Not everyone drives their car like an escaped felon.
More accurately, the vast majority of midsize sedan shoppers have little to no interest in 0-60-mph times, lateral grip or brake feel.
These concerns are just totally alien to their transportation needs.
Your average midsize sedan buyer wants tons of cabin space, low monthly payments and easy-to-operate tech features.
So why drive like a madman?
We took a relaxed, more realistic, approach to this Sonata Limited review. The video is thick with minutes and minutes of walk-arounds inside and out; back seat and front. Totally sedate throttle inputs – enjoying the cruise!
Sonata Limited aces these softer metrics with flying colors. Check out this video as an intro and continue on to the Exterior, Interior, Performance and Pricing section headings.
HD Walkaround, Cabin Detail & Drive Review Video
Sonata Limited wears new nose and tail body panels for the 2018 model year. The nose is a very fresh interpretation of Hyundai’s new full-frame/shield grille. Its shape slightly pinches inward toward the bottom of the trapezoid – which Hyundai says was inspired by pouring molten steel from a furnace bucket. The headlamps now have dark inner optics and updated bi-LEDs for the low and highbeams. Auto highbeams and low-beams with adaptive cornering are a nice touch – and generally only equipped on top trims like this one.
All 2018 Sonata models have LED daytime running lights for the first time, with unique looks for these white DRLs for the Sonata versus the Sonata Sport.
Sonata Sports have just the vertical stacked light bars, whereas the normal trims also have a bright lower portion of horizontal white light. Chrome grilles are swapped for dark mesh on the Sport trims, with much of the chrome getting a darker smoke finish.
Our test car wears its traditional chrome pretty proudly. One new design detail we love is the lower splitter in almost a chrome moustache. It is subtle but unique on the roads – planting the Sonata’s nose visually close to the ground.
In profile, the 2015 redesign of the Sonata is still the name of the game. No changes to the doors, roofline or glasshouse for this 2018 facelift.
The tail, on the other hand, looks as all-new as you could imagine. Wide-set LED brake lights and SONATA script across the trunklid are pretty eye-catching and near-premium. The Limited trim adds the LEDs to the tail – base Sonata’s have just bulb brake lights back there.
Thumbs-up for the gloss black rear diffuser garnish on most Sonata trims. Single exhaust pipe on the 2.4-liter four-cylinder models versus the twin pipes of the turbo 2.0T upgrade. No biggie for our relaxed target owner.
Beside the roofline, any other places the style underwhelms? That would have to be the wheels. Maybe it is the giant wheel arches, but this top trim looks like it has pretty small wheels. Definitely less cool than top Accord or Camry for 2018.
But maybe these are hidden benefits? Smaller wheels help fuel mileage, ride quality and tire replacement costs to be super low.
Sonata, while fresh for 2018, is deeply familiar. Alongside Altima and Fusion, Sonata is one of the most conservative mid-size models around. Inoffensive to the max.
Cabin of Sonata has a light tech update for 2018. But the key word is light. Barely anything outside a new touchscreen fascia and new Qi wireless charger is different. New piano-key style primary buttons are a tad more upmarket than before.
But hey, all three of these changes speak to one of those core buying considerations of the typical midsize shopper: the latest tech. In simple-to-use interfaces.
One of Sonata’s Limited main selling points is how much of the latest tech is included, and how usable all of it really is.
Let’s start with the terrific active safety systems. Blindspot, adaptive cruise and lane-keep are the big three safety elements, and Sonata nails them. The active cruise has settings to adjust its distance to car in front, of course, but also to alter how quickly the system reacts when traffic speeds up again. It is genuinely useful and easy to use in traffic, and we relied on it in gridlock for days. Once stopped, either tap gas pedal or the ‘resume’ button on the wheel and on you go.
Next is the lane-keep system. Alert, reactive or active settings let you really rely on the tech. The active mode actually tracks around corners with no input, unlike some which just bounce you back into the lane like bumper bowling. Genuinely impressive safety tech on Sonata Limited, and available on the others.
Infotainment is also a doddle. Touchscreen nav makes it simple to set radio presets, move between audio input modes or even do a google search right from the screen. The voice command is a bit janky, but the rest works well.
Standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also very smart ways to future-proof the car.
In terms of overall Comfort, Sonata also does pretty well. Good seats, good drive position options and tons of rear legroom.
Not terrifically smooth over bumps like the Subaru Legacy. And not exactly flawlessly smooth at cold idle like Camry.
But overall, Sonata is easy to like inside.
Is this a yes/no question? Yes, Sonata has admirable drive manners when calm and you are being a mature adult. The steering is relatively feelsome, the traditional six-speed automatic is decent and the 2.4-liter four as the base engine delivers respectable thrust.
The bar is pretty low for base engines in the midsize segment. These major on MPG numbers much more than sprint pace. As such, Sonata’s 8.5-second 60-mph run is midpack. Where it does score points is in its 25/35 EPA numbers for city/highway. 185HP and 178 pound-feet of torque place Sonata firmly midpack.
Standard drive modes are nice, but the Sport setting makes for a jumpy start from a stop that is hard to modulate. It is annoying enough that we left the Sonata Limited in its adaptive ‘smart’ default mode.
Where Sonata showed some issues was in driveline refinement. This engine idles pretty roughly versus the butter-soft smoothness of Camry and Accord. You can feel it shimmy through the seat base, which is definitely not classy.
Also, there is a curious (fuel pump?) noise that you can hear every time the engine reaches about 5500-rpm. It is irritating but you soon make peace with it.
As shown on the video above, or one of the recent Sonata vids, the car also suffers from an awkward ride/handling setup. Sonata actually rides fairly firmly versus the cushy springs in the Subaru Legacy, for example.
Yet Sonata also has pretty copious body roll, sharp bump impacts and notable understeer. Also eagerly spins an inside front tire – but Camry does this too.
We overall felt like Sonata could be vastly more rewarding to drive than it currently is. A hard ride and crummy handling is not a good balance. Mazda6 rides far better and more quietly, and also handles like a dream around corners.
Pretty weak C grade for Sonata 2.4L performance, if we had to assign a score.
Sonata is a major value play. That is even more true now than ever. For unknown reasons, Sonata sales have tanked pretty hard this year. A good thing for shoppers – you can now get a juicy $3k off sticker prices. Good value and giant cabin for a 22k sedan. HOLY COW space and affordability at $19k.
This Sonata Limited comes in with a retail price of $28k, which rises to $31,310 with the $2900 Ultimate package.
Ultimate brings Nav and larger touchscreen, active safety features (that rock!), auto highbeams and a few other goodies.
The pricing feels about right once discounts are considered.
Is it a Sonata love-fest? On our third outing in the Hyundai mid-sizer, we’ve liked it less and less each time. This 2018 refresh is quite superficial and does not address some core limitations of the machine versus rivals.
Sonata will be an easy, pleasant dream to own and drive for 90-percent of people out there. Easy tech and terrific space go a long way with mainstream America.
But in a crowded market for sedans – that is losing ground to crossovers every month – Sonata needs a full redesign pretty urgently. Most crucially, it seems to need a reason for being. Will it be soft and silent? Sporty and firm? Slow or very slow?
Much as Sonata tries to please everyone, it really does best in isolation. Around its rivals, a glaring lack of passion makes Sonata’s sedated personality feel totally comatose.
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.