2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0TPosted on March 2nd, 2015
Premium midsize sedan
By Nina Russin
Over the past two decades, Hyundai has evolved from loss leader to value leader, replacing its initial lineup of inexpensive cars with premium products that offer value content. The all-new 2015 Sonata midsize sedan is a case in point, rivaling luxury models in terms of performance, build quality, safety and convenience features but priced firmly within the premium segment.
Product planners divided the market for the Sonata into a more conservative, amenity-focused group and a second segment more concerned with driving dynamics. The premium SE grade appeals to the former group while the Sonata Sport, with features such as a flat-bottom steering wheel inspired by Formula One racing, targets the second. There is also a Limited model for those wanting more luxury.
The test car is the Sport model with the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine: one of two available blocks. Both are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The two-liter four-cylinder engine is the smaller of the two blocks but turbocharging gives it the best power: 245-horsepower as compared to 185 for the naturally aspirated 2.4-cylinder. The difference in torque is even more significant, with the turbocharged block topping off at 260 foot-pounds, available from 1350 rpm.
Base price for the test car is $28,575 excluding the $810 destination charge. Standard safety and convenience features include daytime running lamps, blind spot detection, a rearview camera, hands-free smart trunk opener, leather seating, power driver’s seat with lower lumbar support, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth interface, satellite radio, Blue Link telematics and connected care.
A premium option package adds a panoramic sunroof, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, rear park assist, driver’s seat position memory, navigation, LED interior lighting and premium audio system. Final MSRP is $34,460.
Test drive in Phoenix
I was anxious to get behind the wheel of the newest Sonata, having heard stellar reports from colleagues. The test car delivered on all fronts, with styling, build quality and driving dynamics a significant improvement from the outgoing model.
Hyundai’s fluidic styling has become one of the brand’s trademarks. In its first iteration, it was very polarizing with some people drawn to the dramatic lines and aerodynamic profiles while others found it too extreme. Under the tutelage of design guru, Peter Schreyer, Hyundai’s signature styling has matured into a softer, more appealing format that is every bit as distinctive as what preceded it.
Engineers increased the percentage of high-strength steel in the body, making it more rigid for improved steering response. As a result, the speed-sensitive electric power steering system is virtually indistinguishable from a conventional hydraulic unit, with ample assist on the low end and excellent on-center response at speed.
The turbocharged four-cylinder engine mimics the power and performance of a V-6 with significantly better fuel economy, averaging 32 mils-per-gallon on the highway according to the EPA. Average fuel economy for my 100-mile test drive was 28 miles-per-gallon: two better than the EPA average of 26.
Turbocharging flattens out the engine’s torque curve and minimizes parasitic power loss at altitude: an important asset for buyers living mountainous areas.
The six-speed automatic transmission is a solid performer as well, with smooth, linear progression throughout the gears.
My test drive included some time on area surface roads and highways before heading east into the foothills of the Superstition Mountains, to test the engine’s performance at some altitude. I also wanted to see how well the steering and suspension responded to off-camber turns and pitchy hills. Finally, I headed south to take in a section of rough pavement on the Gila River Indian reservation: the closest roads here in Phoenix come to some parts of the upper Midwest.
The four-wheel independent suspension includes a drive mode select feature that enables the driver to change damping from comfort to sport modes. This comes in handy for those who like taking twisty roads on the weekend, but need to navigate through sections of road construction during the weekly commute.
Visibility around the perimeter is somewhat limited by the Sonata’s narrow greenhouse and thick rear pillars, but the rearview camera and blind spot detection features do a good job of compensating. I had no problems monitoring cross traffic when backing out of perpendicular parking spots, and found it easy to monitor traffic in adjacent lanes when driving on the highway.
The sedan’s low coefficient of drag not only improves fuel economy, it also decreases wind noise intrusion to the interior. Occupants can easily converse on the highway or enjoy the premium audio system.
The most obvious difference between the new Sonata and the car it replaces is on the interior: the area that had formerly been Hyundai’s Achilles heel. Designers fixed key problem areas such as hard-to-read gauge clusters and center stack displays. On the new car, both are easy to read in bright sunlight and after dark.
The seats are more comfortable, with intuitive power adjustments. Lower lumbar support was more than adequate for drives lasting over an hour. Fit and finish is excellent throughout the interior, rivaling luxury brands.
The Hyundai Sonata comes with seven standard airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, tire pressure monitoring, a rearview camera, blind spot detection and daytime running lamps.
Hyundai’s ten-year/100,000-mile factory warranty protects owners against repair costs from manufacturing defects. The warranty includes five years of complimentary roadside assistance with no mileage cap.
Hyundai builds the Sonata at its Montgomery, Alabama assembly plant.
Like: A stylish midsize sedan with a high level of safety and convenience features, excellent fuel economy, power and performance.
Model: Sonata Sport 2.0T
Base price: $28,575
As tested: $34,460
Horsepower: 245 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 260 lbs.-ft. @ 1350 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 23/32 mpg city/highway
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