The 2011 Sonata was a watershed sedan for Hyundai. It lured buyers in with dynamic styling, and cheap prices, and kept them satisfied with great drivability and reliability. But, that was yesterday. The challenge today is to keep those buyers despite more intense mid-size competition, and to uphold their well-earned reputation. So let’s find out how an all-new 2015 Sonata measures up.
It’s difficult to fathom that the 2015 Hyundai Sonata marks the beginning of the 7th generation of the Korean middle-weight four-door. To say it has come a long way is an understatement. Evolving from a late 80’s boxy also ran, to today’s family sedan trend setter.
And it’s easy to see those trend setting ways continuing when you climb inside the latest Sonata. You’re immediately treated to a great looking interior that is incredibly comfortable and very upscale in feel. Though this Limited model’s rich 2-tone black and brown theme surely has a lot to do with that.
Not that it’s perfect. Some of our staff found the sparseness of control knobs annoying, and the few knobs that are present are either a long reach or look too similar to each other, and had some turning up the temperature when they we were trying to crank up the volume. Owners will likely figured it all out in no time, however.
The folding rear seats offer plenty of head and leg room, and while seat cushions are a little on the hard side there is a very comfortable rake to the seat backs which makes things quite tolerable for long trips.
In fact, interior volume has risen enough that Sonata is now in the Large Car EPA size-class. Trunk space is certainly larger than most mid-size rivals at 16.3 cubic-ft.
An available Tech package gets you a panoramic sunroof, HID headlights, and very competent 8-inch navigation display with touchscreen. But the Ultimate package is where the tech really kicks in with smart cruise control with full stop and start capabilities, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, plus an electronic parking brake with hold feature.
As before all engines are four-cylinder and three are available. This standard, direct-injected 2.4-liter I4 rates 185-horsepower and 178 lb-ft. of torque. Peak power is actually down a little from last year in an attempt to make things more responsive. But, we found it a bit weak and noisy. A 1.6-liter turbo Eco model is new, but only recommended if fuel economy is your number-one priority. The 245-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo looks like the best choice for ample off-the line torque.
We didn’t find that in the 2.4. Getting to 60 took us a lackluster 9.3-seconds. Well off the previous car. You do start to feel some hint of power mid-range, but slow shifts from the 6-speed automatic keep the fun factor just barely above zero. Running out the ¼-mile took 17.2-seconds at 83 miles-per-hour.
Things improved somewhat through our handling course. Understeer is certainly there, but it doesn’t bombard you. Steering is quick, but the feel is artificially heavy and disconnected. Much, much better was braking performance, with solid stops from 60 that averaged just 117-feet.
This is, first and foremost, a family sedan of course, so while it’s doubtful that track performance will be high on any family’s priority list, exterior design will certainly play a much larger roll.
The fluidic sculpture 2.0 styling theme tries just as hard as the previous generation to make a statement, but we’re not sure the results are nearly as successful. Though the look, complete with LED daytime running lights and dual exhaust is now undoubtedly classier, like its better rivals. The rear appears wider and taller, with high mounted LED tail lights pointing in towards the center.
So while exterior beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, from the driver’s seat we all agree that Hyundai has certainly come a long way in chassis and suspension refinement. Ride is both solid and smooth. We also appreciated the lack of CVT transmission and found the 6-speed manual-mode automatic to work very well in daily driving.
It proved quite efficient for a larger sedan as well, with Government Fuel Economy Ratings of 25-City, 37-Highway, and 29-Combined, which we matched almost perfectly with a 29.2 miles-per-gallon loop on Regular. The Energy Impact Score is also respectable with 11.4-barrels of oil burned annually and 5.1-tons of CO2 emitted.
One thing that has not changed is Hyundai value with Sonata’s base pricing of just $21,960. Limited trim will cost you a fair bit more, but is still a bargain at $27,335. And of course Hyundai’s America’s Best Warranty is still in effect.
There is nothing that feels cheap about the 2015 Hyundai Sonata, particularly in upscale Limited guise, as it fully showcases the brand in their growth from low price alternative to mainstream staple. 7-generations is certainly proof that this car is more contender than pretender, and carmakers will be trying to out-do this high value nameplate for a years to come.
Torque: 178 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 9.3 seconds
1/4 mile: 17.2 seconds @ 83 mph
EPA: 25 mpg city/ 37 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 11.4 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 5.1 tons/yr