By Frank S. Washington
SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich. – The Sonata is Hyundai’s second best-selling model and that is by a silvery thin 2 percentage points. So whenever the Korean automaker changes the car it is done with great care and great planning.
For the 2015 model year, Hyundai wants to broaden the Sonata’s customer base and bring it in line as the automaker moves to a more familial appearance for all of its vehicles. The new Sonata was a little bit longer, a little bit wider and a smidgen taller than the model it replaces.
The styling was crisp, balanced and modern with taut surfaces. The grille mimicked that of the newly introduced Hyundai Genesis except its hexagonal form was not as deep. The rocker panels were taut and they seemed to help the car hug the ground. Its belt line was stretched to accentuate the Sonata’s length.
The Sonata Sport featured a more aggressive front grille and bumper, side rocker extensions and side chrome molding. The car looked low, long and fast.
Inside, the Sonata’s center stack had been replaced with a center control pod. The move follows the trend to more horizontal interior layouts. The pod was gently angled toward the driver and we thought the fit and finish was excellent. It almost looked like a two-dimensional image rather than three-dimensional control knobs and buttons.
Hyundai wanted to make the controls intuitive and comfortable. That means the driver doesn’t have to take his eye off the wrong for long periods to engage the controls. They pretty much accomplished that goal.
Of course, there was a slight difference in the interior of the regular Sonata and the Sonata Sport. But that was mostly color and materials. The 2015 Hyundai Sonata, which went on sale in May, comes in nine different colors and it has six different interior schemes depending on the model.
Consumers have three engine choices: a 2.4-liter four cylinder that makes 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque. Mated to a six-speed automatic transmission it gets 24 mpg in the city, 35 mpg on the highway and 29 mpg combined.
A 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder makes 245 horsepower and an impressive 260 pound-feet of torque at 1,350 rpms. Mated to a six speed automatic gearbox, it gets 23 mpg in the city, 32 mpg on the highway and 26 mpg combined.
The most impressive engine in the trio is the 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbo that makes 177 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. Mated to a seven-speed dual clutch transmission, it gets 28 mpg in the city, 38 mpg on the highway and 32 mpg combined.
This engine is only available in the Eco model. There are five other models: the SE, the Sport, the Limited, the Sport 2.0T and the Sport 2.0T w/ultimate package. Hyundai is covering a lot of ground in the midsize sedan segment with the variants of the Sonata.
We drove the Sonata Sport 2.0T from here to Ann Arbor. In a nutshell, the front-wheel-drive sedan was spacious. Because of its four-cylinder engine, it had almost as much interior space in the front compartment as a full-size sedan.
The car handled well and the suspension smoothed out the rutted roads. But the 2015 Hyundai Sonata could be tweaked just a little bit. The engine bay could use a little more soundproofing; we could hear that engine a little too much. There wasn’t any torque steer but it could be called torque veer when the Sonata was under aggressive acceleration. And there was just the slightest bit of turbo lag. Still, all these characteristics had to be looked for, which is our job. It is doubtful that the average driver would even notice any of these gripes.
There were three drive modes: normal, sport and Eco. The sport mode stiffened the suspension and quickened the steering. We listened to the sport talk radio but we really didn’t listen to the audio system or use the navigation system.
Our test vehicle was equipped with the ultimate package. It included a panoramic sun roof, lane departure and forward collision warning systems, rear parking aid, automatic high beams; a power passenger seat and ventilated (cooled) front seats. There was more in the package, including a navigation system, satellite radio and side sunshades in the rear. Our test vehicle was $34,460.
Base prices range from $21,960 for the SE to $34,335 for the Sport 2.0T/Ultimate. Both prices include an $810 freight charge. Bottom line: the new Hyundai Sonata is a stylish, midsize sedan that can be equipped with all the bells and whistles and outfitted with an engine choice that meets the need of most everyday drivers.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com