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William Maley

Review: 2018 Hyundai Sonata Limited

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Hyundai had set itself a high bar when it launched the sixth-generation Sonata for the 2010 model year. It stood out from a crowded field of midsize sedans with an exterior shape that resembled a Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class. The Sonata also boasted a comfortable interior, loads of technology features, a good selection of engines, and a nice balance between comfort and sport. Replacing this model would be a tough task and one Hyundai wasn’t able to meet. When the seventh-generation model rolled out at 2014 New York Auto Show, you could hear the cry of a sad trombone. The new Sonata had gone conservative in its design. Compared to Chevrolet, Honda, and Toyota that rolled out bold styling on their sedans, the Sonata went backwards with a conservative look.

Hyundai realized they need to make some drastic changes to Sonata to give it a fighting chance not only against other sedans, but from the growing demand for crossovers of all sizes. This brings us to the 2018 Sonata Limited. It was time to find out if Hyundai had found that magic once again.

This being a refresh, Hyundai couldn’t go completely crazy in terms of the design language, however the updates really help the Sonata have more presence. Up front is bolder with a new hexagonal grille surround, chrome grille slats, new sculpting on the hood, and deep cuts in the bumper for LED fog lights. The side profile retains the chrome trim that runs through the headlights and around the windows. Hyundai made some drastic changes for the rear by smoothing out the trunk lid and moving the placement of the license plate to the bumper. 

The Sonata’s interior retains the basic shape of the outgoing model, but changes have been made to freshen it up. The center stack boasts a revised control layout and all trims get a three-spoke steering wheel. Previously, only the Sport trim got this wheel design. It would have been nice if Hyundai was a little bit more adventurous with the design, but I’m willing to forgive some of this feeling as the controls fall easily into hand. Interior materials are about average for the class with a mix of hard and soft plastics.

The front seats were designed with long-distance comfort in mind with a fair amount of seat padding and just the right amount of firmness. Power adjustments for both driver and passenger are standard on the Limited and offer a generous range of adjustments. Space in the back is quite roomy and there are some nice touches such as manual window shades. The Sonata has one of the largest trunks in the class with 16.3 cubic feet of space on offer.

All Sonata’s come with a 7-inch touchscreen featuring Hyundai’s BlueLink infotainment system. Our test Sonata Limited had the optional 8-inch screen with navigation. The current BlueLink system has been with us for a few years and its interface is beginning to look somewhat dated, but the system is still one of the best when it comes to overall usability with large touchscreen buttons, bright screen, and a simple interface. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all Sonatas except the base SE.

Sonata offers one of the widest range of powertrains in the segment with three gas engines, a hybrid, and plug-in hybrid. Our Sonata Limited came with the base 2.4L inline-four producing 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic routing power to the front wheels. The engine provides adequate power for around town and rural driving. You will need to step on it when making a pass or merging onto a freeway as torque resides higher in the rev band. The six-speed automatic goes about its business smoothly and always knows what gear it needs to be in. Hyundai does offer an eight-speed automatic, but only if you opt for the turbocharged 2.0L.

EPA fuel economy figures for the 2018 Sonata Limited are 25 City/35 Highway/28 Combined (SE models see a one mpg increase in highway and combined figures). My average for the week landed around 28.5 mpg.

Hyundai did make some tweaks to the 2018 Sonata’s suspension including a revised rear suspension setup with thicker trailing arms and revised steering system. The end result is a Sonata that handles much better than the previous car. Body motion has noticeably decreased and the steering provides decent weight when turning. Thankfully, the tweaks made to the suspension haven’t affected the Sonata’s ride quality. Bumps and other road imperfections are soaked up before reaching passengers. Some of the credit has to go to Hyundai not going crazy on offering large wheels - the Limited seen here rides on 17-inch wheels. Road and wind noise are kept to near silent levels.

My first impression seeing the 2018 Sonata was that Hyundai had improved it, but was still a bit short when compared to the work done by other automakers. Spending a week with the Sonata caused me to change my train of thought; It surprised me how much work Hyundai put into this mid-cycle refresh and brings the Sonata up to the point where I would say it is fighting for best-in-class honors. 

