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First Drive: 2015 Hyundai Sonata


William Maley

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Let us go back in time to October 2013 and my review of the 2013 Hyundai Sonata SE 2.0T. This is how I ended the review,

“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.”

Well the Korean automaker revealed the next act of the Sonata at the New York Auto Show back in April and it seemed that something was amiss. It was named Sonata, had the Hyundai badges, and was powered by a selection of four-cylinder engines. But it didn’t look like a Sonata. The new model had lost that stylistic edge that the previous one had. Not a good sign considering that most people correlate the Sonata with the Hyundai brand. Was Hyundai going backwards? This past week, I had the chance to check out the 2015 Sonata lineup to see if any of those fears I had were true.

The 2015 Sonata features Hyundai’s latest design language called Fludic Sculpture 2.0. The new language is an evolution and provides a more mature look for Hyundai’s midsize model. The front end features a wider grille, reshaped headlights, and a new bumper. The side profile features a toned-down version of the coupe roofline and distinctive character line running from the front fender to the rear. Hyundai designers also increased the window space along the side to improve the feeling of interior space. The back has a reshaped trunk lid and taillights. New for this generation is the introduction of a Sport model which adds a more aggressive front grille and bumper; side skirts, eighteen-inch alloys, and quad exhaust pipes.

I’m not sure toning down the Sonata’s look is a good decision. When the last-generation Sonata debuted, it stood out in the plain and bland midsize class. Now with the new one, it kind of blends in with everyone else. Sure, you can tell there are design cues that come from the previous model and the Sport models does add some aggression. I just think Hyundai is going a little bit backwards here.

Moving inside, the 2015 Sonata feels much more spacious and high-quality than the last-generation. The waterfall center stack and dual-cockpit front seat layout has been put out to pasture. In its place is a wider center stack which not only improves the feeling of spaciousness, it also improves the control layout. Material quality has also seen a noticeable improvement with the lineup getting soft-touch materials and different trim pieces dependent on the model (Limited: Wood trim, Sport: Aluminum and faux Carbon Fiber). Back-seat passengers will see and feel a noticeable improvement in head and legroom.

2015 Hyundai Sonata 10

Equipment is generous across the lineup with all Sonatas getting alloy wheels ranging from sixteen to eighteen-inches, full power accessories, remote keyless entry, premium cloth upholstery, and 60/40 split-fold rear seats. For your entrainment needs, the base Sonata gets a standard radio with iPod/USB/AUX inputs, SiriusXM satellite radio, and Bluetooth. Next up is a five-inch touchscreen radio, followed by an eight-inch touchscreen with the latest version of the automaker’s infotainment system. Coming soon to the Sonata will be Apple CarPlay and Android Car integration.

On the powertrain front, the 2015 Sonata has three different engines to choose from. The base is the 2.4L Theta II GDI four-cylinder engine. Standard on the SE, Limited, and Sport models, the 2.4 makes 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque (slightly down from the 190 horsepower and 179 pound-feet from the previous model). Next is the turbocharged 2.0L Theta II GDI four-cylinder with (down from 274 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque). The reason for the decrease in power is due to both engines getting Electronic Intake Continuously Variable Valve Timing (E-CVVT) and the turbo engine getting a smaller turbocharger to improve responsiveness and drivability. Both engines come with a six-speed automatic transmission.

New for the 2015 Sonata is the turbocharged 1.6L inline-four which is standard on the new Eco model. The 1.6L makes 177 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. To get all of the power to the road, Hyundai fitted a new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

The suspension setup is mainly the same with MacPherson struts up front and a multilink system in the rear. Sport models gain aggressively tuned dampers and springs. For steering, Hyundai employs two different steering systems. Most Sonatas use a column-mounted electric power-assist system, while the Sport 2.0T gets a rack-mounted setup which is said to improve responsiveness.

Alright, enough information about the 2015 Sonata. Time to take it for a spin.

See The Next Page For Drive Impressions.


Before I dive into my impressions, I should say I didn’t get the chance to take a spin in the Sonata Eco. I hope to rectify that when I get a Sonata in for review in the coming months.

First up was the Sonata Limited with the 2.4L engine. The 2.4L gets up to speed quickly when driving in the city limits, but begins to lose some steam as you climb higher in speed. I wasn’t sure if the power band dropped off at a certain point or if the gearing was tuned more for economy. As for the engine itself, it was very refined with minimal NVH levels. The automatic transmission goes about its business without making itself noticed at all. Ride quality is improved with a smooth ride and making imperfections seem like they don’t exist. Body monitions are kept in check when taken around corners. Steering is somewhat numb, but provides good weight. In other words, its pretty much par for the course in the midsize sedan class.

