When the revamped Hyundai Sonata first made its appearance back in 2009, it immediately stood out thanks to its slick exterior styling which marked a noticeable departure from the more mundane styling cues that once defined older Sonatas as well as Hyundai products in general. Can the revamped 2016 Hyundai Sonata still deliver on its promises of slick styling, while also retaining the impressive levels of technology that made the last generation model a hit with buyers?
The exterior styling still looks handsome and elegant but whereas the last generation model was a ground up design, this iteration shares more of its cues with the Hyundai Genesis full size car. Hyundai likes to claim that the 2016 Sonata is “an athlete in a well tailored suit” and while it doesn’t broadcast its performance intentions quite as readily as some of its rivals, the look is still handsome with plenty of well placed curves and creases to keep things fresh.
The line Sonata Limited 2.0T model which brings 18-inch alloy wheels, higher grade materials, and a beefy panoramic sunroof to the festivities. My tester also came with trim exclusive quad chrome exhaust tips, but they looked a bit too aftermarket for my tastes, and I actually preferred the integrated units found in lower Sonata trims.
The interior of the 2016 Sonata still comes equipped with plenty of technology, and has upped its game when it comes to offering buyers a compelling blend of value and luxury. The leather seats in my tester were very comfortable and while they could have used a bit more side bolstering, they did make up for it by offering heated and cooled capability with the latter proving to be very handy during a hot stretch of Michigan summer weather.
The flat bottomed steering wheel was a welcome performance inspired touch, and felt great in my hands especially during spirited driving. My tester’s 8.0 inch touchscreen infotainment system looked crisp and delivered quick inputs with the various menus laid out in a very ergonomically friendly matter. My tester also featured Android Auto and was able to integrate my Samsung Galaxy S6 to the car with minimal effort.
Rear seat room was also very good with decent levels of head and legroom. The rear seats even offer seat heat which is a feature that was once exclusive to pure luxury offerings before trickling down to mid size sedan offerings in recent years. A highlight feature that I liked, and which also proved to be a hit with my girlfriend and her entourage, was the elegant piano medley that plays when you enter and exit the Sonata. While a bit gimmicky in its own right, the tune did help bring a sense of occasion to the driving experience, and truly made you feel like you were in a car that costs twice as much.
Performance for my Limited grade tester comes from the same 2.0 liter turbocharged GDI four cylinder engine that also sees duty in its Kia badged cousin the Optima. Good for 245 horsepower, this engine delivered smooth and swift acceleration, though it will not be the neck snapping experience that is seen in more performance grade sedan offerings. My tester also featured a sport tuned suspension and, it did an excellent job mitigating bodyroll, while also retaining the high levels of comfort that sedan buyers want from their purchase.
The lone weak point in this otherwise buttoned down experience was the Sonata’s 6-speed automatic transmission. While it did deliver smooth upshifts, downshifts were a different story altogether with my tester occasionally exhibiting herky jerky behavior when coming to a stop. Switching the drive mode button to Sport did seem to alleviate the problem slightly, but it still made its presence felt during hard braking.
A key feature that my tester had was Hyundai’s “Smart Cruise Control” system. This system works by utilizing sensors at the front of the vehicle which allows the Sonata to automatically keep pace with traffic, and can adjust the speed accordingly to maintain the selected distance that you choose. The system can also bring the car to a complete stop if necessary, and can resume acceleration with the flip of a switch. This was the first time I have formally experienced this type of cruise control, and it performed admirably on a long trip to a friend’s birthday party out in Chesterfield. While the system was designed primarily for freeway use, it can also perform quite well in city commuting, but be sure to keep your foot close to the brake pedal in case you come to a traffic light and there is no car in front of you.
Pricing for the 2016 Sonata starts at $21,750 for the base SE model with the rest of the model lineup climbing the MSRP ladder accordingly. My range topping tester had a final MSRP of $35,035.00 which includes the optional $125.00 carpet mats, and the $835.00 freight charge. This pricing allows it to firmly compete with segment leaders such as the Ford Fusion and the Toyota Camry while also fending off other challengers including the Chevrolet Malibu, Nissan Altima, and the Honda Accord. The Sonata is great for those that want a healthy dose of technology and elegance in their purchase, and we look forward to see the next evolution of the Sonata, and whether it will share traits with the company’s newly minted Genesis luxury subbrand.