While the 2018 Sonata may lack most of the pizzazz found in the sixth-generation model, it does show that Hyundai has learned from its mistake and worked to reclaim some of the magic.

Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Sonata, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

Year: 2018
Make: Hyundai
Model: Sonata
Trim: Limited
Engine: 2.4L GDI DOHC D-CVVT Four-Cylinder
Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic. Front-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 185 @ 6,000
Torque @ RPM: 178 @ 4,000 
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 25/35/28
Curb Weight: N/A
Location of Manufacture: Montgomery, AL
Base Price: $27,400
As Tested Price: $31,310 (Includes $885.00 Destination Charge)

Options:
Ultimate Package - $2,900.00
Carpeted Floor Mats - $125.00


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Cool review, learned some good things and it is nice to see that it has visually improved over the last gen. Not as snappy looking at the 6th gen as you point out, but way better than it could have been for a mid cycle refresh.

Hyundai, needs to really step up their own styling and bring it to the game if this car is still here for the next generation version.

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I would get one over a Camry.  And its an ok choice and not bad.  But if I look at 2019 models, I would get a Malibu, Fusion, Accord, Mazda6, Altima, maybe even Passat before this.  Hyundai's draw is easy credit and bigger warranties.  

If we look at Hyundai's development long term, its that they are fully accepted as a mainstream middle of the road vanilla device, so their cars don't look out of place and have no big flaws.  If they continue to prove out as reliable as the mean average, which they likely are, then over time they wipe away any stigma of being cheaper end.  All they want is to be mainstream and volume and each successive year they just perform to mainstream market factors is just the greater chance they survive and can over time leverage more and more their corporate advantages....cheaper to develop and build vehicles than some other more established makers.  When the thinning of the auto herd happens again, Hyundai will likely be one of the 5-7 automakers / brands that survives.  That's why volume and market share matter as much as profitability per unit.

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The one thing that surprised me about @William Maley's review is his statement that the car is super quiet inside. I haven't driven this version of Sonata, but prior versions had some road and engine noise issues.  So assuming Will's observation is correct, then Hyundai has gone on a quiet tuning quest. 

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Thorough review ... I rented one on the heels of a Nissan Altima for a few days after an exchange and liked it much better than the Altima.

I was able to get over 41 mpg (after converting kilometers and liters) on a jaunt from Quebec City back to Montreal in an Altima and thought they were great.  Then, the Sonata told me how much more definition there is with a step-gear transmission.  And, like you said, it shifted beautifully.  I believe the highway mileage may have been about 35 or 36 mpg.

I think they worked wonders with the mid-cycle refresh.  The placement of "Sonata" in slanted letters across the rear has worked wonders for the car, albeit a small change.  Usually, I don't like that. 

I also know that the current vernacular is to slope the rear back lite to the point of almost eliminating the trunk lid.  I wish it wasn't as sloped, but it works with the car.

I have test sat in the new model at both the auto show and in show rooms and, while Hyundai dashboards tend to be very practical, I can't say I like how horizontal the buttons are laid out in the center stack.  I believe one salesperson referred to it as the "piano key" design/layout.  That's a good way to put it.  I prefer things a little more compact in the center stack.

However, if I was buying in this segment and buying foreign, the Sonata and the Passat would be the only ones I'd consider. The price point of the Limited is too high.  In lower grade trim, they are a good value.  I would pass on the Camry and the Altima.  Hopefully, GM can amp up its game in this segment.

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On 7/13/2018 at 1:44 PM, Drew Dowdell said:

I really like the look.  I'd get it in the 2.0T of course. 

I disagree. I find the design language awkward 

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On 7/14/2018 at 6:41 AM, Drew Dowdell said:

The one thing that surprised me about @William Maley's review is his statement that the car is super quiet inside. I haven't driven this version of Sonata, but prior versions had some road and engine noise issues.  So assuming Will's observation is correct, then Hyundai has gone on a quiet tuning quest. 

Last time i was in a Sonata it was buzzy and loud and vibrated through the seats

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