2015 Hyundai Sonata 8

Then I hopped into the Sonata Sport 2.0T. The 2.0T in the 2015 Sonata doesn’t quite feel as fast as the one in 2013 Sonata I drove last year. What has been improved is acceleration when leaving a stop. In the old Sonata, it felt like the turbocharger took a few seconds to spool up before delivering that punch. In the 2015 model with the smaller turbocharger, the response is improved and makes it feel a bit more punchy. Like in the standard Sonata, the automatic transmission does a fine job without bringing any attention to itself. Ride and handling is pretty much the same as the standard model which is surprising considering this is the Sport model. Steering oddly feels the same as the standard Sonata, despite a different steering system. Something tells me that I need to spend some more time with the Sport to see if there is really a difference,

As for pricing, the 2015 Sonata lineup starts at $21,150 for the base SE model. Compared to the outgoing Sonata, the new model costs about $300 less. But don’t expect the removal of features. The base SE gets such items as LED daytime running lights, a driver knee airbag, blind spot mirror for the driver, and a rear lip spoiler as standard equipment. From there, the Sonata lineup climbs to $33,525 for the Sport 2.0T with the Ultimate Package.

While the 2015 Hyundai Sonata has lost some of the edginess that made the previous-generation a standout in the midsize class, the 2015 model shows that Hyundai wants to move up and provide a vehicle that is seemingly well-rounded. The 2015 Sonata should be able to do something that the last-generation model started, bringing more buyers into Hyundai showrooms.

Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Sonatas, Refreshments, and Lunch For This First Drive Event

Year: 2015

Make: Hyundai

Model: Sonata

Engines:

  • 2.4L DOHC D-CVVT Four-Cylinder (SE, Sport, Limited)
  • 2.0L Turbocharged DOHC D-CVVT Four-Cylinder (Sport 2.0T)
  • 1.6L Turbocharged DOHC D-CVVT Four-Cylinder (Eco)

Driveline:

  • Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic (2.4 and 2.0T)
  • Front-Wheel Drive, Seven-Speed Dual-Clutch Automatic (Eco)

Horsepower @ RPM:

  • 185 @ 6,000 (2.4)
  • 245 @ 6,000 (2.0T)
  • 177 @ 5,500 (Eco)

Torque @ RPM:

  • 178 @ 4,000 (2.4)
  • 260 @ 1,350 – 4,000 (2.0T)
  • 195 @ 1,500 - 4,500 (Eco)

Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined

  • 25/37/29 (SE 2.4)
  • 24/35/28 (Sport and Limited 2.4)
  • 23/32/26 (Sport 2.0T)
  • 28/38/32 (Eco)

Curb Weight:

  • 3,252 – 3,466 lbs (Models equipped with the 2.4)
  • 3,505 – 3,616 lbs (Sport 2.0T)
  • 3,270 – 3,298 lbs (Eco)

Location of Manufacture: Montgomery, Alabama

Pricing:

  • SE: $21,960 - $23,160
  • Sport: $23,985 - $27,435
  • Eco: $24,085 - $28,185
  • Limited: $27,335 - $32,385
  • Sport 2.0T: $29,385 - $34,355

(Note: All prices include $810 destination charge.)

William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.comor you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.


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FAILURE, That is my initial response to seeing this car. They blanded it up on the design front and so nothing to catch my eye and say wow that stands out compared to Camry. Inside might have nicer materials, but WOW, BLAND UGLY!

 

Again, the inside and outside both screamed Camry Bland. I have to say that with the engine changes and this blandness to blend in this car will sell to the Hyundia repeat customer, but they have failed for conquest customers.

 

Nice write up, informed me enough and showed why this car will not surpass the ugly bland Camry.

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nice impression.

 

My review is in the reader review in the forums.  This car did nothing for me.  Its mid to bottom of pack.  I'd tell anyone to skip over this turd.  I didn't drive the turbo though.  This weekend I am going to try to get into a 15 Legacy, they are on the lots now.  If i wanted a Hyundai I would skip to the Azera, which Hyundai is considering killing in the US market.  If i were them, i would push the snot out of them now, but incentivize them heavily.  

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For family sedans, it's all about form following function and pricing.  Bland has not held back the market leaders in this segment. If the new roofline improves room in back and the feeling of spaciousness, it's a good move.  I like the cleaned up front end more than the last one.  The Kia Optima is supposed to be redone for 2016, and it will probably remain the more stylish, sportier offering.

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Optima would have already been my choice over the Sonata.  This redo just confirms it for me.  Hopefully they don't kill the looks of the Optima for its refresh.  I'd take a Mazda6 or 200 over either of them but I prefer not to drive what everybody else is driving (says the guy with the Cruze).

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This may be Hyundai's "new Malibu". The last gen made such a mark, and so popular, with looks and numbers to match, but not perfect...then the new one comes out and is more refined under the skin, but looks and has retrograde touches.

 

Will not be as big of an "uh oh" hit as the 2013+ Malibu, because it is a Hyundai, but interesting to see. Bland and drab mixed with "eh" Hyundai driving dynamics won't win as many fans, as easily.

