Midsize car; Built in South Korea
  • 4-door sedan
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $2,500 – $5,300*

2002 Hyundai Sonata

2002 Hyundai Sonata

2002 Hyundai Sonata interior

2004 Hyundai Sonata

2004 Hyundai Sonata

  • Instruments/controls
  • Ride
  • Automatic-transmission performance
  • Rear-seat comfort

For equipment and comfort, Sonata and its Optima compatriot are impressive values that came with generous warranties when new. No wonder both have drawn record sales. Steep depreciation and low resale values, as with most South Korean cars, help enhance their value on the used-car market. Overall, these two appeal as bargain-priced Toyota Camry alternatives, with little need for apology.


Hyundai’s front-wheel-drive compact sedan got revised styling and a larger V6 engine for 2002. The Sonata shared its mechanical components with Kia’s Optima. Hyundai owns the Kia organization.

Sonatas came in base, GLS, and LX trim levels. Base models held a four-cylinder engine. GLS and LX sedans got a 181-horsepower, 2.7-liter V6 engine, which replaced a 170-hp 2.5-liter. A manual transmission was standard with either engine, and a four-speed automatic was optional. The automatic transmission included a manual shift gate for selectable gear changes.

Once again, front side airbags were standard. GLS and LX sedans had standard four-wheel disc brakes, and antilocking was optional on all models. Optional traction control was limited to the GLS and LX.

Hyundai, like Kia, has been known for its long new-car warranty: 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper coverage, plus a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. Competitors included the Chrysler PT Cruiser, Mazda 626, and Volkswagen Passat.

Yearly Updates

2003 Sonata
Lighted power-window switches and a battery-saver feature topped the short list of 2003 additions to Hyundai’s compact sedan. GLS and LX models used a 170-horsepower, 2.7-liter V6 engine.
2004 Sonata
Little changed for the 2004 Sonatas.
2005 Sonata
Heated front seats are newly available for Hyundai’s midsize sedan. Sonata continues in GL, GLS, and LX trim and, for 2005, adds a GLS Special Value version that is the only model with heated front seats. Also for ’05, a universal garage-door opener is new and included on the GLS Special Value and LX.


transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

Sonata sedans came with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine or a 2.7-liter V-6. Each engine mated with a standard five-speed manual transmission or an optional four-speed automatic. Published engine output ratings dropped after the 2002 model year.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.4/146
Engine HP 138-149
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 147-156
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.7/162
Engine HP 170-181
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 177-181
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic

Road Test

Sonata acceleration is modest but adequate in four-cylinder form, at about 10 seconds from 0 to 60 mph. V6 models are noticeably quicker: around 8.7 seconds with an automatic transmission. The automatic transmission is acceptably smooth, but is sometimes slow to downshift for passing and also too eager to upshift, making its manual shift gate more useful than usual.

In a mix of city/highway driving, a Sonata GLS V6/automatic averaged 19.7 mpg. With more highway driving, a GLS V6/automatic averaged 22.4 mpg. A Sonata LX/automatic logged a surprising 25.2 mpg in a combination of swift urban work and performance tests. Both engines use regular fuel.

The Sonata’s compliant suspension soaks up most bumps with ease, though these sedans float a bit over large dips and humps. Comfort-biased tires keep impact harshness pleasingly low.

Steering/handling is modest but predictable, despite marked body lean in fast corners. The GLS and LX are helped by 16-inch wheels, versus 15-inch on other Sonatas.

Brakes are a little touchy in routine use, and managed only a class-average showing in a simulated emergency stop–even with ABS. But the non-ABS system resists lockup and nosedive is well checked.

Road noise drowns out wind rush at highway speeds, but is not objectionable. Neither is engine noise, though both engines sound rather coarse and aren’t quite as smooth as rival Japanese units.

Both the Sonata and Optima have mostly large, well-placed gauges and controls. All power-window switches are illuminated. Materials are hard to fault for the price, but glossy woodgrain plastic trim on higher-line models cheapens the ambience and the available leather lacks richness.

Front occupants get ample head and leg room. Comfortable front seats offered manual or power height adjustment. They sit relatively high to windows, so outward vision is commanding.

The rear seat is wide enough for two adults who have decent headroom but must sit knees-up if front seats are pushed very far back. The rear cushion is somewhat low and a bit too soft for best support, but has a fold-down center armrest.

Hyundai’s flat-floor trunk has a smallish opening, but good volume. Compact hinges don’t dip into the load area. The seatback folds easily but not quite flat, and the pass-through isn’t full-width. Interior storage space is generous.


Model Tested: 2002 Hyundai Sonata GLS

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 5
Fuel Economy - 6
Ride Quality - 6
Steering/Handling - 4
Quietness - 5


Controls/Materials - 5
Room/Comfort Front - 5
Room/Comfort Rear - 4
Cargo Room - 3


Value - 4

Total: 47


4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
106.3 186.9 71.7 56.0
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
14.1 17.2 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.3 37.6 43.3 36.2
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: N/A


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Front Passenger Injury - N/A

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Automatic transmission
Description: Numerous automatic transmission problems including shift flares, erratic shifting, delayed engagement and harsh shifts due to numerous glitches including a bad fluid temperature sensor, improper shift solenoid operation, low or worn out fluid, blown fuses, etc. (2002-03)
Climate control
Description: The climate control may blow warm air when cold is desired or cold air when warm is desired because the aspirator hose (for the sensor) comes off the vent. (2002)
Engine noise
Description: Ticking noises from the engine are from the hydraulic lifters and revised lifters are available. (1999-02)
Description: Squeaking and squawking noises from the front and/or rear require revised anti-sway bar bushings. (2002)

Recall History

Description: The side impact air bag sensors may be too sensitive, and bag may deploy when door is slammed. Dealers will inspect and replace affected parts.
Description: If the spare tire is installed in the front position on some vehicles, it may inadvertently set the traction control system into motion, causing overheating and a loss of speed. Dealers will replace with a larger spare tire.
Description: Fuel tank assembly vales on some vehicles may not close properly, causing possible spillage. Dealers will inspect and replace affected parts.
Description: Repeated use of the interior door handle may cause wear of the chrome plate. The worn chrome plating may result in a crack between the chrome plating on the inboard and outboard surfaces of the handle, which may form a sharp edge. Dealers will repair the chrome plated interior door handle free of charge.
Description: (vehicles originally sold in or currently registered in the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.) Road salt applied during the winter months may result in progressive, internal corrosion of the front sub-frame, and may result in thinning or perforation of the sub-frame steel. The corrosion is frequently visible and often discovered during inspection or routine maintenance, and owners may also hear noises or notice tire misalignment and steering pull. Dealers will measure the thickness of the front sub-frame and inspect the front sub-frame for corrosion damage and, if necessary, the front sub-frame will be replaced with a new sub-frame that incorporates additional holes in the upper and lower panels.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.

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