With standout styling, thrifty yet powerful engines and plenty of features and amenities, the latest Hyundai Sonata is a strong contender in the crowded mid-size sedan segment. The Sonata is offered with a pair of four-cylinder engines and a gasoline-electric hybrid drivetrain.
Hyundai has given the Sonata a mid-cycle refresh for the latest model year. Updates include a number of exterior revisions, ranging from a new grille design, LED tail lamps and available HID headlamps to reworked 17- and 18-inch wheel designs.
Inside, new noise reduction measures make for a more serene driving experience, while a driver selectable steering system provides three different steering modes. Other changes include an optional blind spot detection system, an available front seat ventilation system, new display screens and a host of other trim-specific cabin upgrades.
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" design language that has become a hallmark of recent Hyundai models.
The look continues inside, where a flowing center stack and fluid lines create an attractive appearance. 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. In most other respects, passenger space is more than adequate.
For the latest year, a 4.3-inch touchscreen audio display with a rear parking camera and HD radio is available for most Sonata models, and a LCD info display mounted at the center of the instrument cluster is newly standard on all but the base model. Opting for navigation garners an 8.0-inch touchscreen.
The Sonata comes standard 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.
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 (192 ponies and 181 lb-ft on the sportier SE trim level). Fuel economy is rated at 24 mpg in the city and 35 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 employs direct injection and a turbocharger to produce 274 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque. This mill is rated at 22 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway on regular fuel.
All Sonatas are equipped with a six-speed automatic, as the previously standard six-speed manual has been discontinued. Turbocharged models feature steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Trim Level Breakdown
Hyundai offers the Sonata with the naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine in three trim levels (GLS, SE, Limited), while turbo four-equipped models are offered in two trim levels (2.0T SE and 2.0T Limited). Many models benefit from new standard equipment for the latest model year.
The entry-level GLS comes standard with power window and locks, A/C, cloth upholstery, a six-speaker, 104-watt AM/FM/CD stereo with AUX and USB inputs, a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, remote keyless entry, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control 16-inch alloy wheels. Driver-selectable steering is newly standard.
The GLS can be optioned with the Popular Equipment Package, which adds heated front seats, a rearview camera, HD radio, a 4.3-inch touchscreen audio display a power driver's seat with adjustable lumbar, leatherette door panel inserts, exterior mirrors with integrated turn signals, a driver's blind spot mirrors, LED interior dome lights, chrome interior door handles and automatic head lamps.
The GLS gives way to the SE, which brings all of the Popular Equipment Package's goodies in addition to a sport-tuned suspension, dual exhaust with slightly more engine output, fog lights, a rear lip spoiler, chrome exterior trim, a proximity key with push-button start, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and 18-inch alloy wheels. New standard kit includes an LCD info screen and imitation carbon fiber interior trim. Opting for the 2.0T SE adds dual-zone automatic climate control in addition to the turbocharged 2.0-liter in place of the standard 2.0-liter.
Optional on the SE is the Premium Package, which nets a navigation system with 8.0-inch touchcreen, NavWeather, NavTraffic, a 360-watt Dimension premium stereo, dual-zone automatic climate control (for the 2.4-liter model) and a sunroof.
From there, the Limited adds leather upholstery, a ventilated driver seat, heated seats front and rear, dual zone automatic climate control, automatic-dimming mirror with compass, CD changer, HD radio, upgraded audio, a sunroof, exterior mirror-mounted turn signals, upgraded interior trim and rear seat A/C vents, a softer suspension and 17-inch alloy wheels. The 2.0T Limited brings 18-inch alloy wheels, dual exhaust tips and paddle shifters.
The optional Technology Package for Limited garners a navigation system with 8.0-inch touchcreen, NavWeather, NavTraffic, a panoramic sunroof, a 400-watt Infinity premiums stereo, HID headlights and LED taillights.
The Sonata Hybrid is motivated by a direct-injection 2.4-liter four-cylinder gas engine that pairs with an electric motor that's been upgraded with more power for the latest model year. A new starter generator and an improved battery pack are two other recent revisions.
With both its gas and electric powerplants running, the sedan produces 196 horsepower and a healthy 235 lb-ft of torque - the latter up from 195 lb-ft in last year's model. That's more torque than any other hybrid on the market, and, uniquely, its sent to the front wheels through a smooth-shifting conventional six-speed automatic transmissions. Rival hybrids use continuously variable transmissions (CVT), which some drivers find unpalatable due to the delayed "rubber-band" acceleration and high noise levels associated which such gearboxes.
For all of its advantages, the Sonata Hybrid falls short in terms of overall fuel economy. Competitors like the Ford Fusion Hybrid carry significantly more impressive EPA mileage ratings.
In order to visually separate the Sonata Hybrid from the gas-only car, the hybrid model features unique headlights and taillights, a more aerodynamic front fascia, hexagonal grille, eco-spoke wheels, Hybrid Blue Drive badging and exclusive hybrid-only paint colors. Inside, the sedan features a special instrument cluster with eco-display options that's inset in an attractive, flowing dashboard.
The Sonata Hybrid is available in base and Limited trim levels.
The base model comes standard with dual-zone automatic climate control, power windows and locks, heated front seats, a 106-watt, six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo system with Aux and USB inputs, a 4.2-inch TFT screen, Bluetooth connectivity, automatic headlights, LED taillights, fog lights, Hyundai's Blue Link telematics system, a proximity key, push-button start and 16-inch alloy wheels.
The Limited ups the ante with 17-inch wheels, a full-leather interior, heated rear seats, a rear backup camera, a 400-watt Infinity sound system and a navigation 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 stylish Ford Fusion, the fine-driving Mazda Mazda6 and the capable Volkswagen Passat.
The Sonata Hybrid can be cross-shopped against the 47-mpg Ford Fusion Hybrid and the proven Toyota Camry Hybrid.