With the last-generation Sonata, Hyundai shot forward from building well-built, but boring cars to having buyers line up for the pleasure of owning them. Sonata was immediately mentioned among industry benchmarks Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, and Nissan Altima. Sleek styling, efficient engines, and sporty handling made transporting the family much less of a chore. Completely redesigned, Sonata goes back to the well.
I’ve read the armchair quarterbacking over the Sonata’s updated styling. I don’t think it is as forward-reaching as the last generation Sonata, but it is not boring either—especially in 2.0T trim. The grille is designed to resemble its counterpart on the upscale Genesis sedan. An arching roofline with panoramic glass, ground affects, 18-inch alloys, and lip spoiler add enough sportiness for weekend warriors to feel all manly while carting kids to piano practice and karate competitions. Lighted door handles are a nice touch. It is a handsome car that achieves a 0.27 drag coefficient—lower than any other non-hybrid midsize sedan.
“We crafted the shape of the 2015 Sonata in the same way an award-winning chef refines his recipe over the years,” said Chris Chapman, chief designer, Hyundai Design North America. “With the 2011 Sonata, Hyundai took the midsize sedan from a meal to a gourmet dinner. The evolution to Fluidic Sculpture 2.0’s tauter, modern lines reflects the improvements in refinement and driving dynamics for 2015.”
Interiors will cause less carping. The overall themes move from twin-dash organic forms that have been Hyundai’s norm lately towards an angled driver-centric lay-out that could just as easily be in a Mercedes or Audi. Large analog gauges, thick leather-wrapped flat bottom steering wheel, and aluminum pedals encourage shenanigans, while heated/ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, and heated rear seats encourage you to chill for a while. If people stare, pull up the rear sunshades, open the panoramic glass roof, and forget their existence.
There are other neat tricks. A hands-free trunk opener, Hyundai’s Smart Trunk system, opens the trunk when it detects the key fob behind the vehicle for more than three seconds. The new touchscreen is easy to use for navigation and USB- or Bluetooth-connected smartphones. Turn up your personal tunes and rock out with Infinity audio. Safety on our tester was enhanced with blind spot warning, cross path detection, lane departure warning, and forward collision alert systems.
That’s not why you’ll buy a 2.0T. Plant your foot on the big pedal to feel the 2.0-liter, turbocharged, and direct-injected four-cylinder engine deliver 245 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque to the front wheels. That’s not Charger Hellcat power, nor is it even 3.6-liter Impala V6 power, but it’s smooth and plenty in a mid-size sedan. It all goes down through a six-speed automatic transmission with manual mode. Preserving pennies, it impresses with 23/32 mpg city/hwy.
Keeping things tight is a sport-tuned electronic suspension. The Sonata 2.0T would probably handle well even without the electronic system that adjusts handling between tour and sport modes with the touch of a button. Find a curvy road, tap into the turbo, and you’ll forget all about the chattering class in the second row.
There are other sedans that will tickle your laugh track more than the 2015 Sonata 2.0T, but they’ll cost a lot more than $34,460 as-tested. Too much? Base Sonatas start just over $21,000. Besides the cars mentioned above, competitors include the Chevy Malibu, VW Passat, Chrysler 200, Buick Regal, and similar Kia Optima.
2015 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T
Five-passenger, FWD sedan
Powertrain: 245hp 2.0-liter I4, 6-spd auto trans
Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
Wheels: 18-in./18-in. alloy f/r
Brakes: disc/disc fr/rr
Must-have features: Performance, style
Fuel economy: 23/32 mpg city/hwy
Assembly: Montgomery, AL
Base/as-tested price: $21,150/$34,460