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This may be Hyundai's "new Malibu". The last gen made such a mark, and so popular, with looks and numbers to match, but not perfect...then the new one comes out and is more refined under the skin, but looks and has retrograde touches.

 

Will not be as big of an "uh oh" hit as the 2013+ Malibu, because it is a Hyundai, but interesting to see. Bland and drab mixed with "eh" Hyundai driving dynamics won't win as many fans, as easily.

 

 

Pardon me while I slip into negative mode.  I really do not mean to sound negative.  But Americans have been addicted to mediocrity so long this thing ought to be winning the sales staff record bonuses on the sales floor. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Blander styling aside this is one very nice driving car that is improved in most ways. My close friend just purchased a new 2015 red Limited with tan leather and the 185 Hp 2.4. It is a solid improvement in most ways to the previous model starting with NVH which are all improved noticeably. The 2.4 is more polished and the reduction of 5 Hp is not at all noticed in the 0-60 dash which takes 7.8 seconds and if anything this improved engine feels a touch more responsive than before. Real world mileage is also better. Rated for 24/35 this car actually easily achieves it's 35 highway rating and we have seen 36-36.5 many times on the open road going 75 MPH! The interior see's more rear seat legroom and interior ambiance and quality are much better than the dull monotone look of the 2011-2014 models. The dash and layout are also much improved. You also get a ton of equipment for the coin unlike in a Camry LE or SE and the radio, touch screen and bluetooth paring are far superior compared to the rental Camry SE 2014.5 we had several months back. We just wish they didn't tone down the exterior as much but if the 2015 mediocre Camry is anything to go by this car should win against it in most ways.

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I really wish some one could point to marketing that says these bland boring lemming cars sell because of  X, Y and Z reasons. I just do not see why someone would want to buy such a boring auto.

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I really wish some one could point to marketing that says these bland boring lemming cars sell because of  X, Y and Z reasons. I just do not see why someone would want to buy such a boring auto.

99% of drivers just want something cheap, economical and reliable..they don't care about styling.   

Edited by Cubical-aka-Moltar
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I really wish some one could point to marketing that says these bland boring lemming cars sell because of  X, Y and Z reasons. I just do not see why someone would want to buy such a boring auto.

99% of drivers just want something cheap, economical and reliable..they don't care about styling.   

 

 

Definition of a Lemming. So Sad So Bad.

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  • 4 weeks later...

 

 

I really wish some one could point to marketing that says these bland boring lemming cars sell because of  X, Y and Z reasons. I just do not see why someone would want to buy such a boring auto.

99% of drivers just want something cheap, economical and reliable..they don't care about styling.   

 

 

Definition of a Lemming. So Sad So Bad.

 

Just because someone doesn't care about cars doesn't mean that their a mindless lemming, it just means they have different priorities in life.

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Almost all mid-size sedans are boring-looking.  I like the new Sonata exterior styling better than the slightly overdone last model.  The interior looks exceptionally dull, but I have yet to sit in one.

 

Its a little boring, but I found it to be easier to understand when looking for a control and nicely built.

