The sixth-generation Hyundai Sonata burst onto the automotive scene seemingly out of nowhere. Featuring a slick, windswept appearance, cutting-edge tech, and excellent value, the 2010 Sonata was a shot over the bows of Honda and Toyota and a turning point, in my opinion, of the Hyundai brand.
The 2015 Hyundai Sonata that pulled into the garage this week is less rebellious. The design has been toned down and more upright. It's got a broader appeal, but is also more generic. Styling is subjective, but I think the new car stands out less in the parking lot and turned fewer heads than the last.
One of the first thoughts that crossed my mind upon settling behind the Sonata's wheel was that it has the most uncomfortable front bucket seats that I've tested in recent memory. Flat and wide, hard and unsupportive, you'll slide all over these things while cornering -- especially when upholstered in the slippery leather trim of the Limited model.
In the "pros" column, the Limited model does come fairly well-equipped, featuring standard heated front seats and a rear bench that is heated in the two outboard seating positions, as well. A heated steering wheel is also available as an option. Filling out the list of standard features is a smart keyless entry and push-button start system and the brand's first implementation of the hands-free smart trunk. Simply approach the rear of the vehicle with the keyless entry fob in a pocket, and after a few seconds, the trunk will automatically pop open. This system can be defeated via a menu option if that sounds too spooky for you.
Dashboard tech has also been revised and features updates to the BlueLink telematics system, but the most interesting new feature is also the weirdest, and potentially, the most useless.
On every audio source screen, you'll see a small, yellow icon that indicates and activates the new SoundHound integration. You may recognize SoundHound as a music-identification app for smartphones; it works here just like it does on your phone. Click the button while listening to music on the Hyundai's stereo and the software will silently process the audio and tell you what you're listening to -- artist, album, and song title. The system can also display biographical information about the current artist, which you can read only while parked. This would probably be more impressive if most terrestrial and satellite radio stations, CDs, MP3, and Bluetooth streaming sources didn't already display this data right there on the touchscreen. You may occasionally find it useful if you've got a USB full of "untitled-1.mp3" files or frequently listen to a radio station that doesn't broadcast RDS information, but during my testing it never told me anything I didn't already know.
The Dimension standard audio system features a full range of digital media sources, including USB/iPod connectivity and Bluetooth for audio streaming and hands-free calling, but our example was equipped with the optional Tech package which adds a 10-speaker Infinity premium audio system with a total output of 400W. This checkbox also adds navigation, a massive panoramic sunroof, a heated steering wheel, cooling ventilation to the front seats, and upgrades the headlights to HID Xenon illumination.
Finally, the automaker's Hyundai BlueLink telematics system has been updated to include a few new tricks, including geofence notifications when the vehicle enters or exits predetermined virtual areas -- useful for knowing when the car leaves your neighborhood without your knowledge or for getting automatic notifications when a teen driver arrives at school. Drivers can also manually share their location or send text messages to preselected recipients after setting up these features on Hyundai's website. It's a bit clunky, but it kinda works.
iPhone toting techies will probably want to wait to pick up their Sonata when Apple CarPlay connectivity is added to the sedan's bag of tricks via a midyear refresh. Apple's system has a wildly superior voice-entry system for text messaging and hands-free calling, though some may prefer Hyundai's onboard system to Apple Maps.
Standard and optional safety tech
Standard safety technology on the Limited model consists of standard stability control, a rear camera and airbags tucked into every nook and cranny.
Our model is further augmented with the optional Ultimate package, which adds blind-spot monitoring, a lane-departure warning system, automatic high beams, and rear proximity sensors. This checkbox also adds a forward-collision warning system and adaptive cruise control, which maintains a safe following distance to the car ahead when under cruise control and is a full speed system able to bring the car to a complete stop if traffic dictates.
Power and performance
The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine under the hood of our Limited model is the less exciting of the three engines available to the 2015 Sonata.
It's a respectable mill that outputs a respectable 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque and probably won't disappoint most with its performance. The engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and puts power to the front wheels. Fuel economy is stated at 24 city, 35 highway, and 28 combined mpg -- nearly bang-on identical to the Sonata's primary competitors: the 2015 Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.
A more powerful 245-horsepower turbocharged engine is available on the Sonata 2.0T Sport model and a more efficient, 38 highway mpg 1.6-liter turbo mated to a seven-speed gearbox is coming soon for a Sonata Eco model.
Getting back to the example at hand for testing, the Sonata Limited features a trio of driving modes -- normal, eco, and sport -- in addition to a manual shift program for its automatic transmission. The eco drive mode remaps the throttle pedal's travel for better fuel economy at the cost of a bit of responsiveness. You'll have to push the pedal a bit further than you would in normal mode to get the sedan to accelerate, but the result should be more consistent cruising speeds and a bump in miles per gallon.
The sport mode tweaks the accelerator mapping for more aggressive tip-in and adjusts the shift points for better throttle response. It also weights up the steering by reducing the amount of power-steering assistance in an effort to make the handling feel sharper, but the result is an artificially heavy feeling that doesn't add much in the way of additional fingertip communication.
I should note that the aforementioned Sport 2.0T model uses a different steering rack that may have a better feeling. Deeper bolsters on its seats and a sport-tuned suspension may also be a means to the sporty end result, but they're probably fighting an uphill battle against the Sonata's cushy sedan nature.
Located close to the top of the trim level totem pole, $26,525 is the asking price for a 2015 Sonata Limited. Our example also featured the optional Tech package ($3,500), Ultimate package ($1,550), and floor mats ($125), as well as a $810 destination charge. That brings us to an as-tested price of $32,510, which is about as close to fully loaded as the Sonata gets in the States. The Sonata is currently not available in UK and Australian markets.
In trying to beat the more-established competition, the 2015 Sonata may have joined them. It toned down its head-turner style and turned up the bland. I think I liked the previous generation better than I do this one, but I get that styling is subjective and that not everyone is looking for "sporty" performance from the family car. Perhaps more importantly, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata is still a pretty good value for a midsize sedan -- giving you more car and features for the buck. It may be losing a bit of the scrappy underdog edge as it matures, but maybe that's just a part of growing up.
|Model||2015 Hyundai Sonata|
|Powertrain||2.4-liter I-4, direct-injection, six-speed automatic transmission, FWD|
|EPA fuel economy||24 city mpg, 35 highway mpg, 28 combined|
|Observed fuel economy||N/A|
|Navigation||Optional 8-inch touchscreen, voice command, Bluelink telematics|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard hands-free calling, text messaging|
|Digital audio sources||USB/iPod, 3.5mm aux, USB, HD Radio, satellite radio, Bluetooth audio streaming|
|Audio system||Optional 400W, 10-speaker Infinity premium audio|
|Driver aids||Standard rear camera / Optional blind-spot monitoring, rear proximity sensors, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning|
|Price as tested||$32,510|