this sedan is looking for: a quiet interior that is impeccably assembled using good quality materials. Even our tester's wood trim was remarkable.
Space and more space
A distinguishing mark of the Hyundai Sonata, the interior space is generous. So generous, in fact, that in Canada it's considered a mid-size sedan, but our neighbours down south rank it among its full-size brethren.
This generosity ensures leg and head room rarely seen in this class. Passengers have free access to the rear seats with having to squeeze together, while front riders are equally well treated.
Even the trunk offers cargo capacity well beyond the norm and proved capable of accommodating days' worth of family baggage without seeming stuffed to the brim.
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