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      Source: Hyundai
      Hyundai Unveils Segment-Shattering Santa Cruz Sport Adventure Vehicle
      Highly-anticipated Santa Cruz Sport Adventure Vehicle Shatters Both SUV and Truck Segments, Creating an Entirely New Vehicle Category Multi-utility, Secure Open Bed Provides Diverse Gear-Carrying Flexibility Powerful and Efficient 2.5L Turbo Powertrain with HTRAC® AWD Capability Available Cutting-edge Connectivity, Convenience and Active Safety Features Compact Footprint Provides Superior Maneuverability in an Open-bed Configuration Proudly Built at Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama (HMMA) in Montgomery FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., Apr. 15, 2021 – Hyundai today unveiled its highly anticipated Santa Cruz Sport Adventure Vehicle. The 2022 Santa Cruz breaks new ground within the SUV, Truck and Crossover segments by offering a true Sport Adventure Vehicle unlike anything else in the U.S. market. Santa Cruz boasts bold yet sophisticated design, powerful and efficient powertrain options, a flexible open bed for gear, cutting-edge connectivity and a highly maneuverable all-wheel drive platform that is equally at home in urban and adventure-focused environments. The Santa Cruz Sport Adventure Vehicle begins production in Montgomery, Alabama in June and will be available for sale in summer. The addition of Santa Cruz to HMMA production will add an estimated 1,200 jobs to the U.S. economy. Hyundai is also creating an early reservation system for the U.S.-market Santa Cruz in late April at https://www.hyundaiusa.com/.
      “Santa Cruz, with its bold styling, breaks open all new segment territory, both for Hyundai and the industry as a whole. Open-bed flexibility coupled with closed-cabin security meets the changing everyday needs of its adventure-oriented buyers, while powerful and efficient engines and superb maneuverability ensure it is a pleasure to drive in urban or off-road environments. Our customers will wonder just how they managed before owning one,” said Jose Munoz, president and CEO, Hyundai Motor North America.
      Why Santa Cruz?
      Santa Cruz was developed to be the ultimate Sport Adventure Vehicle, a moniker confirmed in Hyundai’s early consumer research. The research found consumers, often living in urban environments, whose lifestyles include the need to escape to weekend adventures of all kinds. Many of these customers carry various gear and equipment that is better suited to an open bed rather than a typical SUV bodystyle. These buyers want versatile transportation that is equally flexible for urban, adventure, occupational or even home improvement gear. Santa Cruz features a secure, open bed area which includes a lockable tonneau cover, hidden bed storage and versatile bed extension accessories. At the same time, these customers still value the secure utility of a compact SUV, with its comfort, passenger space, fuel efficiency and parking ease. Santa Cruz, with its unique, bold design, created an entirely new segment that meets these specific buyer needs like no vehicle before it.
      Everything about Santa Cruz reflects a duality of purpose in its design execution. This all-new category-bending vehicle holds a variety of imagery in balanced juxtaposition:
      Urban life connectivity with escape to outdoor adventure Work and play flexibility Tough yet alluring demeanor Roominess with maneuverability Open cargo area and secured, lockable storage Towing capability and fuel efficiency The forward view of Santa Cruz deploys a hidden lighting signature that becomes visible within the grille only when illuminated. The daytime running lamps (DRLs) present a parametric jewel design with high-tech precision detailing. A bold, cascading grille anchors the front view, supported by a skid plate element in the lower front fascia. Voluminous hood and fenders further communicate an imposing first impression.
      In profile, Santa Cruz signals a sporty yet capable spirit. The A- and C-pillars present faster forward and rearward rakes than typical open-bed utility vehicles. Large 20-inch alloy wheels with a multi-faceted, triangular design are surrounded by armor-like wheel arches, conveying both wheel-articulation potential and off-road capability. Powerful body side volumes contrast with precise triangular sheer-edged surfaces and tight radius character lines.
      From the rear, a horizontal “T” lighting signature adds visual width and distinguishes Santa Cruz from anything on the road. The functional rear open bed area features secure, lockable in-bed storage, integrated corner bumper steps and a lockable tonneau cover, seamlessly integrated with the overall design. The rear tail lamps are embossed with: “Designed in California” as a testament to the passion of Hyundai’s California-based design team. Small, discrete design details such as this can be found throughout the exterior and interior.
      Interior Design
      The interior of the Santa Cruz expresses a sophisticated and refined appearance. The contrasting rugged yet refined motif matches the boldness of the exterior, boasting a technical ambience that appeals to those who appreciate cutting-edge technologies in their daily lives. It features an enveloping dual-cockpit design that encapsulates each passenger. Design teams focused on ease of ingress and egress and ergonomic comfort on long drives. The premium center stack display features an edgeless infotainment screen appearance, with an impressive 10 inches of visibility. The optional center digital cluster display also measures 10 inches. Under the rear seats is convenient, in-cabin storage. Completing the premium ambience is an available Bose® audio system.
      Powerful and Efficient Powertrains
      Santa Cruz offers two powerful, flexible and efficient powertrains. The standard powertrain is a 2.5L direct-injected in-line four-cylinder engine with an estimated 190+ horsepower and 180+ lb.-ft. of torque. This engine couples to an eight-speed hydraulic automatic transmission for quick acceleration and superb efficiency. Santa Cruz also offers a 2.5L direct-injected turbocharged engine with an estimated 275+ horsepower and 310+ lb.-ft. of torque linked to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT). This DCT includes steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters for manual shifting control by the driver.
      Eight-Speed Automatic Transmission
      The eight-speed transmission for the standard 2.5-liter engine provides quick and crisp shifts for an engaging and efficient driving experience. This automatic transmission adds ratio range at both the top and bottom of output speeds allowing for extra thrust off-the-line and a quieter, more fuel-efficient trip on the interstate. A multi-disc and individually controlled hydraulic channel torque converter improves responsiveness by expanding the direct connection band, while a downsized oil pump and double ball bearings minimize frictional losses.
      Advanced HTRAC® AWD and Towing Capability
      Both 2.5L four-cylinder and 2.5L four-cylinder turbo models offer HTRAC® all-wheel drive capability for complete confidence when pursuing adventures of all kinds or for that extra peace of mind when driving in an unexpected snowfall. The HTRAC AWD system was developed as a multi-mode system, providing an electronic, variable-torque-split clutch with active torque control between the front and rear axles. The Sport setting gives a more agile feel by sending more torque to the rear wheels, for a sporty, dynamic experience. This system has a wide range of torque distribution variability, tuned for conditions such as straight-line acceleration, medium- and high-speed cornering, and hill starts. For those customers who like to tow their weekend gear with them, the 2.5L 4-cylinder is rated at 3,500 lbs. for towing and the 2.5L Turbo AWD model boasts a generous 5,000 lbs. of towing capability.
      Compact Dimensions Yield Superb Maneuverability
      Santa Cruz makes efficient use of its compact dimensions by offering high utility with excellent maneuverability. Its shorter wheelbase and smaller overall footprint make it a joy to maneuver and park in challenging urban parking, with an exceptional curb-to-curb turning radius of only 20.0 feet.
      Specification (in.)
      Santa Cruz
      Tacoma
      Ridgeline
      Frontier
      Length
      195.7
      212.2
      210.0
      205.5
      Width
      75.0
      75.2
      78.5
      72.8
      Height
      66.7
      70.7
      70.3
      70.1
      Wheelbase
      118.3
      127.4
      125.2
      126.0
      Bed Length
      Upper 48.4
      Lower 52.1
      60.4
      63.6
      59.4
      Footprint Area
      (sq. ft.)
      101.9
      109.7
      114.6
      103.9
                         
