Compared to the bold last-generation sedan, the current Hyundai Sonata dials things down a few notches.
We give the Sonata a 6 for styling. The tapered shape is still quite handsome, while the cabin is quite plain. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Inside, the Sonata has a very straightforward look, with a big horizontal zone filled with a touchscreen and controls. The center screen's framed off inside a trapezoid that looks utterly German, and the stack is rich with knobs and buttons. It's a formal appearance, and a bit like the design used in the closely related Kia Optima.
The cabin is trimmed in good grades of plastic and leather. The printed wood-grain pieces aren't convincing, but the textured looks meant to mimic carbon fiber and aluminum do a fine job of dressing up a somewhat sober den. In all, it looks built to be durable, not vivid.
The current Sonata has been controversial, just like the last one. The previous car was a collection of dramatic curves and crests with lots of metallic trim. This one is arguably more sophisticated, but also more conservative. It's less busy overall, with fewer surfaces crashing up against each other, and no more awkward cutlines. It's been criticized for being too bland, but it has so far aged more gracefully than its predecessor.
The look lacks the exuberance of the last Sonata, but it still has wide shoulders and an appealingly tapered shape. Horizontal lines everywhere calm down the looks, from the rear lip spoiler and its chrome surround, to the dual exhaust and its bright tips, to the bend at the bottom of the decklid that takes some heft out of the rear end. It's closer to the invisible ideal of the modern family sedan.
The Sonata Sport is the visual standout of the lineup, with its distinctive front-end appearance, side rocker extensions, and added chrome body-side molding. Sport 2.0T models get an additional rear bumper fascia and quad exhaust tips, with showy 18-inch alloy wheels.
The formal, attractive shape of today's Sonata is a 180-degree flip from its recent past.
The Hyundai Sonata is built expressly for the mainstream family sedan shopper. It has a light, stiff body, and that's helped improve handling versus the previous Sonata, sold through the 2014 model year. It doesn't aim for sport-sedan steering or an overly firm road feel—and that's just fine.
We give the Sonata a 6 for performance. It has very good, absorbent ride quality, while its drivetrains and handling are aimed right at the middle of the market. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Hyundai Sonata engines and transmissions
The base Sonata SE gets the most straightforward engine and transmission combination. It teams a 2.4-liter inline-4 that makes 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque with a 6-speed automatic transmission. This engine winds happily and smoothly through its powerband, though it isn't particularly quick.
The Sonata Sport 2.0T produces 245 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. It's smooth for a turbocharged inline-4 and is almost free of vibration. It's certainly stronger than the base engine, but isn't as quick as other turbo-4 and V-6s from the competition.
In either case, you get a 6-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic manual controls. Sport 2.0T models feature paddle shifters, and all Sonatas get a three-mode driving selector that fiddles with power steering assist, shift timing, and throttle delivery through Eco, Normal, and Sport modes. In Eco mode, the Sonata really dithers over downshifts, but the milder differences in Normal and Sport modes probably mean owners will play with the feature once before leaving it in default mode.
All Sonatas are front-wheel drive; rivals like the Legacy, Chrysler 200, and Ford Fusion offer all-wheel drive, or make it standard.
Hyundai Sonata Eco
We've driven the Sonata Eco briefly, and our impressions have been mostly good. The Eco combines a small turbocharged 1.6-liter inline-4 with a 7-speed, dry dual-clutch transmission for higher fuel economy than the non-hybrid models. It has an output of 177 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. The turbo is a twin-scroll for quicker boost, the DCT has electronic clutch and gear actuation, and generally, the powertrain here has more exhaust noise and peakier behavior than the other choices.
The Eco's engine is comparable to the turbo 1.5-liter inline-4 in the Ford Fusion, as much for the perky acceleration feel as the booming exhaust note. It's a hard worker, hauling around a little more than 3,200 pounds, but not an unhappy one. Some pre-production dual-clutch chatter aside, it was hard to perceive the transmission's shifts at anything but very low speeds. Minus a couple hundred pounds or so from the Sonata Limited, the steering feels considerably lighter, too.
