The Hyundai Sonata has entered its evergreen phase: what was once the come-from-behind mid-sized sedan in the 2000s has planted itself in the center of this very popular market.
A week with the refreshed 2015 Sonata Limited showed why; the car that Hyundai aims at the Accord and Camry combines thoughtful design with a controlled driving experience.
You must stay fresh in the mid-sized sedan segment, and so Hyundai imbued the 2015 Sonata with a bunch of newness. Most noticeable is the Sonata’s refinement of “Fluidic Sculpture” design, with a grille in the shape of a pointed and horizontal-accented “Hexagonal Wing”…
…with corresponding shaping in the instrument panel’s center stack.
If it feels like you’ve seen the Sonata’s “coupe-like” raked rear window before, you have – on the Ford Fusion, Subaru Legacy, Mazda6 and others.
So what if it’s derivative? Apparently this is the look the Sonata needs to make its near-Ford Fusion sales figures – about half of the Camry but at least four times more than that of the Mazda6. The Sonata’s refinements for 2015 result in something that seems handsome and familiar.
The Sonata’s front end sure is close to the Subaru Legacy’s, though.
Competitive prices reflect the Sonata’s popularity. Add the mandatory $810 destination to get the true MSRPs for each of these.
Note that the Sonata Hybrid continues with the previous generation’s style. However derivative the 2015 refinements are, they do make the old one look dated.
Three four-cylinder engines are offered: a 185-horsepower 2.4-liter liter (SE, Sport and Limited), a 178-hp 1.6-liter (Eco) and a 245-hp 2.0-liter turbo (Sport or Limited). The test car is a 2.4-liter Limited with a $32,510 sticker.
Among its options were the Tech Package ($3,550), which includes items such as the “Panoramic” sunroof…
…the electroluminescent gauges with a 4.2-inch center LCD display…
…and the Infinity speakers and subwoofer.
Opting for Tech means you can also get the Ultimate Package ($1,550), which includes Smart Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning and Forward Collision Warning. Nice to see a control panel filled with buttons and no dummy plugs.
All but the Eco have a six-speed automatic transmission – no CVT, yay! – and the Eco has a seven-speed to get those mileage numbers up.
Over the road, the Sonata impresses with a feeling of firmness and control. Steering has a notably tight response, and it quickly corrects back to center. There’s also much directness in the brakes, so that your passenger can feel the gradations of your pressure on the pedal. Not mushy at all, the Sonata Limited is linear and reactive.
Acceleration with the 2.4-liter four was more than adequate; it needed a stomp to merge onto freeways, but around town, it effortlessly dipped in and out of traffic. This was encouraged by a suspension that kept the body level while affording a gracious ride. It wasn’t sporty, but this Sonata Limited felt here to help.
Inside, the Sonata is comfortable. Front seats are broad while still giving cozy support. The ventilating feature brought by the Tech Package is always welcomed by those of us who get sweaty when we drive.
Extra kudos to Hyundai for endowing the Limited’s standard power seat with a lumbar support that adjusts not only in and out but up and down. It is enormously frustrating to drive cars that outpace the Sonata’s price by tens of thousands of dollars, only to have a lumbar support that pokes you in a place that the carmaker decided the General Human needed it.
The instrument panel has a strong horizontal aspect. It’s a confident and soothing interface that funnels the hard buttons into understandable groups. Normally you wouldn’t want such similar buttons placed in line with each other, but the logic of them here works well.
The upturned center screen is vivid and responsive, although an opened panoramic roof can wash it out when the sun is high.
The horizontal row of steering-wheel rocker switches exhibits visual and tactile ease.
Sonata covers tech with AUX and USB connections, which are aided by Hyundai’s BlueLink Telematics system and can stream apps like Pandora. The front bin helpfully has outlets for both front occupants as well as a thickly padded bin for their phones. The outlets glow blue at night.
The rear seat is comfortable, although its 35.6 inches of rear legroom falls short of the Accord’s (38.5) and the Camry’s (38.9).
You’d have to look hard to find deal-breakers in the Sonata. The firmness built into the steering and brakes gives a welcome feeling of control, and inside and out, the car exudes modernity.
The instrument panel with its sprawling control panel gives an extra feeling of ease; you keep noticing those horizontal lines and how relaxed they make you feel. This is what a large chunk of mid-sized sedan buyers want, and the Sonata serves it up.
2015 Hyundai Sonata Limited
Base Price: $27,335 (including delivery)
Price as Tested: $32,510
Tech Package: $3500
Includes: Panoramic Sunroof, HID Xenon Headlights, Navigation With Eight-Inch Screen, Infinity Speakers And Subwoofer, HD Radio, Elecroluminescent Gauges With LCD Screen, Memory And Ventilated Front Seats, Heated Steering Wheel, LED Interior Lights
Ultimate Package: $1,550
(Requires Tech Package) Includes: Smart Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning, Electronic Parking Brake With Vehicle Hold, High Beam Assist, Rear Parking Aid
Carpeted Floor Mats: $125
Multi-adjustable lumbar support
Smallish rear legroom