      Responsive and Refined Chassis Tuning
      Santa Cruz was developed with a focus on enhanced driving dynamics and responsive performance for a wide variety of urban and off-road, multi-surface driving conditions. The shorter wheelbase, short overhangs and wide track create a planted stance that results in exceptional agility in urban environments. These specifications also provide confident agility when traversing off-road terrain. Available 20-inch alloy wheels with wide, all-season, all-terrain tires give surefooted, agile handling character on a variety of road surfaces. Available 18-inch wheels with more voluminous tire sidewalls for off-road adventures are also available.

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      It is surprising to think it has been over six years since Hyundai first showed the Santa Cruz pickup concept at the Detroit Auto Show. But today, Hyundai has unveiled the production version. The automaker isn't calling this a truck, instead using the term "Sport Adventure Vehicle". To us, it's a truck.
      We need to start with a bit of a reality check. The Santa Cruz is not a direct competitor to the likes of Chevrolet Colorado, Honda Ridgeline, or Toyota Tacoma in terms of measurements. Compared to those models, the Santa Cruz is around 10 to 17 inches shorter in length. Overall height is around 3 to 4 inches shorter. The bed measures 4.3 feet, which is about foot shorter than the Ranger. There is also an in-bed trunk like the Ridgeline.
      The model is based on the recently redesigned Tucson crossover, which explains why it shares the front end styling - complete with headlights in the massive grille. That also means it shares the same engines as the Tucson. Here's the lineup,
      2.5L four-cylinder:  estimated 190+ horsepower and 180+ lb.-ft. of torque Turbocharged 2.5L four-cylinder: estimated 275+ horsepower and 310+ lb.-ft. of torque The N/A 2.5 comes with an eight-speed automatic, while the turbo makes do with an eight-speed dual-clutch. Front-wheel drive is standard, while HTRAC all-wheel drive is optional.
      The interior looks very modern and comes with an eight-inch touchscreen in the center stack. Optional features include a 10-inch touchscreen and TFT instrument display. 
      Hyundai is keeping mum on pricing until the Santa Cruz launches sometime this summer.
      BTW: If you're wondering why the Santa Cruz took so long to reach production, I recommend this piece from Autoblog which delves into this.
      Source: Hyundai
      Hyundai Unveils Segment-Shattering Santa Cruz Sport Adventure Vehicle
      Highly-anticipated Santa Cruz Sport Adventure Vehicle Shatters Both SUV and Truck Segments, Creating an Entirely New Vehicle Category Multi-utility, Secure Open Bed Provides Diverse Gear-Carrying Flexibility Powerful and Efficient 2.5L Turbo Powertrain with HTRAC® AWD Capability Available Cutting-edge Connectivity, Convenience and Active Safety Features Compact Footprint Provides Superior Maneuverability in an Open-bed Configuration Proudly Built at Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama (HMMA) in Montgomery FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., Apr. 15, 2021 – Hyundai today unveiled its highly anticipated Santa Cruz Sport Adventure Vehicle. The 2022 Santa Cruz breaks new ground within the SUV, Truck and Crossover segments by offering a true Sport Adventure Vehicle unlike anything else in the U.S. market. Santa Cruz boasts bold yet sophisticated design, powerful and efficient powertrain options, a flexible open bed for gear, cutting-edge connectivity and a highly maneuverable all-wheel drive platform that is equally at home in urban and adventure-focused environments. The Santa Cruz Sport Adventure Vehicle begins production in Montgomery, Alabama in June and will be available for sale in summer. The addition of Santa Cruz to HMMA production will add an estimated 1,200 jobs to the U.S. economy. Hyundai is also creating an early reservation system for the U.S.-market Santa Cruz in late April at https://www.hyundaiusa.com/.
      “Santa Cruz, with its bold styling, breaks open all new segment territory, both for Hyundai and the industry as a whole. Open-bed flexibility coupled with closed-cabin security meets the changing everyday needs of its adventure-oriented buyers, while powerful and efficient engines and superb maneuverability ensure it is a pleasure to drive in urban or off-road environments. Our customers will wonder just how they managed before owning one,” said Jose Munoz, president and CEO, Hyundai Motor North America.
      Why Santa Cruz?
      Santa Cruz was developed to be the ultimate Sport Adventure Vehicle, a moniker confirmed in Hyundai’s early consumer research. The research found consumers, often living in urban environments, whose lifestyles include the need to escape to weekend adventures of all kinds. Many of these customers carry various gear and equipment that is better suited to an open bed rather than a typical SUV bodystyle. These buyers want versatile transportation that is equally flexible for urban, adventure, occupational or even home improvement gear. Santa Cruz features a secure, open bed area which includes a lockable tonneau cover, hidden bed storage and versatile bed extension accessories. At the same time, these customers still value the secure utility of a compact SUV, with its comfort, passenger space, fuel efficiency and parking ease. Santa Cruz, with its unique, bold design, created an entirely new segment that meets these specific buyer needs like no vehicle before it.
