It wasn't long ago that many American buyers rejected the Hyundai Sonata as a serious alternative to segment leaders like the Honda Accord or Toyota Camry. While the Korean manufacturer's cars undercut Japanese competitors on price, it also delivered poor quality control, questionable reliability and abysmal resale value. That has all changed, however, and annual Sonata sales have nearly doubled in just a few years.
As good as the Hyundai Sonata has gotten, though, can it match the wildly popular Nissan Altima, which has earned consistent high marks throughout its lengthy history?
What the Nissan Altima Gets Right
Strong acceleration, excellent fuel economy, quality interior materials, intuitive controls and a composed ride: What more can a family sedan offer? The Altima has been redesigned for 2013, further enhancing its established appeal. The base 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine has 180 horsepower; an optional 3.5-liter V6 produces 270 horsepower. All Altimas have continuously variable transmissions that contribute to EPA ratings of up to 38 mpg on the highway.
What the Hyundai Sonata Gets Right
The Hyundai Sonata has become a segment leader, and should it be. It's comfortable, offers a confident drive and has many standard features that are available only as options on many competitive models. All Sonatas now have standard six-speed automatic transmissions. Base models feature 2.4-liter engines with 198 horsepower; a turbocharged variant makes 274 horsepower. Mileage estimates vary from 22 mpg city to 36 mpg highway. Hyundai has faced recent recalls, but it offers an industry-best 10-year/100,000 powertrain warranty.
So is the Sonata a better choice than the Altima?
Hyundai's dramatic turnaround has many automotive journalists and buyers rethinking their previous opinions. And while there still may be some skeptics, there's a reason Hyundai has done so well in recent years.
Our Verdict: Hyundai Sonata
It may not have the exact same level of performance as the V6 Altima, but the Sonata's polish, warranty and superior pricing give it the nod.