Hyundai’s Sonata is a mid-size sedan with the interior room of a full size sedan. Available in three models, prices start at $21,995 for a GL model four-cylinder and range up to $31,495 for a fully loaded Limited V6 model. The Sonata Sport is priced between these two and features a small lip spoiler, leather bolsters on the seats with cloth inserts, performance tires and sport-tuned suspension. Riding a little firmer than the GL or Limited models but with a ride still supple enough it is comfortable for all day drives.

Subtle exterior differences distinguish the three Sonata models. Sport models have five-spoke alloy wheels, while Limited models have chrome exterior door handles and bumper inserts. All share the redesigned front end, with a deeper grille, larger headlamps and a new bumper cover with larger air intake. The major exterior body panels remain the same as last year but new tail lights and compact “shark fin” radio antenna on the roof identify the 2009 model. The big changes for the ’09 Sonata are found inside and under the hood.

From the driver’s seat, I recognized the new more contemporary dash design but I wasn’t overwhelmed like I have been in the past with previous Sonata models.

Perhaps that is because every previous Sonata has been such a dramatic improvement over its predecessor. For 2009, changes are more subtle. The new dash layout is modern and refined. The design is clean and uncluttered, and there is added functionality too.

I loved the USB and power connection in the centre console for my iPod. I plugged in a USB memory stick with some music and the audio display instantly recognized it, provided artist and album information and allowed easy selection of songs. The steering wheel controls make selections even easier.

Other standard features on all models include heated seats, ABS brakes, side airbags for front and rear seat passengers, tilt/telescopic steering, air conditioning and leather-wrapped steering wheel. V6 equipped cars also get stability control and traction control. Sport and Limited models also get a glass sunroof.

The new four-cylinder engine displacement remains the same at 2.4 litres, but the addition of variable valve timing has increased horsepower from 162 hp to 175 hp for the 2009 model. City fuel economy is now rated at 9.5 L/100 km and highway rating is 6.2 L/100 km.

On the road, the four-cylinder engine operates smoothly and quietly with fair power. The V6 engine is much quicker, especially noticeable when climbing hills or passing other cars but I could easily live with the power of the four-cylinder.

The five-speed automatic is new this year and helps performance. It shifts smoothly and the shift lever does have a manual mode if you desire a sportier feel.

The Sonata offers a quiet comfortable ride even on rough pavement and gravel roads.

2009 Hyundai Sonata

Type: Mid-size sedan

$21,995 (base MSRP)

2.4 Litre DOHC

HP: 175 at 6000 rpm

Torque: 168 lb.ft. torque at 4000 rpm

• Modernized interior
• USB connection
• Smooth, comfortable ride