      Everything about Santa Cruz reflects a duality of purpose in its design execution. This all-new category-bending vehicle holds a variety of imagery in balanced juxtaposition:
      Urban life connectivity with escape to outdoor adventure Work and play flexibility Tough yet alluring demeanor Roominess with maneuverability Open cargo area and secured, lockable storage Towing capability and fuel efficiency The forward view of Santa Cruz deploys a hidden lighting signature that becomes visible within the grille only when illuminated. The daytime running lamps (DRLs) present a parametric jewel design with high-tech precision detailing. A bold, cascading grille anchors the front view, supported by a skid plate element in the lower front fascia. Voluminous hood and fenders further communicate an imposing first impression.
      In profile, Santa Cruz signals a sporty yet capable spirit. The A- and C-pillars present faster forward and rearward rakes than typical open-bed utility vehicles. Large 20-inch alloy wheels with a multi-faceted, triangular design are surrounded by armor-like wheel arches, conveying both wheel-articulation potential and off-road capability. Powerful body side volumes contrast with precise triangular sheer-edged surfaces and tight radius character lines.
      From the rear, a horizontal “T” lighting signature adds visual width and distinguishes Santa Cruz from anything on the road. The functional rear open bed area features secure, lockable in-bed storage, integrated corner bumper steps and a lockable tonneau cover, seamlessly integrated with the overall design. The rear tail lamps are embossed with: “Designed in California” as a testament to the passion of Hyundai’s California-based design team. Small, discrete design details such as this can be found throughout the exterior and interior.
      Interior Design
      The interior of the Santa Cruz expresses a sophisticated and refined appearance. The contrasting rugged yet refined motif matches the boldness of the exterior, boasting a technical ambience that appeals to those who appreciate cutting-edge technologies in their daily lives. It features an enveloping dual-cockpit design that encapsulates each passenger. Design teams focused on ease of ingress and egress and ergonomic comfort on long drives. The premium center stack display features an edgeless infotainment screen appearance, with an impressive 10 inches of visibility. The optional center digital cluster display also measures 10 inches. Under the rear seats is convenient, in-cabin storage. Completing the premium ambience is an available Bose® audio system.
      Powerful and Efficient Powertrains
      Santa Cruz offers two powerful, flexible and efficient powertrains. The standard powertrain is a 2.5L direct-injected in-line four-cylinder engine with an estimated 190+ horsepower and 180+ lb.-ft. of torque. This engine couples to an eight-speed hydraulic automatic transmission for quick acceleration and superb efficiency. Santa Cruz also offers a 2.5L direct-injected turbocharged engine with an estimated 275+ horsepower and 310+ lb.-ft. of torque linked to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT). This DCT includes steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters for manual shifting control by the driver.
      Eight-Speed Automatic Transmission
      The eight-speed transmission for the standard 2.5-liter engine provides quick and crisp shifts for an engaging and efficient driving experience. This automatic transmission adds ratio range at both the top and bottom of output speeds allowing for extra thrust off-the-line and a quieter, more fuel-efficient trip on the interstate. A multi-disc and individually controlled hydraulic channel torque converter improves responsiveness by expanding the direct connection band, while a downsized oil pump and double ball bearings minimize frictional losses.
      Advanced HTRAC® AWD and Towing Capability
      Both 2.5L four-cylinder and 2.5L four-cylinder turbo models offer HTRAC® all-wheel drive capability for complete confidence when pursuing adventures of all kinds or for that extra peace of mind when driving in an unexpected snowfall. The HTRAC AWD system was developed as a multi-mode system, providing an electronic, variable-torque-split clutch with active torque control between the front and rear axles. The Sport setting gives a more agile feel by sending more torque to the rear wheels, for a sporty, dynamic experience. This system has a wide range of torque distribution variability, tuned for conditions such as straight-line acceleration, medium- and high-speed cornering, and hill starts. For those customers who like to tow their weekend gear with them, the 2.5L 4-cylinder is rated at 3,500 lbs. for towing and the 2.5L Turbo AWD model boasts a generous 5,000 lbs. of towing capability.
      Compact Dimensions Yield Superb Maneuverability
      Santa Cruz makes efficient use of its compact dimensions by offering high utility with excellent maneuverability. Its shorter wheelbase and smaller overall footprint make it a joy to maneuver and park in challenging urban parking, with an exceptional curb-to-curb turning radius of only 20.0 feet.
      Specification (in.)
      Santa Cruz
      Tacoma
      Ridgeline
      Frontier
      Length
      195.7
      212.2
      210.0
      205.5
      Width
      75.0
      75.2
      78.5
      72.8
      Height
      66.7
      70.7
      70.3
      70.1
      Wheelbase
      118.3
      127.4
      125.2
      126.0
      Bed Length
      Upper 48.4
      Lower 52.1
      60.4
      63.6
      59.4
      Footprint Area
      (sq. ft.)
      101.9
      109.7
      114.6
      103.9
                         
