2019 Hyundai Sonata- The Pendulum Swings

There’s an old adage that “you can’t please everyone.” Hyundai knows that all-too-well when it comes to its long-running family sedan; the Sonata. Picture it…….the United States….2010. Hyundai debuts its radical fifth generation Sonata to much fanfare. For the first time ever, there were waitlists for……a….Hyundai sedan. Annual sales nearly doubled by the time I tested that Sonata in 2013 and the car became a true force to be reckoned with. But alas, all was not well in the kingdom and back in Hyundai’s home market, the new look was too showy for Korea’s conservative tastes. To win those buyers back, Hyundai went a conservative route with the all-new sixth generation in 2015. The tactic worked, initially. But like the little Dutch boy plugging the hole in the dike with his finger to save Haarlem, another leak sprung and demand in America dropped to pre-2010 levels. Desperate to find middle ground, Hyundai did a major refresh in 2018 to liven up the Sonata’s personality in an effort to make everyone happy. But can they, and did they, succeed?

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2012 Volkswagen Passat- Das Amerikanische Auto

DSCI0264It used to be so simple in the automotive world.  Cars were cars and trucks were…..uh….trucks.  There were no crossover thingy-majigs or niche markets.  And when it came to selecting a national origin of a new car; the choices were even more clear.  Japanese cars were technologically advanced and well-made.  The Koreans aimed for the thriftiest of shoppers.  The Americans had the sumo-sized accommodations in the bag.  And the Germans graced our roads with performance oriented, but pricey, status symbols.  But things are no longer what they seem, and when a car that hails from the land of Autobahns and bratwurst starts off with a lower base price than its main Korean competitors, something is, as they say, “whack”!  Volkswagen, having nearly lost its way in the American market two decades ago, is determined to seize its share of the 16 million cars sold in the US market annually.  But to do so, they’ve fought back with larger interior dimensions and a lower price tag, addressing common complaints about the big V’s prior offerings.  In fact, the all-new 2012 Passat’s base price is $7,000 cheaper than the outgoing models ($19,995 vs. nearly $28,000 on the 2011).  This new version takes direct aim at the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, and Chevy Malibu.  Uh oh, we’ve heard this approach before with the Jetta and the results weren’t so flattering; a mediocre car that felt cheaper than some of the Germans you’d find on Oranienburger Straße.  With that dark cloud looming over, how does this transformation work on the new Passat?

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2013 Hyundai Sonata- The Underdog Strikes Back

DSCI0138Maybe it’s a personal preference, but I’ve always had an affinity for the underdog.  You know, the guy that has all the odds against them- who will more than likely walk away in shame and defeat.  I cheered when the New York Giants won the Super Bowl in 2004.  Was overjoyed when the little engine that could…. really could.  And cried when Urkel went to the prom with the love of his life, Laura Winslow.  Okay, maybe I didn’t react to any of those events (would I really confess to it if I did?), but I’ll admit to always having a soft spot for Hyundai.  The spunky Korean automaker that arrived on US shores in 1986 with affordable and cheery little cars that were cheap as chips but later garnered a reputation of bad quality.  The perceived quality was so bad that Hyundai almost fled out of the US market.  Unlike other automakers in similar situations, such as Alfa Romeo, Yugo, and Fiat, Hyundai tenaciously clung on and offered improved products and generous warranties to qualm any reliability fears.

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