The Hyundai Sonata gets some worthwhile enhancements for 2018. The folks back in Korea gave it a much-needed facelift, a new 8-speed automatic transmission, improved handling and ride, as well as a lower price on the top-of-the-line model.
In this era of cars with large, flat grilles, Hyundai designers have provided the Sonata with an eye-catching one. It’s a clean-looking hexagon shape that is complemented by slanting headlamps and LED running lights. Creases in the hood draw the eye to the grille, while adding a touch of sleekness.
Inside, the Sonata is much the same as last year. The cabin lacks the sparkle of the exterior and there are a lot of hard surfaces, but the cabin is spacious. This is especially noticeable in the rear, where legroom is ample, although headroom is slightly compromised by a sloping roofline. Up front, the instruments and controls are laid out well. The touchscreen interface is user friendly, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard. Knobs for audio and climate control may seem retro, but they are easy to use. Heated and ventilated leather seats on my test car were both comfortable and supportive.
Hyundai offers the Sonata in five levels of trim, SE, SEL, Sport, Eco and Limited. (A hybrid and a plug-in hybrid are due later.) The entry-level SE comes with features like a blind-spot monitor, six-speaker sound system, and a rearview camera. The SEL adds heated front seats with a power adjuster for the driver. The Sport, as the name implies, provides sporty trim and the Eco delivers higher gas mileage. The Limited goes for all the gusto with sporty trim, luxury features and advanced safety items, such as lane-departure warning/mitigation.
The standard engine for the SE, SEL Sport and Limited is a 2.4-liter, inline-4, which pumps out 185 horsepower. It’s mated to a six-speed automatic that drives the front wheels. Gas mileage is rated at 28 mpg. Those who buy the Sport and Limited can opt for a two-liter turbo with 245 horses that gets 26 mpg. However, if you want better fuel economy, the Eco’s 1.6-liter turbo will give you 32 miles per gallon while pumping out 177 hp.
My test car, a Limited with the turbo engine performed best in the “Sport” drive mode. The accelerator responded more quickly, the steering tightened up a bit and the transmission held shifts longer. Furthermore, the sport-tuned suspension enabled the Sonata to corner with balance and poise. At the same time, the ride quality, while a bit firm, was smooth on all but rough secondary roads. However, if you prefer a cushier ride, SE, SEL and Eco models, with the standard suspension, are more compliant.
Sonata pricing starts at $22,935 for the SE, and ranges up to $33,335 for the Limited with the turbo engine. That’s $1,900 less than last year’s price for the Limited. However, most buyers are expected to opt for the SEL, which comes in at a reasonable $24,585.