2015 Hyundai Sonata - Driven

The Sonata has been roaming the streets of America since 1989. Those early Hyundais were rather boring, bland cars with little styling, questionable reliability, and a name that was synonymous with less-than-impressive tax brackets. Things began to change for the Korean automaker when its products became better looking and longer lasting. The 2005 Sonata was a key player in that movement with its good-looking proportions and U.S.-built claim-to-fame. Things got even better in 2011 when Hyundai debuted the YF platform Sonata. Its upscale looks and solid powertrain sent the competition packing and sent Hyundai’s sales numbers skyward.

Now entering 2015, the Sonata has once again gone under the knife. But unlike 2011, the look is more sculpted, angular, and upscale thanks to Hyundai’s new Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design language.

Like I mentioned in my Sonata preview article, I spent a recent day behind the wheel of Hyundai’s newest car in hopes of gaining an understanding about the direction the new Sonata is headed, as well as the changes that exist.

Click past the jump for the full review

TopSpeed Garage

Exterior

Hyundai Sonata - Driven
Hyundai Sonata - Driven
Hyundai Sonata - Driven

Hyundai designers say their inspiration came from seeing athletes in well-tailored suits — crisp angles and hard edges complemented by areas of smooth creases and flowing lines. It’s a completely different take on the Sonata of the outgoing model, but it plays well for the brand, especially considering it looks a lot like its big brother, the Genesis. That image consistency should do well for Hyundai.

Hyundai designers say their inspiration came from seeing athletes in well-tailored suits

More specifically, the new Sonata comes with two basic looks: the Sport and everything else. The Sport enjoys a bolder grille with fewer, but larger horizontal bars that are colored in satin chrome. The lower fascia gets black molding, giving it a Cheshire Cat appearance. Around the side, a chrome accent piece along the rocker panels adds flair, along with 18-inch, double-spoke wheels. At the rear, quad chrome-tipped exhaust pipes add a lot of character.

On SE, Limited, and Eco trims, the car has a much more subtle look about it. The six-sided grille is still there, but the bars are less flashy. The smaller alloy wheels — no wheel covers or hubcaps here! — allude to a less sporty demeanor. A single, six-sided exhaust pipe protrudes on SE and Eco models, while the Sport trim with the standard 2.4-liter I-4 engine enjoys two of the tips. Only the 2.0T gets the quad tips.

Nine exterior colors are available for 2015, with the Urban Sunset (pictured) only available on the Sport 2.0T.

2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco Walk-Around

Interior

Hyundai Sonata - Driven
Hyundai Sonata - Driven
Hyundai Sonata - Driven

Behind the exterior styling lies a reimagined interior. The designers took obvious inspiration from the Genesis sedan with the basic design and layout. The angular center stack and triangle-like air vents look very similar. Also like the Genesis, the Sonata is classified as a full-size sedan by the EPA. Yep, even though Sonata plays in the midsize category, its interior volume dictates otherwise. That translates to a great benefit for customers who’ll enjoy the rather roomy accommodations both front and back.

The designers took obvious inspiration from the Genesis sedan with the basic design and layout

Up front, legroom was nary a complaint, as was shoulder, hip, or headroom. Folks over six feet will still find plenty of space inside. Rear seat passengers are treated to much of the same. Legroom is fantastic. Personal bubbles stay intact as long as the rear passenger count stays at two, as the armrest folds down to provide a nice separator. The seats also are 60/40 split folding for hauling extra long cargo.

Like the outside, the Sport model comes with its own interior accoutrements. Thickly bolstered seats with Sunset Orange accent stitching look the part and are far more comfortable than the standard seats. The flat-bottom steering wheel is thick and feels great in-hand.

Hyundai Sonata - Driven

Three separate infotainment systems are available within the Sonata. The base car comes equipped with a non-touchscreen head unit. The next step up includes a five-inch touchscreen with HD Radio, SiriusXM, Bluetooth, and a backup camera. The top-line infotainment system includes an eight-inch touchscreen with a 10-speaker, 400-watt Infinity audio system. Navigation, app integration, SiriusXM, Bluetooth, and on later models coming soon, Apple CarPlay with Siri “Eyes Free” integration.

Apple's CarPlay is coming, but with late availability

What’s more, the eight-inch unit includes Hyundai’s Blue Link Connected Care service, Google-powered destination searching, and app-powered remote access. Those destination searches are particularly handy considering the information is pulled directly from Google, so the info is fresh. With the smartphone application, you’re able to start the car and control the HVAC and window defrosters. Clever.

Drivetrain

Hyundai Sonata - Driven

The Sonata is available with one of three engine options. The volume powertrain is a revised version of the naturally aspirated, 2.4-liter, inline four-cylinder. The Eco model comes powered by the new turbocharged, 1.6-liter, inline four-cylinder and the Sport 2.0T comes with the range-topping, turbocharged, 2.0-liter, inline four-cylinder mill. No V-6 options are offered, and for good reason. It reduces passenger compartment space, adds weight, and reduces efficiency. Hyundai says the 2.0-liter turbo provided enough performance for engineers to nix the idea of a V-6 powerplant.

2.4-liter I-4

Available in the SE, Sport and Limited trims, the revised 2.4-liter provides adequate power while giving good fuel economy in a compact package. It produces 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque while getting 25 mpg city, 37 mpg highway, and 29 mpg combined. It comes mated to the carry-over six-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic selectable shifting.

