Class: Midsize Car
Dates tested: 12/28/2015 – 1/11/2016
Miles Driven: 454
Fuel Used: 20.3 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 22.3 mpg
Driving mix: 60% city, 40% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 16/22/18 (city, highway, combined)
|CG Report Card|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Room and Comfort||A-|
|Power and Performance||B|
|Fit and Finish||B-|
Base price: $28,925 (not including $835 destination charge)
Options on test car: None
Price as tested: $29,760
The great: Visibility, control layout
The good: Responsive powertrain, passenger room
The not so good: Mediocre fuel economy, ride quality
The Hyundai Sonata may be the blind date of midsized sedans. You might initially resist getting involved with it, perhaps you’ll come to like it, but can you fall madly in love with it?
There are a lot of fish in this sea, so an intermediate really has to put on its best face to attract a mate. (That’s you.) Anybody who has shopped in the segment knows there are a few alluring “crushes” on the market that never seem to lack for suitors. The Sonata would like to be one of them.
It’s almost there. There are plenty of practical things about the midsize Hyundai that could lead to a stable, long-term relationship (how about that warranty, huh?) but maybe not enough, uh, fireworks.
The Sonata was completely redone for 2015, and sees little in the way of change for ’16. Indeed, the Sport 2.0T that Consumer Guide® tested seemed to differ from the same model it sampled a year ago only in base price and equipment availability.
The “2.0T” part refers to the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine with a twin-scroll turbocharger that makes 245 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. That’s the key thing that distinguishes it from the Sport with a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter 185-hp four. It’s not the only thing, though. Here’s what’s standard on the $28,925 Sport 2.0T that’s not on the $23,400 Sport: sport suspension, sport-tuned steering with rack-mounted power-steering motor, 18-inch alloy wheels and wider tires, blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert and lane-change assist, hands-free “smart” trunk release, lighted chrome exterior door handles, rear diffuser, chrome-tipped quad exhaust, xenon headlights, LED taillights, proximity key with push-button starting, dual-zone temperature control, rear-seat climate-system vents in the back of the center console, automatic down/up driver’s-side power window, heated front seats, leather seats with sport bolsters, contrast stitching on seats and leatherette door inserts, “3D tech”-material accents on the doors and dash, premium door-sill plates, bright-metal interior door handles and pedal faces, leather-wrapped shift knob and flat-bottom steering wheel, paddle shifters, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with remote garage-door opener and compass.
A few of the aforementioned items can be added to the base Sport but there no longer are any option packages for the 2.0T. As a result, you can’t get navigation, a sunroof, or an uprated audio system on the Sport 2.0T. You can order them for the 2.4 Sport—or, if you must have the turbo engine, step up to the $34,075 Limited 2.0T.
Paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission, the boosted engine is a solid performer that responds quickly with minimal turbo lag. It is, however, subject to some roughness at idle. Also, it isn’t especially stingy with gas. Operating solely in the base driving mode—there are “Eco” and “Sport” settings as well—this driver saw 21.41 mpg from a trip of 161.4 miles, 58 percent of that in city conditions. That’s not nearly up to the 2.0T’s EPA ratings of 23 mpg city/32 highway/26 combined but it was consistent with what he got from the 2015 model.
The Sport 2.0T’s tweaked suspension lacks the sophistication of some class rivals—bumps are encountered with a bit of a jolt. Steering in the selectable Sport setting provides a subtle increase of resistance but doesn’t completely fill the void at dead center. Braking is good.
The airy roof design includes lots of glass and excellent vision all around. Doors open wide for easy entry and exit. There’s good leg and head room in both rows of seats, and enough space in back for three adults should the need arise.
Interior appointments are more sturdy than stylish. Soft-touch material covers the very tops of the doors, dash, and arm rests, but much of what is below them is hard plastic—albeit grained to visually match the softer stuff. While comfortable to sit upon, seats could use a little more bolstering grip. Controls offer big dials in front of the driver; a 7-inch touchscreen; and a fair number of buttons for audio and climate systems below. It’s easy to program audio selections, and steering-wheel buttons reduce the need to reach for the screen.
Interior storage boasts a decent glove box. The console has a covered bin with USB and power ports, two exposed cup holders, and a generous covered cubby with a removable tray. Pockets in all 4 doors incorporate bottle holders. Rear passengers are presented with pouches attached to the backs of the front seats, a wide pull-down center arm rest with a pair of cup holders, and a power point in the back of the console.
Trunk space is quite ample. Releases located in the trunk allow for the rear 60/40 seats to fold for added cargo capacity. The seats fold nearly flat but above the level of the trunk floor by a few inches. Plus, a bulkhead behind the rear seats further restricts the passage to the interior.
How, then, to assess the Sonata? Nice personality. Pretty good dancer. What the heck—it’s Saturday night, and you don’t have anything better to do. . . .
I wish the fuel economy was better, but the Sport 2.0T feels like something of a bargain. The power is smooth and ready, the cabin is roomy and nicely finished, and the ride/handling balance is better than Hyundai is generally known for. Sonata is a fine car, it just swims in a sea of brutal competition. But, if you’re looking for a practical commuter with a little zip, you should add the Sonata Sport 2.0T to your test-drive list.