      Responsive and Refined Chassis Tuning
      Santa Cruz was developed with a focus on enhanced driving dynamics and responsive performance for a wide variety of urban and off-road, multi-surface driving conditions. The shorter wheelbase, short overhangs and wide track create a planted stance that results in exceptional agility in urban environments. These specifications also provide confident agility when traversing off-road terrain. Available 20-inch alloy wheels with wide, all-season, all-terrain tires give surefooted, agile handling character on a variety of road surfaces. Available 18-inch wheels with more voluminous tire sidewalls for off-road adventures are also available.
    • By William Maley
      I rarely get the opportunity to drive two different flavors of the same vehicle within a short timeframe. But that's what happened in the fall when I had the chance to drive the new Hyundai Sonata in its standard and hybrid forms. The Sonata has always been a favorite of mine as it offered a lot for a midsize sedan, with a surprising price tag. It has also come very close to being at the top of the class, but falling somewhat short due to one thing or another. This new version has the chance of changing that.
      Very Polarizing Design

      The consensus from several readers on Cheers & Gears and various social media sites on the Sonata's design was of dislike. Many found the design to be a bit much and overdone. I found myself in the minority as I was impressed by the lengths Hyundai went. The flowing lines and raked roofline reminded me of the 2012 Sonata which gave notice to other automakers to step up their game. Little details such as the bars the run along the outer edge of the hood to the headlights to a distinct rear-end treatment make the Sonata stand out.
      If there is an issue I have with the Sonata's design, it is the grille. I find it to be slightly cartoonish due to the large size and shape.
      Simple, Yet Elegant Interior
      If you're worried that the polarizing ideas from the exterior make their way inside, don't. The interior is surprisingly sedate with clean lines and a simple design. Hyundai should be commended for using a lot of soft-touch plastics and leather on various surfaces. It makes the Sonata look and feel more premium than its price tag may suggest.

      Despite the coupe-inspired roofline, the Sonata's interior space is quite spacious. Most no one will have any complaints sitting in the back as there is ample head and legroom. Taller passengers should be aware that the optional panoramic sunroof for the Sonata will take away some headroom. The Sonata Hybrid doesn't worry about that as it doesn't offer the sunroof.
      Tech Galore!
      Both of the Sonatas on test came in the Limited trim which means a bountiful selection of technology. It begins with a 10.2-inch TFT display for the instrument cluster which provides all of the key information needed at a glance. A clever trick is when you engage the turn signal, the respective 'dial' brings up a camera mounted underneath the side view mirrors to provide a blind-spot view. I found this system to be helpful as it gave me an extra set of eyes whenever I needed to change lanes.

