The first Hyundai Sonata appeared on the scene way back in 1988. It was a small, homely looking sedan, but a capable, economical car with a lot of content found only on cars costing a few thousand dollars more. And it may be best remembered for having a five year bumper to bumper warranty, and 10 years on the powertrain.
Hyundai in those years were trying to impress the buying public that their cars were ready for prime time, and they were willing to back them up with the best warranty in the business. It worked. Today, Hyundai is one of the fastest growing auto manufacturers in the business.
Flash forward to today, and the 2015 Sonata is now in its seventh generation, and is a very well respected and a big time player in the hotly contested mid-size family sedan category. And with good reason. The Sonata is simply an outstanding car that still maintains that excellent warranty and still provides excellent value when compared to others in the marketplace. And the last generation was truly transformative in that finally the Sonata’s breakout dynamic styling matched the rest of the cars excellent qualities.
It was ready to take on the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, and Chevy Malibu. And with sales figures around 200,000 units sold, it has the competition taking notice.
The new styling is evolutionary, and still maintains the “Fluidic Sculpture” aero design lines of last year’s car, with an updated expression of their theme. Still, no body panels from last year’s model can be found on the 2015 car, so it is truly a total redesign.
Our test car came equipped with Hyundai’s 2.4 liter, direct injected 4-cylinder engine that makes 185 hp, and 178 ft. lbs. of torque. A 2.0 liter turbocharged powerplant, which puts out 245 hp and 260 ft. lbs. of torque is also available. I was disappointed that the test car didn’t have the hotter engine, but I was very pleasantly surprised at how well the non-turbo engine performed. And the 24 City and 35 Highway mileage numbers also impressed.
The turbo engine gives up a few mpg versus the non-turbo. And by dropping a V-6 engine version, the folks at Hyundai were able to put the extra room from the engine bay into making the interior larger.
Power is put to the front wheels via a 6 speed Shiftronic transmission, which is a smooth shifting unit, and when in the manual shift mode, provides remarkably quick up and down shifts. That is usually a trait saved for cars that have more sporting ambitions. But that feature is not wasted on this Sonata. The chassis is stiffer than last year, and the suspension has been retuned for a more stable ride, and increased cornering capabilities. Pushed hard into a turn you’ll feel some understeer, but the Sonata is very capable of tracking through the twisties with confidence, and without much body roll.
Electronic steering is light and offers good feedback to the driver. So whether you press the Sport mode button while in Drive, or choose to row through the 6 speeds manually, the engine offers enough oomph to put a smile on your face when driving aggressively. The brakes feel strong, and offer good feel and feedback, too.
As pleasant as the Sonata is to drive, the interior is even better. Our testor added the $3,500 Tech Package and the $1,550 Ultimate Package, which in addition to the long list of standard features, equips the car with just about everything you need or want in a luxury family sedan. The heated and cooled leather seats are comfortable and the inflatable lumbar support can be raised and lowered to suit the driver.
The heated leather wrapped steering wheel heats up as fast as a microwave oven, and features redundant controls for media, and for the radar cruise control, which is an outstanding feature. Other excellent safety features include blind spot monitor in the outside mirrors, and lane departure warning systems.
The padded dashboard is a stylish flowing affair, with rich-looking wood inserts, and the electroluminescent tach and speedometer offer a complete driver gauge package with an info screen set between them. The center stack has a large Nav touch screen, which makes it easy to input addresses into the system, and access and control other infotainment features and settings for the car.
Just under the Nav screen, you’ll find easy to use buttons for the radio, media, phone, and info screen. Below those controls, the HVAC climate controls make adjusting the temperature quick and easy, unlike having to deal with a single knob control which makes things more difficult when driving. At the base of the center stack is a large closed cubby with dual 12-volt outlets, a USB and auxiliary port, so you can charge, or plug in your electronic devices, and keep them handy.
Hyundai put its class leading cabin room to good use for rear passengers. The 2015 Sonata is an inch and a half wider than the 2014 model and you can feel it in the back seat. There is plenty of shoulder room for two passengers, and a middle seat occupant will be more comfortable in this Sonata than in most middle airplane seats.
Leg room is very generous and there is ample headroom for tall adults. The Panoramic Moonroof only adds to the feeling of roominess. And even with the sunscreen retracted, additional soundproofing makes the cabin very quiet and tranquil. The trunk is also large, but rear styling makes the opening a bit narrow. The rear seats fold down via separate handy spring loaded releases in the trunk, and is just one of many little niceties (like rear passenger window pull up sunscreens) found on this car that are absent on many cars costing substantially more.
The 2015 Sonata makeover may not be as dynamic as when the last iteration was introduced, but it is clearly an upgrade. The base Limited starts at $26,525. With the optional packages and freight charges, the bottom line came to $32,385 – a healthy number. But shopping the competition will reveal that similarly equipped cars will cost a few thousand dollars more, and some of the features on the Sonata will not even be available on other cars.
We predict that Hyundai will continue its remarkable growth, thanks in part to the continued success of the Sonata.
By Ken Glassman
Ken “Hawkeye” Glassman has been a motor journalist for over 30 years, reviewing automobile, as well as motorcycle ride reviews and accessory reviews.
His car articles have appeared in Robb Report Magazine, Autoguide.com, Car-Revs-Daily.com and other media. His work has also appeared in Road Bike Magazine, Motorcycle Tour and Cruiser, SpeedTV.com, MotorcycleUSA.com and others.
As motorcycle columnist for The Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, the paper became the only major circulation newspaper in the country to have a separate weekly section devoted to motorcycles. Later he wrote a weekly column for Cyclefocus Magazine.