With standout styling, thrifty yet powerful engines and plenty of features and amenities, the latest Hyundai Sonata is a strong contender in the ever-crowded mid-size sedan segment. Aside from the standard Sonata discussed herein, Hyundai also offers the thrifty Sonata Hybrid.
Styled at Hyundai's Irvine, California, studio, the Sonata is a fresh design 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" design language that has become a hallmark of recent Hyundai models.
Slightly larger than the outgoing Sonata, the new car feels roomier inside and also boasts more upscale materials and a more cohesive layout.
Although completely redesigned just one model year ago, Hyundai has also updated the latest model year with the addition of Blue Link, the Korean automaker's own infotainment system, as a standard feature.
Blue Link offers Bluetooth hands-free calling, current traffic and weather information, a lifeline to emergency services and roadside assistance. Blue Link can also be linked with a smart phone to let the owner know where the car is, how fast it is driving, or provide diagnostics from the vehicle's engine.
Other updates and packaging changes include the addition of the three-piece panoramic sunroof as standard equipment on the Limited trim level, a new seven-inch touch screen for navigation with HD Radio, an available rear backup camera on the SE when equipped with the Sunroof and Navigation Package.
The Sonata's entry-level engine is a direct-injection 2.4-liter four-cylinder that puts out 198 horsepower (200 ponies on the sportier SE trim level) and 184 lb-ft. of torque yet delivers an estimated class-leading 35 mpg on the highway with the optional six-speed automatic transmission (a six-speed manual is standard on the base GLS trim). Regardless of transmission, the Sonata is expected to be rated at 23 mpg in the city, but the manual is rated at 34 mpg on the highway.
Rather than using a V6 as the up-level engine choice, the Sonata employs a 2.0-liter turbo four that uses Hyundai's latest 'Blue Drive' turbocharging and direct-injection technology to produce 274 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque. Mated exclusively to a six-speed automatic transmission with SHIFTRONIC manual shifting control, the Sonata 2.0T is rated at 22 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway on regular fuel.
Trim Level Breakdown
Hyundai offers the Sonata with the naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine in three trim levels (GLS, SE, Limted), while turbo four-equipped models are offered in two trim levels (2.0T SE and 2.0T Limited)
The entry-level GLS comes standard with power window and locks, A/C, cloth upholstery, a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, remote keyless entry, 16-inch steel wheels with hubcaps and a trip computer. The GLS can be optioned with the Popular Equipment Package, which adds 16-inch alloy wheels, a power driver's seat with adjustable lumbar, upgraded interior trim and automatic head lamps. A navigation system and premium audio upgrade are also available.
The GLS gives way to the SE, which adds a middling two horsepower but also 18-inch alloy wheels, unique dark chrome exterior touches, fog lights, dual exhaust, a sport-tuned suspension and steering combination, proximity entry with push-button start and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear knob. The SE comes only with the automatic transmission and can be optioned with a moonroof, navigation system and premium audio.
From there, the Limited adds leather seats, dual zone automatic climate control, automatic-dimming mirror with compass, CD changer, HD radio, upgraded audio, 17-inch alloy wheels, panoramic moonroof, exterior mirror-mounted turn signals, upgraded interior trim and rear seat vents. For the Limted, navigation, a rear backup camera and Infinity-branded speakers are all bundled together in an optional package.
The 2.0T SE trim comes standard with a smart key, sport-tuned suspension and steering, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, dual chrome-tipped exhaust pipes, push-button start, fog lamps, sport seats with leather bolsters and cloth inserts and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The 2.0T Limited model adds leather upholstery, heated seats front and rear, a panoramic sunroof, dual zone automatic climate control, a premium sound system and a choice of piano black or woodgrain interior accents.The only option is the Navigation Package. True to its name, it adds a navigation system with a high-resolution touchscreen display as well as a Infinity sound system and a backup camera.
Hyundai is especially proud of the trio of audio systems tailored to the all-new Sonata. GLS and SE models get an AM/FM/CD player with six speakers and XM capability, but they will offer a Dimension-branded premium system with a touch-screen navigation. Limited models come standard with the Dimension audio system and a CD changer but offer a 400-watt Infinity audio system.
Every Sonata model comes standard with dual front, front side and side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems, active front head restrains, electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist.
Hyundai designed the Sonata to go head-to-head with the most popular entrants in the mid-size sedan segment, which include the smooth and reliable Toyota Camry and the oft-lauded Honda Accord. Other worthy rivals include the Ford Fusion, which offers a relatively sporty driving experience, as well as the capable Volkswagen Passat.