Sonata ride and handling
Steering is driven by electric motors on all Sonatas. All but the 2.0Ts have column-mounted setups, while the turbo sedan has a dual-pinion rack that's supposed to deliver better steering feel and finer responses. The slight uptick in the turbo's attentiveness probably comes as much from the bigger tires as from the more costly hardware. In either setup, most of the wandering has been filtered off, leaving behind the sense that even if it's not talking back to you, at least the steering is listening.
Sport 2.0T sedans have slightly different tuning, with a 1-mm bump in anti-roll bars, and moderately beefier P235/45R18 tires. It's a small difference, though the ride is a bit firmer but the handling a bit more crisp. Turbo sedans also get an electric parking brake (as do the Limited sedans), while other versions have a foot-operated brake.
In our test drives, the Sonata has responded with a gentle, able feel. It's settled at any speed. Roll over a train track at 60 mph and it reacts with compliance, and little drama, even with the 18-inch tires on 2.0T trims.
The Sonata does best in delivering a quiet, isolated ride; in turbocharged trim, it's still not really a sport sedan at heart.
The Sonata is technically defined by the EPA as a large car but is marketed as a mid-size car, against vehicles such as the Volkswagen Passat, Honda Accord, Subaru Legacy, Nissan Altima, and Ford Fusion.
We give it a score of 8 for comfort, utility, and quality. It has very good front and back seats, and good cargo storage; fifth passengers will feel the squeeze. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Sonata is 191.1 inches long, and it does more with its dimensions than even the Honda Accord, which is longer, but less spacious. The Sonata has the same wheelbase as the Passat, at 110.4 inches, but packages in more people and cargo space than the Volkswagen—barely. Inside, there's a total of 122.4 cubic feet of space, split between 106.1 cubic feet for the humans and 16.3 cubic feet for cargo.
Off the spec sheet, there's very good space for 6-footers in the front seats, and the seats are are well bolstered, especially in the 2.0T Sport model. A power passenger seat can be had, though it's only offered on upper trim levels, where you'll also find heated and ventilated seats and a serviceable grade of leather upholstery.
In back, a 6-footer has plenty of knee room behind another 6-footer, enough, in fact, to cross over a knee into a freestyle yoga pose. The back seat leg room isn't quite as expansive as in a Passat, but head room is like most of the cars in this segment—a little snug when the sunroof is ordered, but fine for anyone under 6 feet tall.
A strong structure and plenty of sound deadening material make the Sonata quiet at a good driving pace, plenty quiet for normal conversation.
The Sonata's positively awash in storage bins, perfect for hiding stuff from drivers and passengers. The console and glove box are deep enough for stowing tablets. The covered bin ahead of the shifter tucks away USB and power points, and there's a handy rubber-lined bin to the right of the lever that's made for smartphones. Cupholders, door pockets, a trunk with pulldowns for the rear seat inside the trunk itself—it's all where you need it.
A spacious mid-size sedan, the Hyundai Sonata has comfortable front seats and lots of storage space.
The current Hyundai Sonata turns in excellent crash-test scores and can be equipped with useful safety options.
We give it an 8 in this category. Two small hurdles are the only thing keeping it from a perfect 10: a four-star rollover score from the feds (which is a calculation, not a test) and a better headlight rating by the IIHS. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
All Sonatas come with seven airbags, including a driver-side knee airbag. On the options list (and standard on more expensive trim levels) are features like adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts, and rear parking sensors.
In crash tests, the NHTSA gives the Sonata five stars both overall and in frontal and side-impact categories. That includes five stars in both subcategories of the frontal test (for a male-size driver and female-size passenger), as well as a perfect five stars in all subcategories of the side barrier test and the side pole test.
The 2017 Sonata earned perfect set of crash scores from the IIHS, as well as a "Superior" nod for front crash prevention when equipped with the optional forward-collision warning system. Its headlights earned a "Poor" rating, which made it a Top Safety Pick.
