With standout styling, thrifty yet powerful engines as well as plenty of features and amenities, the latest Hyundai Sonata is a strong contender in the crowded mid-size sedan segment.
For the most recent model year, the Sonata gets a handful of incremental upgrades. Automated emergency braking has been added on models that featured forward collision warning, some models have received minor interior options adjustments and the suspension has been revised to improve handling and steering response.
Styled at Hyundai's Irvine, California, studio, the Sonata boasts striking sheetmetal that takes a few subtle cues from the sporty, coupe-like look of the first-generation Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class. The curvy and organic overall shape is an example of the "fluidic sculpture 2.0" design language that has become a hallmark of recent Hyundai models.
The attractive look continues inside, where a squared-off design allows for a larger center console and a more convenient switchgear placement. Fit and finish is excellent, although material quality is only average and rear seat passengers will find somewhat limited headroom due to the fast roofline. Passenger space is more than adequate in most other respects, and Hyundai's mid-sizer offers 16.3 cubic feet of cargo space.
The Sonata is offered with Hyundai's Blue Link telematics service, which can be spec'd to provide voice text messaging, point-of-interest web search and download, and automatic collision notification in addition to traffic, weather, restaurant and nearby gas station information. A dedicated application can transform a compatible smartphone into a remote control that can be used to turn the car on and off, turn on the rear defroster or set the climate control settings, functions that owners in cold climates will be sure to appreciate.
Additionally, the Sonata can be ordered with Apple CarPlay, a system that lets the driver make calls, use Maps, listen to music and access messages all on the car's available eight-inch touch screen. CarPlay is designed to work with iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c and iPhone 5 that are running the latest version of iOS 7.
The Sonata's entry-level engine is a direct-injection 2.4-liter four-cylinder that puts out 190 horsepower and 179 lb-ft. of torque. Fuel economy is rated at 24 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway.
The Sonata Eco is powered by a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 177 horsepower and 195 lb-ft. of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels via a brand-new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that helps Hyundai's mid-sizer return 28 mpg in the city, 38 mpg on the highway and 32 mpg in a combined cycle.
Rather than using a V6 as the up-level engine choice, the Sonata employs a 2.0-liter turbo four that employs direct injection and a turbocharger to produce 245 ponies and 260 lb-ft of twist. This mill is rated at 23 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway on regular fuel in Sport guise. Limited models see 21 / 31 / 25.
The 2.4-liter and the turbocharged 2.0-liter are equipped with a six-speed automatic. The 1.6-liter is linked to a new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Trim Level Breakdown
Hyundai offers the naturally-aspirated Sonata in four trim levels (SE, Eco, Sport, Limited), while the turbo four is offered in single trim level called Sport 2.0T. Each trim can be ordered with at least one option package.
The entry-level Sonata SE packs LED daytime running lights, remote keyless entry, a height-adjustable passenger seat, air conditioning, a tilt and telescoping multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, an auto up/down driver-side window, an AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with six speakers, iPod and AUX inputs and driver-selectable steering.
The SE can be ordered with Hyundai's Popular Equipment Package that bundles automatic headlights, a 10-way power adjustable driver's seat with lumbar support, a rear-view camera, a seven-inch color touch screen and a space-saver spare tire.
The Sonata Eco comes standard a seven-inch color touch screen integrated into the center stack, automatic headlights, a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat, chrome trim on the radiator grille and a rear-view camera.
The Eco can be fitted with a Technology Package that adds a long list of equipment including a Blind Spot Detection System with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Change Assist, a hands-free trunk lid, chrome exterior door handles, a proximity key and leather-upholstered heated front seats.
Stepping up to the Sport trim adds 17-inch alloy wheels mounted on all-season tires, a trim-specific radiator grille, chromed-tipped dual exhausts, side skirts, heated door mirrors with integrated turn signals, heated front seats, chrome interior door handles and bespoke trim on the inside.
The Sonata Sport can be ordered with an optional Premium Package consisting of a Blind Spot Detection System with Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Lane Change Assist, chrome exterior door handles, a hands-free trunk opener, a proximity key, a push-button ignition, sport seats with leather bolsters and cloth inserts, leather upholstery on the steering wheel and the shift knob, a dual-zone A/C and an auto up/down passenger-side window.
Buyers after more features can order an extra-cost Technology Package that brings an eight-inch touch screen with navigation, voice command technology, Apple Siri Eyes Free integration, a Blue Links telematics system, a 4.2-inch LCD screen integrated into the instrument cluster and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror. The Technology Package can only be ordered if the aforementioned Premium Package is selected.
The Sonata Limited packs all of the features included the SE's Popular Equipment Package plus wide selection of additional equipment including a Blind Spot Detection System with Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Lane Change Assist, chrome exterior door handles, a hands-free trunk lid, a push-button ignition, a proximity key, faux wood trim on the inside, leather upholstery, a six-way power adjustable passenger seat, rear air vents, metal door sills and a premium audio system with seven speakers.
Sonata Limited buyers can order a Technology Package that brings high-gloss window surround, a panoramic sunroof, HID Xenon headlights, an eight-inch touch screen with navigation, a 400-watt Infinity audio system with ten speakers, a 4.2-inch LCD screen in the instrument cluster, a heated steering wheel and a Blue Link telematics system.
Sonata Limited models equipped with the Technology Package can be further upgraded with the Ultimate Package that includes equipment like smart cruise control, a Lane Departure Warning System, Forward Collision Warning, automated emergency braking, an electronic parking brake, upgraded front brakes, rear parking sensors and automatic high beams.
The range-topping Sonata Sport 2.0T boasts all of the features included in the Sport trim plus a sport-tuned suspension, paddle shifters mounted behind the steering wheel, LED tail lamps, HID headlights, upgraded brakes, a rear air diffuser, an electric power steering system, quad exhaust tips, a proximity key, a trim-specific instrument cluster and bespoke interior trim. A conventional sunroof is also optional.
The Sport 2.0T can be fitted with the Ultimate Package that adds equipment like a panoramic sunroof, smart cruise control, a Lane Departure Warning System, Forward Collision Warning, automated emergency braking, an electronic parking brake, an eight-inch touch screen with navigation, a 400-watt Infinity audio system with ten speakers, heated rear seats, ventilated front seats and a memory driver's seat.
Every Sonata model comes standard with dual front, front side, side curtain and a driver knee airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems, active front head restraints, electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist.
Advanced safety features are available on certain trims.
Although classified as a large car by the EPA, the Sonata is designed to go head-to-head with the most popular entrants in the mid-size sedan segment including the smooth and reliable Toyota Camry and the oft-lauded Honda Accord. Other worthy rivals include the stylish Ford Fusion, the fine-driving Mazda Mazda6 and the capable Volkswagen Passat.