Don Messerli’s Blog |

An exercise in self-indulgence.

Hyundai Sonata? Probably not!

Monday Apr 14, 2008

This is the first of what will probably be many posts that come as a result of our trip to San Antonio this past weekend.

My Mini Cooper S is approaching 100,000 miles and, although it’s not ready to be replaced, I’ve been thinking far in advance about what make and model of car I want to replace it with. Don’t get me wrong. The Mini is one of the best cars I’ve ever owned. I WOULD replace it with another; but change is good. I’ve been thinking much more conservatively about cars lately.

I’ve always liked Hondas and owned a CRX in the 80s. It was great car. Only one minor problem I can think of. I sometimes kick myself for not replacing it with another Honda; like an Accord.

I’ve always liked the Accord, so it is a logical choice to consider for “the replacement”. But then the part of me that doubts my gut feelings kicked in and told me I should look at the Hyundai Sonata. Same price range as the Accord; but with a much better warranty. Hyundais have been considered good cars for years.

Well, on our recent trip to Texas, our rental happened to be a Hyundai Sonata. I really liked the car. Nice fit and finish. Comfortable. Easy to drive. Enough power for my needs. I could drive one of these on a long-term basis. On the third day, I found a few annoying things. First of all, the car has a tire pressure monitoring system like my Mini has. When we picked up the car at the rental agency, I noticed the light was on; indicating that one of the tires was low. I checked all four tires and they were fine. I asked the attendant if he knew how to reset the light and he said he didn’t; but as long as the tires seem OK, I shouldn’t worry about it. I didn’t worry about it until the third day when Regine had to check the manual for some other annoyance and found that the light cannot be reset in the field. You have to take it to the dealer and have them do it. On my Mini, there’s a button you can press when the car is idle that “calibrates” the system and tells it that the current tire pressures are optimal and should be used as a baseline. Yes, I’m over-simplifying; the system actually works based on the rotation speed of the wheels and not the actual tire pressure. That’s a subject for another blog post which I assure you I’ll never write.

I’m sure Hyundai has good intentions and since the car has a very long warranty (I think it’s 10 years/10,000 miles) it probably wouldn’t cost anything to take the car to the dealer to have them reset the light. But the auto manufacturers don’t seem to realize that people’s time is also very valuable; just like money.

The other annoyance was why Regine cracked the manual in the first place. There is a light in the dash between the climate control and the radio that tells you that the passenger airbag has been disabled. The manual states that the car basically makes a decision to disable the airbag based on the weight of whatever/whoever is in the seat when the car is started. It further states that if this light comes on by mistake, to stop the car, shut it off, have the passenger sit properly in the seat, and then restart the car. Rinse and repeat if necessary. There is no switch to manually turn on/off the passenger airbag. The car has made the decision. You, the driver, are too dumb to make the right decision. No airbag for you!

These are really more than just annoyances. They are instances of where Hyundai thought I was too stupid to make my own decisions and the dealer or the car are smarter than I could ever be. Basically, insulting my intelligence. I know a lot of people would think these are really cool features. To these people, ignorance is truly bliss.

The whole thing made me wonder. If I found this many annoyances in less than three days, how many others will there be with this car?

Now, the Honda Accord might have the same exact annoyances; you’ll be sure I’m going to check for them when the time comes.