The unveiling of the 2011 Hyundai Sonata was like a metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly for the South Korean car maker?s mid-size sedan. The previous five generations of the Sonata were ho-hum at best, and then suddenly in 2011 the brand blossomed into the beautiful and exciting Sonata.
Sales more than doubled during the sixth generation?s next four years, thanks to the dramatic new design, improved performance and added technological features.
The 2015 Hyundai Sonata is all-new again and takes cues from the striking Hyundai Genesis. The design is evolutionary but with a more refined look, which Hyundai calls Fluid Sculpture 2.0. And along with the design updates comes with advancements in body stiffness, ride quality and noise control. This maturation also includes improved safety features and advancements in technologies.
Chris Chapman, chief designer of Hyundai Design North America, describes the design saying, ?We crafted the shape of the 2015 Sonata in the same way an award-winning chef refines his recipe over the years. With the 2011 Sonata, Hyundai took the mid-size sedan from a meal to a gourmet dinner. The evolution to Fluidic Sculpture 2.0?s tauter, modern lines reflect the improvements in refinement and driving dynamics for 2015.?
The interior is clean and contemporary with simple lines and well defined controls that don?t try to get overly fancy with a lot of flat touch surfaces, rather it has well-organized and user-friendly buttons and knobs for all the primary controls. The eight-inch touch screen is mounted at the same level as the instrument panel making it easy to see at a sideways glance to the map minimizing the time the driver?s eyes are away from the road. The face of the four-spoke steering wheel has reductant controls for audio, cruise, communications and trip computer controls.
Like all the Hyundai models, the Sonoma has easily accessible plug-ins on the center console for USB, auxiliary and 12-volt power. The front seats have moderate bolsters to hold the driver in place during aggressive cornering and heated seats in the two upper level models.
The Sonata interior and cargo space combined total 122.4 cubic feet, which is the largest interior space in their competitive class. This pushes Sonata over the mid-size line to qualify as a large sedan based on EPA classifications.
A 2.4-liter Kia Theta II four-cylinder engine is the standard powerplant for the Sonata. At 185-hp, the gas direct injection (GDI) engine with the standard six-speed automatic transmission produces a 0 to 60 mph time of 7.9 seconds, putting it near the top of its class for midsize sedans with a base engine. All Sonatas are front-wheel drive and there?s no indication of an all-wheel drive option in the works. The EPA rates fuel economy at 24 mpg city, 35 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined. We averaged 28.6 mpg during our week of mostly local driving.
The Sonata also comes with two optional engines, the ECO engine (it?s not a hybrid) is a 178-hp 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with a seven-speed Dual Clutch Transmission. The second engine is the performance option with a 245-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and six-speed automatic transmission and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. The larger engine is available in the two upper level models. There is a Sonata Hybrid in the works for later this spring and a plug-in hybrid due near the end of 2015.
The 2015 Hyundai Sonata comes in several variations based on SE, Sport and Limited trim levels and the 2.4-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine. Pricing ranges from $21,960, including the destination charge for the SE up to $27,335 for the Limited version. The Hyundai Sport model has a more aggressive front grille and bumper along with side rocker extensions and side chrome molding.
The Sport and the Limited with the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine are $29,385 and $34,335 respectively. The Eco version is $24,085.
Our Hyundai Sport test vehicle with the 2.4-liter engine had the two available option packages. The first was the Sport Premium Package ($1,700) which added Blind Spot Detection, proximity key entry with push button start, sport seats with leather bolsters and cloth inserts and several other convenience and cosmetic enhancements. The second was the Sport Tech Package ($1,750) which adds navigation with an eight-inch touch screen, Dimension? audio speakers, HD Radio?, electroluminescent gauges with 4.2-inch LCD Multi-Info Display, HomeLink? and SirusXM Radio? with Travel Link?.
The Limited edition has two available packages with features like panoramic sunroof, Xenon headlights, ventilated seats, heated steering wheel, Smart Cruise Control with Full Stop/Start, Lane Departure Warning and automatic high beam assist. Fully loaded, the Sonata has most of the available technology safety devices, and at a low price point.
The Sonata rides on a sophisticated MacPherson strut front suspension and independent multi-link rear system with coil springs along with front and rear stabilizer bars. The steering is an electric motor driven rack and pinion system. The brakes are four-wheel disk with electronic enhancements like brake-force distribution and stability control. Working together they give the Sonata precise handling while maintaining a smooth quality ride. This is a car that?s enjoyable to drive fast but still comfortable just loping along the freeway.