Technically, the engine is less powerful than last year’s. Engineers say that’s due to revised engine mapping that broadens the powerband. The result is power that’s more accessible lower in the rpm range. While it may be down number wise, it feels just as peppy.

I suspect the 2.4-liter to work well enough for the majority of Sonata buyers out there. It gets respectable mileage but does feel somewhat underpowered when passing and pulling hard away from a stop. NVH is almost non-existent thanks to extra sound deadening within the engine and passenger compartments.

1.6-liter Turbo

Only available in the Eco model, the 1.6-liter is still in the latter stages of development. I did get a chance to drive an early test model, and I can say it’s rather impressive – at least around town where my test loop took me. It makes an estimated 177 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque and is actually mated to a seven-speed dual clutch. Now before you start clapping in excitement of sporty intentions, you’d better consider this dual clutch’s purpose. It’s designed to get the most efficiency from the 1.6-liter and put down high fuel economy numbers. The combination seems to do so, getting an estimated 28 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, and a combined 32 mpg. That’s roughly at 10 percent improvement over the 2.4-liter.

2.0-liter Turbo

Heading up the performance department is the turbocharged, 2.0-liter I-4. It churns out 245 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Direct injection, electronically controlled valve timing, and a twin-scroll turbo help produce the power. It’s matted to the six-speed automatic found with the 2.4-liter.

I found the 2.0T to be a decent engine. It’s peppy, eager, and willing to run. Zero to 60 mph happens in roughly 7.5 seconds. Torque steer is somewhat apparent in tight corners, but otherwise isn’t a problem. That’s thanks to a unique steering rack on for the Sport 2.0T model that livens up steering feel and responsiveness. It’s noticeably more agile than the standard steering system and has a much better on-center feel.

Besides the exterior additions the Sport 2.0T brings, the engine is a great reason to shell out the extra cash. The 2.0T adds roughly $5,000 to the standard Sport’s base price of $23,985. Starting price for the extra grunt begins at $29,385.

Safety

Hyundai Sonata - Driven

Hyundai has upped its game in the safety department for 2015 as well. It starts with a strengthened chassis and roof frame. In addition to welds, the metals are held together with structural adhesives that not only strengthen, but also quiet the cabin. Blind Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Active Cruise Control with full-stop capabilities, Forward Collision Warning, Auto High Beam Assist, and the addition of a driver knee airbag helps keep occupants safe.

Pricing

Hyundai Sonata - Driven

Pricing for the 2015 Sonata runs a wide gambit, from $21,150 up to $33,525. The Sport 2.0T tester I spent a majority of my time in has a base price of $28,575. Add in the $810 destination and delivery fee plus a whopping $0.00 for the zero options included, and the price came to $29,385. Even though it was optionless, the car came with some nice amenities. Leather seats, the five-inch infotainment system, the standard 18-inch wheels, and of course, the sporty 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4.

Model MSRP*
SE$21,150
SE Popular$22,350
Sport$23,875
Sport Premium$24,875
Sport Tech$26,625
Limited$26,525
Limited Tech$30,025
Limited Ultimate$31,575
Sport 2.0T$28,575
Sport 2.0T Ultimate$33,525
Eco 1.6T$23,275
Eco 1.6T Tech$27,375

*All prices not including the $810 destination fee

Competition

Toyota Camry

Toyota Camry

Long the stalwart of the midsize category, the Toyota Camry presents tough competition for not only the Sonata, but every other contender in the category. With heavy revision for 2015, the Camry looks sportier and more fun. Power comes from three powertrains: the standard 2.5-liter I-4, a hybrid version of the 2.5-liter I-4, and the 3.5-liter V-6. The base 2.5-liter offers 178 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque while its hybrid version actually produces more power at an even 200 ponies. The V-6 makes a nice 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque.

A tasteful interior not only looks good, but is highly ergonomic and user friendly. Toyota’s Entune infotainment system offers plenty of connectivity options including navigation and app integration.

Pricing hasn’t been announced for the 2015 model, but expect it to stay close to the current model’s. Base price for the 2014 starts at $22,425 and moves into the low $30,000 range.

Honda Accord

Honda Accord Touring - Driven

The Honda Accord has always been a top seller in the midsize sedan category for more years than we can remember. It’s made its reputation of solidly built, reliable transportation that somewhat sporty to drive. That recipe hasn’t changed much in the last 20 years as the Accord continues to rank near the top of the sales charts.

The Accord is powered by a sweet 3.5-liter V-6 featuring Honda’s i-VTEC variable valve timing system that helps the engine produce 278 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque. It’s mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Sixty mph comes a quick 6.2 seconds.

Pricing for the Accord starts at $21,995 and rises to nearly $35,000 with all the boxes checked on the top trim level.

Conclusion

Hyundai Sonata - Driven

Overall, the new 2015 Sonata proved to be a surprising midsize car. With decent road-holding characteristics, only mild understeer under hard cornering, minimal torque steer under hard acceleration, and fantastically low NVH levels, the car proved it’s a strong competitor in the midsize pack. What’s more, its unique exterior styling and clever interior design make it a top choice for those looking for a good all-round family sedan. I came away impressed with the improvement Hyundai has made with this generation change and I’m sure Sonata sales will prove the car-buying public will agree.

LOVE IT
  • Handsome exterior looks
  • And interior that resembles the upscale Genesis
  • 2.0T is the sweet spot
  • 1.6T offers surprising pep
LEAVE IT
  • Perhaps not as memorable as the current Sonata’s design
  • 2.4-liter can feel underpowered at times
  • Still waiting on crash test results

What is your take?

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