Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com
October 2, 2013
To say the current crop of mid-size sedans is downright impressive would be massive understatement. We have sedans that can be compared with more expensive models in styling, are fun to drive, and get fuel economy numbers that only compacts and subcompacts were getting a few years ago. It's hard to place where the starting point is for this current group of mid-size sedans, but I have a possible answer.
The year is 2010. Hyundai introduced the next-generation Sonata to the marketplace and it was a suckerpunch to the midsize marketplace. Here was a mid-size sedan that brought forth amazing styling, impressive powertrain tech, and value for money that no one else could match. Everyone knew that a new, credible challenger had arrived and it was time to step up.
After four years since its introduction, the Sonata is beginning to show its age when compared to its competitors. Sales though haven't slowed down at all. Can the current Sonata still stand tall or is it time for the curtain to fall on this sedan?
The Sonata is still an impressive looking sedan. Despite going on almost four years in the marketplace, the Sonata looks like it was just released. You can tell that Hyundai's designers were influenced by the first-generation Mercedes-Benz CLS as the two share a similar shape. Other details to take note are dual exhausts and a set of eighteen-inch wheels.
The interior is a whole another story as it looks and feels very old. Someone at Hyundai must have been going through a dark period since there are large swaths of black throughout. There is black plastic and soft-touch materials on the dash and door panels. The seats are draped in black leather and mesh fabric. The only bright spot inside is the contrasting silver trim pieces along the center stack. So far, the Sonata SE ties with the Nissan Rogue SL for the most depressing interior of 2013.
Another problem for the Sonata, at least for me, was the front seat adjustment. When I first got into the it, I felt like I was sitting too high. But when I tried to lower the seat, I was at the lowest position. Now I happen to be 5'7" tall and usually can find a comfortable position in a vehicle, not in the Sonata. After a couple days of driving around, I got used to the position. It does make me wonder if someone taller than me would have the same problem. As for back seat space, headroom comes at a premium due to the sloping coupe roofline. Legroom though is decent.
Hyundai still has the value argument down to a T. SE models come standard with a proximity key, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, and Hyundai's BlueLink telematic system. For an extra $2,900, you can order the SE Navigation and Sunroof package which includes navigation, sunroof, a Dimension Premium Audio System, and backup camera. It's an option package I highly recommend.
With the outside and inside stories done, lets look at the Sonata's powertrain.
Hyundai was the first automaker to drop the V6 engine and replace it with a turbo-four in the midsize class. The 2.0L turbocharged, direct-injected four-cylinder packs 274 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. The 2.0T only comes with a six-speed automatic transmission with paddles on the wheel. The 2.0L turbo is quite peachy. Imagine a bottle rocket being shot off and not slowing down, that's Hyundai's 2.0L turbo in a nutshell. The 269 pound-feet of torque spans from 1,750 rpm to 4,500 rpm (torque peaks at 3,500 rpm), meaning the Sonata 2.0T doesn't suffer from turbo lag and pulls off the illusion of being a bigger engine than it really is. Even more surprising: the 2.0T doesn't exhibit the thrashiness or buzzing that you would expect in a four-cylinder. The six-speed automatic works excellent as the computer puts the vehicle in the right gear at the right time. There are paddles but I didn't use them due to the reluctant nature of the automatic. Just leave it in drive and let the transmission do its thing.
Fuel economy wise, I was on the low-end of the Sonata 2.0T's ratings. My average for the week landed around 22.0 MPG which happens to be the same as the 2.0T's City rating. If you have a lighter foot, you will likely be closer to the combined rating of 26 MPG. Out on the highway, I got close to 34 MPG rating with an average of 32.
The Sonata SE model differs from the base GLS and top trim Limited in its suspension as it gets sport-tuned springs and dampers. Out on a curvy road, the Sonata SE does feel somewhat sporty. The revised springs and dampers helps the SE model feel much more planted and reduce body roll. Don't think it's in the same league as the 2014 Mazda6 though. The Sonata SE's steering doesn't feel like its connected to the vehicle. I know that I'm turning the steering wheel and the vehicle is moving, but there isn't that feedback coming through the steering wheel. Plus, if you push the Sonata hard, it begins to show signs of body roll.
Moving off the twisty roads and onward to the freeway and streets, the Sonata SE shines here. The suspension copes very well when driven over rutted roads. Road and wind noise are mostly kept in check.
Close to four years on, the Sonata is still a very impressive sedan. Sure, the interior is darker than Alaska during the winter solstice and provides one of the oddest seating positions that I have ever experienced. But Hyundai got the fundamentals right with the Sonata; a handsome design, punchy engine that gets decent fuel economy, comfortable ride, and pricetag that cannot be beat.
The current Sonata started a revolution in the midsize sedan and the fact it's still selling so well means the next-generation model has a tough act to follow.
Disclaimer: Hyundai provided the Sonata 2.0T, insurance, and one tank of gas.
Trim: SE 2.0T
Engine: 2.0L Turbocharged DOHC D-CVVT Four-Cylinder
Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Transmission
Horsepower @ RPM: 274 @ 6,000
Torque @ RPM: 269 @ 1,400 - 4,500
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/34/26
Curb Weight: 3,452 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Montgomery, Alabama
Base Price: $25,895.00
As Tested Price: $29,205.00* (Includes $775.00 destination charge)
SE Navigation and Sunroof Package - $2,900.00
Rear Spoiler - $250.00
Auto-Dimming Rearview Mirror with HomeLink and Compass - $250.00
Carpeted Floor Mats - $100.00
iPod Cable - $35.00