Hyundai has been trying hard with the Sonata in the crowded mid-size segment for at least 2 decades. When the 2015 Sonata debuted at the 2014 New York Auto Show, it was largely received with a yawn. Despite being a competent vehicle (read our review of the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T), it just wasn’t enough to fully challenge the Accord, Camry, and Fusion for love from the automotive press. As early as the following year, Hyundai had already announced a redesign for Sonata.
Here we are back at the 2017 New York Auto Show with the redesigned 2018 Sonata. A quick shake of the magic 8-ball says… “Outlook Not So Good”. You can read the press release for the 2018 Hyundai Sonata here.
The first and biggest sin in the mid-size segment is not having a Honda or Toyota badge on the hood. The Sonata, like Optima, Malibu, and Altima, suffers from that sin. Any car without that badge must then seriously overcome the sin in other ways. The Subaru Legacy does it with its AWD system. The Malibu tries with a more stylish interior and useful infotainment systems. The Fusion offers a large variety of powertrain options including a powerful turbo-charged V6 in the Fusion Sport or the more fuel sipping hybrid.
The refreshed 2018 Sonata does not bring much new to the table. The engines are carry-over from the current model, though a new 8-speed auto is available on the top turbo model. The interior is largely carry-over as well except for new gauges and center stack. The exterior gets a freshening with a new trapezoidal grille and new rear end treatment. Neither of those updates feel strong enough to give the 2018 Sonata the visual distinction it needs to move the needle in the marketplace.
For comparison sake, I spent some time poking around the 2018 Sonata and then immediately went to the Toyota, Honda, Chevy, and Kia stands. The interior of the new Sonata just isn’t up to the task of taking on the big guns and still feels as dated as the Optima.
In the end, the Sonata will still sell for people who want the warranty, but it’s not going to be to anyone who actually wants a Sonata… they’ll just be buying it for the deal. Is it better than the 2017 model? Shake the Magic 8-Ball and see if you come up with a different answer.