The Sonata is one of the safest family sedans on the road.
|Overall Frontal Barrier Crash Rating:||(5/5)|
|Overall Side Crash Rating:||(5/5)|
|Overall Side Barrier Rating:||Not Rated|
|NHTSA Roll-over Resistance Rating:||(4/5)|
|Side Impact Test||Good|
|Roof Strength Test||Good|
|Rear Crash Protection/Head Restraint||Good|
|IIHS Small Overlap Front Test Results||Good|
|IIHS Moderate Overlap Front Test Results||Good|
The 2017 Hyundai Sonata lineup is varied. With the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder, it comes in SE, Sport, and Limited trim levels; with the turbocharged 2.0-liter the Sonata is offered in Sport and Limited trim; and with the turbocharged 1.6-liter engine, the Sonata only comes as the Eco.
We give the Sonata an 8 in features, for good standard equipment, kudos for its own infotainment and smartphone-delivered systems, and a point for a 5-year, 60,000-mile warranty. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Base prices start this year at $22,785 for the base Sonata, while Sonata Eco prices begin at $23,125. The Sonata Sport 2.0T begins at $26,600.
Standard Sonata SE equipment includes a rearview camera; power features; cloth upholstery; 16-inch wheels; automatic headlights; and an audio/connectivity package that includes AM/FM/XM/HD/CD audio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth with audio streaming, and a USB port.
The Eco adds a power driver's seat and LED daytime running lights.
The Sonata Sport gets 17-inch wheels and distinctive exterior trim. A technology package for the Sport comes with upgraded gauges, a navigation system, a Dimension premium audio system, and real-time traffic data.
The Sonata Limited adds a sunroof, a hands-free smart trunk, LED taillights, leather upholstery, heated front and rear seats, a power front passenger seat, keyless ignition, and blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts.
A technology package for the Limited adds navigation, a panoramic sunroof, Infinity audio, a heated steering wheel, and memory for the driver's seat and exterior mirrors. The Ultimate package adds adaptive cruise control, a forward-collision warning system, lane-departure warnings, rear parking sensors, and automatic high beams.
Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T features
The Sport 2.0T is fitted with a sport suspension, paddle shifters, blind-spot monitors, 18-inch wheels, and sport seats.
The Limited 2.0T adds the hands-free smart trunk, automatic climate control, keyless ignition, lane-departure warnings, rear parking sensors, a forward-collision warning system, adaptive cruise control, a panoramic sunroof, ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, Infinity audio, and navigation.
Hyundai's navigation system has smartphone-app compatibility for Pandora and SoundHound. The system also includes a split-screen view, the ability to record up to 22 minutes of satellite radio, and Apple's Siri Eyes Free.
Hyundai's Blue Link services include such things as remote start, destination search (powered by Google), and a car-care in-vehicle app.
Hyundai fits lots of features to the Sonata, everything from CarPlay and Android Auto to a hands-free trunk.
The latest Hyundai Sonata comes with a choice of 4-cylinder engines, three of them in all. There's a plug-in hybrid version as well, which we cover separately.
We give the Sonata a green score of 7, based on the sales-weighted fuel economy of its most popular versions. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Every Sonata has competitive gas mileage, but one version is particular reaches new heights. The Sonata Eco was new for the 2015 model year, and it's powered by an efficient 1.6-liter turbo-4 coupled to a dual-clutch transmission. It is rated at 28 mpg city, 36 highway, 31 combined, according to the EPA. It's miserly on fuel, but there's some mild shift shock from its transmission at low speeds and acceleration isn't great.
Most Sonatas are powered by a 2.4-liter inline-4 rated at 25/36/29 mpg in most models and 25/35/28 mpg in the Sport Limited.
The turbocharged Sport 2.0T is rated at 22/31/26 mpg.
The Sonata's gas mileage compares well with other excellent family sedans.