With SUVs and other utility vehicles rapidly taking center stage in the automotive world, it can be easy to forget that the traditional mid-size sedan market is still a potent battlefield where nameplates come and go, and the ones that survive have to work extra hard to make a name for themselves. That’s the case with the 2021 Hyundai Sonata lineup, which aims to steal the spotlight from the likes of the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord. But is the Sonata ahead of the pack in terms of delivering the right blend of equipment, style, and value? To find out, we embarked on a small comparison test with the Sonata Limited to see how this shapely sedan measures up against rivals and find out if it meets the expectations of customers.
2021 Hyundai Sonata Limited vs. 2020 Ford Fusion Titanium
Our first comparison takes an interesting diversion as we pit our tester against the 2020 Ford Fusion. Ford stopped Fusion production some time ago, but the unfortunate consequence of Ford’s decision to go all-in on SUVs and trucks is that dealerships are having a hard time getting rid of their Fusion inventory. As a result, they are still lingering on lots, and thus this undead zombie from Ford’s past creeps its way into contention here.
While the bulk of the remaining Fusions in dealer inventory are SEL models that go toe to toe with Sonata trims of the same name, there are still a few Titaniums out there that have range-topping Sonata Limiteds like our example firmly in their sights. Both models have four-cylinder engines, but the Titanium’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is bigger than the 1.6 liter in the Hyundai, and it all makes more power (245 hp vs. 180 hp.) However, the Hyundai’s eight-speed automatic has two more cogs than the Ford, and it also benefits from fresher technology.
Both cars are evenly matched in trunk space, with the two offering 16 ft of trunk space. However, the Ford’s interior starts to rapidly lose ground when you explore some of the technology and comfort features on hand. This is still a very spacious place to spend time in, but being axed from formal production has caused the Fusion to miss out on some of the slicker infotainment systems that have entered the marketplace and its older SYNC system is no match for Hyundai’s latest version of UVO.
Ultimately, the firm deciding line between the two will be in pricing, which will depend entirely on which Ford dealership you go to. On average, many of the Fusion Titaniums we saw online had final prices of around $34,000, including numerous Ford discounts. A brand new Hyundai Sonata Limited is $1,000 less before taxes and fees, with our lightly optioned example being firmly in the $34,000 range.
2021 Hyundai Sonata Limited vs. 2021 Toyota Camry XLE
With our tester’s trip to the underworld completed, it’s time to see how it measures up against the current crop of sedan entries, starting with the Toyota Camry, which is arguably one of the benchmarks in this shrinking segment. The Camry has benefitted from some light updates for the 2021 model year, and it still retains a strong lineup of offerings. For comparison’s sake, we focused our attention on the four-cylinder equipped Camry XLE, which is supposed to be the most luxury-focused one in the lineup.
Unlike the Hyundai, the XLE is powered by a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine but makes up for it by offering more power with the non-boosted lump producing 203 horsepower. Both cars have an eight-speed automatic, and they also come very close in overall fuel economy ratings. In this category, driver preference will play a prominent role with Hyundai’s beefier low-end punch and boost contrast with the mid-range power that the Camry’s four-cylinder brings to the table. The Hyundai has a slight advantage in trunk space, but the 15.1 ft of space offered by the Camry is nothing to scoff at.
The Camry XLE four-cylinder also has a slight price advantage over the Hyundai, with a base one starting at $29,870. Option it up, and this flavor of Camry still manages to ride slightly under the Hyundai’s price point. This allows the Camry to be a better value play. Still, the Camry does get dinged slightly for its inferior infotainment software and its interior, lacking some of the slick visuals and the modern materials that Hyundai brings to the table with the Sonata.
2021 Hyundai Sonata Limited vs. 2021 Honda Accord EX-L
Our third and final comparison pits the Hyundai against the other big dog in the yard, the 2021 Honda Accord in EX-L trim. EX-L models have a base price of $31,290, which puts them in firm contention with the range-topping Sonata Limited. The Accord EX-L is also on even ground with the Hyundai when it comes to some of the equipment it offers, with blind-spot monitoring, parking sensors, and even a wireless charging pad for your phone, all being standard equipment. The Sonata makes up some ground by outshining the Honda in some of its more creative technology with Limited models benefitting from both Blind Spot Monitor View and Surround View Monitor and its trump card, the Remote Smart Parking Assist (aka Smart park.)
When it comes to performance, both the Accord and the Sonata EX-L wield turbocharged four-cylinder engines, with the Honda’s 1.5 liter giving up a bit of displacement to the Hyundai’s bigger 1.6 liter. However, the roles are reversed when it comes to overall horsepower, with the Honda’s 192 hp outshining the 180 hp wielded by the Hyundai. The Accord also takes a different approach to transmission technology, with the EX-L using a CVT for its gear shifting duties versus the Hyundai’s eight-speed automatic.
The cabins of the two are both high-quality places to spend time in, but both the Accord and the Sonata approach things differently when it comes to truly mastering some of the details. The Accord is perhaps the most conventional of the two, with the interior putting a strong emphasis on high-quality materials as well as a sense of familiarity. The design doesn’t stray too far from conventional trends, which may please buyers who don’t want to go. The Sonata’s cabin is more daring, and the designers here were more willing to experiment with angles in lines. While this might displease older buyers, we suspect that younger buyers will embrace this look, which will help prop up sales.
As you can see, the segment as a whole is still a very hotly contested place, with many automakers still trying their hardest to draw attention to themselves. While the Fusion will gradually fade away from new car inventories, the Accord and the Camry are still potent rivals to overcome. Still, we think Hyundai has a fighting chance, especially with recently launched variants like the Hybrid and the spicier Sonata N-Line.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.