      Next up is another 10.25-inch screen housing Hyundai's latest infotainment system. I like the three-window layout on the home screen that you can customize to your needs. Navigating around the system is a breeze with a response touchscreen and capacitive touch buttons sitting on either side. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.
      The next two tech features are exclusive to the standard Sonata. First is what Hyundai calls a digital key. Using the BlueLink application on a compatible smartphone, you can use this instead of the key to start the car and drive away. At the time of this writing, this is only available on Android phones. Hyundai did provide a loner Samsung Note smartphone for the week to try this out. I did not have the best experience with this feature at first because I found you need to be pretty close to the vehicle to make a connection. Trying to connect from my room upstairs, just above where the vehicle was parked, the application would throw up a connection error. I found that if I moved to the living room or just outside the front door, the phone was able to make the connection. This sours some of the appeal of this feature. 
      At least using the phone as the vehicle's key does work a bit better. It only takes a few seconds for the phone to make the connection to the vehicle and you can start it up. Although, I found myself wondering wouldn't it be easier and faster to have the key. The only feature that makes any sense to me is the ability to share the key with other people, but lock down certain aspects.
      Second is Smart Park (or smart parkh as made famous by the Super Bowl commercial from last year). Using the key, you can have the Sonata move forward or back out of the parking spot to allow for easier access to get into the vehicle. It's simple to operate, just hold down one of two buttons for a few seconds; the Sonata starts up and goes into the correct gear to move in the desired direction. I can see the appeal in urban areas where space is limited. But in the current pandemic times all of us find ourselves in, this seems to be more of a gimmick.
      Power Selection
      Hyundai offers two engines for the regular Sonata; a naturally aspirated 2.5L four-cylinder or a turbocharged 1.6L four. A more potent turbocharged 2.5L four-cylinder is available on the upcoming Sonata N Line. My tester featured the turbo 1.6 which produces 180 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. That puts it in line with some of the base engines found in the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.
      I wouldn't call this engine quick, but it handles most driving situations with aplomb. This comes down to most of the torque being situated at the lower end of the rpm band. The only area where you might be wishing for more power is merging onto a freeway or keeping up traffic. The eight-speed automatic does an excellent job of maximizing the engine's output.
      Under the Sonata Hybrid's hood is a system comprised of a 2.0L four-cylinder and electric motor to provide a total output of 192 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. The Sonata Hybrid feels just as fast as the standard Sonata around town and on country roads. It does struggle slightly on the highway due to the smaller torque figure. The six-speed automatic doesn't stumble when the change over from electric-only to hybrid mode like I have experienced on other Hyundai/Kia hybrid models.

      Opting for Limited on the Sonata Hybrid brings a solar panel for the roof which acts as a trickle charger for both the 12-volt car battery and 1.6-kWh lithium-ion pack for the hybrid system. Hyundai says that the panel can add an extra two miles of range with adequate sunlight. I can't attest to this claim, but will say the solar panel did add an extra bit of charge to the battery, even on an overcast day.
      Fuel economy for both models are as followed,
      Sonata 1.6T: 27 City/36 Highway/31 Combined Sonata Hybrid: 45 City/51 Highway/47 Combined My week saw an average of 29 mpg in the Sonata and 39 mpg for the Sonata Hybrid.
      Calm and Collected
      Hyundai has done some work on the Sonata's chassis and suspension to make it more rewarding to drive. It shows on a winding road as both versions show little body roll and feel more agile than the outgoing model. Steering feels direct and has a decent amount of weight. I will say the Mazda6 is still the one to beat if driving pleasure is your key goal.
      But the Sonata has an ace up its sleeve. It is also one of the most comfortable cars in the class. Driving over some of the roughest roads in Metro Detroit, the Sonata's suspension soaks up most bumps and imperfections to provide a serene ride. The minimal amount of road and wind noise that comes inside also helps.
      Rising To The Top

      The previous generations of the Sonata were always so close to being at the top of the class. But there always something that held it back whether it was the design, handling, or powertrains. But this new model shows how much Hyundai has put in. There is a nice balance between ride and handling; powertrains are very competent, and the interior is best in the class. Plus, the Sonata still retains Hyundai's trademark of offering a lot for not much money.
      Where most people will stumble on the Sonata is the exterior. It is very much a love or hate it affair. Plus, some of the tech features feel more like a party trick to show to friends than something you'll use. 
      Nevertheless, I think Sonata moves up to the top of the midsize sedan pecking order. 
      But there is one more question to answer. Between the regular and hybrid versions, which one I would drive away with. The answer which surprised me is the hybrid. I found it to be a little bit more well-rounded and deliver some excellent fuel economy figures during my time.
      Alternative:
      Kia K5: Like the idea of the Hyundai Sonata, but not to sure on the design? Then the Kia K5 may be the answer. Based on the same bones as the Sonata, the K5 takes a more evolutionary approach to the design. The basic shape may remind you of the previous-generation Optima, but its the little details such as a new grille and revised rear deck lid that help it stand out. From reviews, the K5 proves to be a bit sportier. We hope to get our hands on this challenger in the near future. Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Sonatas, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2020
      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Sonata
      Trim: Limited 1.6T
      Engine: Turbocharged 1.6L GDI DOHC 16-Valve Inline-Four
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 180 @ 5,500
      Torque @ RPM: 195 @ 1,500-4,500
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 27/36/31
      Curb Weight: 3,336 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Montgomery, AL
      Base Price: $33,300
      As Tested Price: $34,365 (Includes $930.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Carpeted Floor Mats - $135.00
      Year: 2020
      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Sonata Hybrid
      Trim: Limited
      Engine: 2.0L GDI DOHC 16-Valve Inline-Four, Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 150 @ 6,000 (gas); 51 @ 1,800 - 2,300 (electric motor); 192 (total output)
      Torque @ RPM: 139 @ 5,000 (gas); 151 @ 0 - 1,800 (electric motor)
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 45/51/47
      Curb Weight: 3,530 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Asan, South Korea
      Base Price: $35,300
      As Tested Price: $36,430 (Includes $975.00 Destination Charge)
      Options: 
      Carpeted Floor Mats - $135.00

      View full article
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