Korea's midsize superstar finally graduates college

2015 Hyundai Sonata First Impressions

By Mark Stevenson
2015 Hyundai Sonata First Impressions

Summary Rating: 71%

Styling

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Accessories

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Space and Access

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Comfort

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Performance

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Driving Dynamics

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Safety

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General Appreciation

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The Korean automakers are no longer cranking out low priced, low quality disposable commuter appliances. After a generation of Fluidic Sculpture driven design, Hyundai is now firmly on the map and no longer an “also ran” brand.

This year, Hyundai is rolling out their latest iteration of what they call “Fluidic Sculpture” design, even coining it “Fluidic Sculpture 2.0” for the millennial set. The first model to receive this new design language – the Genesis Sedan – has been on lots for a couple of months. But, if any model needed some new sheet metal, it was the Sonata. And now the midsize sedan finally gets a fresh face.


What is the Hyundai Sonata?
First sold in Canada as the Stellar, the Hyundai Sonata is now entering its seventh generation since its introduction to Canada in 1985.

Sometimes the best way to get the spotlight is to be polarizing, and that’s what Hyundai did in 2009. The sixth generation Sonata was a massive leap in design, meant to grab the attention of consumers and convert that attention into sales. But, you either loved it or hated it; there was absolutely no middle ground.

Now, as 2015 Hyundai Sonatas hit dealer lots, potential customers will be greeted by a more aggressive front fascia, a trapezoidal front grille, and an overall design that’s a fair bit more mainstream than the outgoing model. Some may even call the new Sonata handsome, a word that never would have been used to describe its predecessor.

2015 Hyundai Sonata Price and Specs
Just like the sixth-generation model, the new 2015 Sonata is available with two different four-cylinder engines displacing 2.4 and 2.0 litres, the latter being turbocharged. However, these are not carryover engines. They have both been retuned for more drivability, even sacrificing peak horsepower and torque to get there (this is not a bad thing).

The base engine – a new 2.4-litre Theta II mill – produces 185 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque, a decrease of 5 hp and 1 lb-ft peak to peak. But, the horsepower and torque that does exist is more accessible. It’s the same story for the 2.0-litre turbocharged Theta II four pot. The new 2.0T Sport engine develops 245 hp and 260 lb-ft while a 2014 model pumps out 274 hp and 269 lb-ft.

Yet, if you analyze the torque curves of these engines, it all starts to make sense, especially with the 2.0T. Torque kicks in sooner, allowing for more oomph down low and better fuel economy.

Both engines are mated exclusively to a six-speed automatic with manual mode. Sport models are equipped with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters as well.

Prices range from $23,999 for the base GL trim Sonata with a 2.4-litre engine all the way up to $34,799 for the Sport 2.0T Ultimate.

Driving the 2015 Hyundai Sonata
Before I can write about anything else, I need to mention my gripes with the 2014 Hyundai Sonata.

When Hyundai set out to engineer the last generation Sonata, they must have laid off all their suspension engineers, as the midsizer provided no damping at all. Every road imperfection felt like it took the car by surprise.

I’m happy to report the new Sonata’s suspension is much, much better. Not as firm as the Fusion but not soft like a few others. Hyundai has almost nailed it this time.

Also, despite the lower peak output numbers, the engines truly are better to deal with, even if the direct injection is still incredibly ticky. However, thanks to a new, quieter interior, you at least won’t hear the tick-tick-tick of the injectors constantly.

Selectable steering modes are no longer. Instead, three drive modes – controlling engine response, shift mapping, and steering – can be selected between Eco, Normal, and Sport. Yet, the steering part feels amiss. Before, you could really notice a difference between the selectable steering modes. Now you wonder if the drive modes are changing anything at all.

To cap it all off, braking is predictable – not bad, not amazing, and totally what you would expect for the class.

Inside and Out of the 2015 Hyundai Sonata
It’s the design of the seventh generation Sonata that is really worth talking about. Instead of attempting to evolve a design that had no chance of aging well, the design team at Hyundai started from scratch.

That decision was a smart one.

The 2015 Sonata features a much more grown up, conservative, and masculine look. Even those who work at Hyundai have said the 2009-2014 models were a bit too curvaceous for many consumers, including themselves.

Large headlights, sweeping more toward the side than they do up and back, are reminiscent of the new Genesis Sedan. Even the new trapezoidal grille gets some inspiration from the full-size rear-wheel drive executive car. Yet, Hyundai hasn’t figured out how to hide those ugly, plastic radar cruise control blocks that appear in the grilles of upper trim models (Mercedes-Benz hides them behind their massive tri-star emblem). Below the new headlights and grille are new horizontal fog lights featuring LEDs, giving the front of the Sonata an upscale look.

Hyundai has continued on with one design feature from the old model – the beltline trim goes all the way to the headlight instead of stopping at the exterior mirrors. For the seventh generation, its execution is much better, at least in my eyes. The same piece of chrome trim outlines all the side glass.

Around back, new taillights are given the LED treatment, with oval-ish shapes reminding me of the new Chrysler 200. Below the rear bumper are either single, dual, or double dual exhausts, depending on trim and engine choice.

Sitting inside the new Sonata is much better than the outgoing model, with improved seating front and rear, along with a more coherent console and dash design. Even the faux wood trim is a nice touch. Though some of the flat black plastics are a bit too flat and seem slightly out of place. Thankfully, placement is impeccable, and Hyundai hasn’t gone down the “no buttons, all touchscreen” rabbit hole.

Speaking of that touchscreen, Hyundai really does have a nice looking navigation and music screens. But, with other automakers now catching up in this segment, I really hope Hyundai has something up their sleeve for a mid-cycle refresh – they’re going to need it.

Overall, the Sonata is definitely a tier 1 contender now in the midsize sedan segment. If you are looking at buying a Camry, Accord, Fusion, or Mazda6, you might want to add the Sonata to your shortlist as well.

Comparing the 2014 Volkswagen Jetta GLI
The Sonata enters its seventh generation in one of the most crowded segments in the industry, competing for driveway space with the Chevrolet Malibu, Chrysler 200, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord Sedan, Kia Optima, Mazda6, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy, Toyota Camry, and Volkswagen Passat.

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