2015 Hyundai Sonata Review

The sheet steel comes into the assembly plant in rolls, like paper. Huge hydraulic presses more than four stories high stamp the steel into body panels. As sparks scatter, robots weld together structures from complex shapes of high-strength steel. Some 3000 men and women (and more than a few robots) assemble all the pieces. Finally an American car is driven away from the assembly line, one of about 400,000 that will be built this year.

The difference is, this American car is the 2015 Hyundai Sonata. It’s designed for America, built in America, and, most important, perfectly in tune with what America wants in an automobile. The Hyundai Sonata is the new Camry.

Styling for grown-ups

Let us all praise designer Christopher Chapman and his small studio of forty people in California for the dramatic, last-generation Sonata, which broke the spell of sleep-inducing styling that has cursed mid-size sedans in this country. His introduction of “Fluidic Sculpture” certainly underscored the homeliness of the competition, although the Sonata’s surfacing did seem a little overwrought as time went on.

For the 2015 Hyundai Sonata, the design team has let the shape evolve a little, something Chapman understands from his years at BMW. When you walk up to the new car and put your hands on it, Chapman wants you to sense an inner strength in the taut, muscular surface. At the same time, plenty of visual drama remains, notably the “saber line” of brightwork that runs the length of the car along the lower edge of the glass, plus the coupe-like roof with its sleekly arching C-pillar.

For us, the 2015 Sonata’s interior style is even more impressive, as its sweeping horizontal gesture gives the feeling that you’re in a premium car. The array of controls on the center stack has the kind of logical organization that makes operation intuitive, plus there’s an 8.0-in communication screen in some models. No miracle has been accomplished to make you believe that you’re in a Jaguar, but the all-new Sonata still makes the other cars in its class look dowdy.

Space for grown-ups, too

Personally, we hardly ever care very much about interior space. Let big people drive trucks, and if you let your in-laws ride around in the spacious back seat of your car, they’ll just be encouraged to visit more often. (And who wants that?)

Even so, we found ourselves cruising the roads around the Hyundai plant in Montgomery, Alabama, with three people in the car, and everyone stayed happy. The big guy in the back had space for his legs, plus he was surprised that his head didn’t graze the roof. He also really liked the optional, transparent panoramic roof, not just because the additional light makes the interior feel more spacious but also because it let him scan the horizon for thunderstorms. (We encountered no lightning, but fish could have survived very happily in one downpour.)

The 2015 Hyundai Sonata has been stretched in every dimension, and now it measures 191.1 inches long, 73.4 inches wide, and 58.1 inches high on 110.1-inch wheelbase. It’s definitely a large car (EPA certification says so) with 106.1 cubic feet of passenger volume, not to mention a very large trunk of 16.3 cubic feet. This makes the 2015 Sonata fractionally larger than the Accord, Altima, Camry, and Passat.

Country clubs and vegetable stands

As we cruised down the interstate, we found ourselves thinking that this new Sonata is much quieter than before. Then again, the previous car didn’t exactly set any new standards in quietness, as it was tuned for a certain amount of hush at freeway speed yet boomed, thrashed, and thumped whenever you asked anything else from it. With the new Sonata, you could throw a couple sets of golf clubs into the trunk and make your way in perfect comfort to one of the nine Robert Trent Jones-designed golf courses that Alabama has helped build to encourage tourism.

Later, as we spent time on the winding country roads through largely unspoiled woodlands and pastures, it came to us that the new car is not just comfortable but also extremely poised. In fact, we found ourselves with too many knots of speed to make a turnaround to one of the vegetable stands for which the fertile farming country here is famous.

The 2015 Hyundai Sonata has made a leap in structural rigidity thanks to meeting the new federal standards for offset crash impacts, but while the car indeed feels more solid than before, there’s more to the Sonata’s newfound goodness than this. The crisper steering and supple suspension action make the car feel securely planted. It’s no sports sedan, but it never seems to put a foot wrong. You simply fly down the road, and then you look down at the speedometer to find yourself going 10 mph faster than you thought.

What kind of barbecue sauce would you like with that?

If you’re a rational person, you’ll choose the 2015 Hyundai Sonata SE with its 2.4-liter, Theta II four-cylinder engine. It’s rated at 185 hp @ 6000 rpm and 178 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm, which is on par with the competition (though reduced by 5 hp and 1 lb-ft from last year). The engine feels livelier than before because the variable valve timing affords quicker response over a broader range of rpm, and it also seems more refined than before. If you choose the luxurious 2015 Hyundai Sonata Limited, you should get 24 mpg city/35 highway/28 mpg combined. The only flaw here is the electric power-assisted steering that comes with the 2.4-liter engine package, because its action still feels sticky, although it has been improved to deliver better on-center feel.

If you’re like us, you’ll probably be seduced by the 2015 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T, not the least because of the availability of the zippy orange paint (Urban Sunset). You’ll notice the way the new Sonata’s HID headlights and LED running lights have been supplemented by a dramatic grille, chrome accent for the bodywork’s rocker panels, and quad exhaust tips. This 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with its twin-scroll turbocharger has been revised for much improved response at low rpm, so the car surges away from a stoplight with more authority than before. The price has been a reduction in peak output to 245 hp @ 6000 rpm and 260 lb-ft of torque at 1350 – 4000 rpm, some 29 hp and 9 lb-ft less than before.

This seems like a bad deal on paper, yet we liked this 2.0T engine’s notably quicker, quieter response while accelerating away from stoplights in metro driving, and the engine made great use of the 2.0T’s six-speed automatic with its shift paddles on the steering wheel and a set up of shorter ratios in first through fourth gears for quicker acceleration. Also we expect that the 2.0T should more easily make its EPA fuel economy rating of 23 mpg city/32 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined. Even better, the 2.0T comes with a different electric-assisted power steering (the motor is mounted on the steering rack instead of the column), and its behavior feels more natural. Meanwhile the 2.0T’s upgrade to P225/45R-18 tires from the 2.4-liter Limited and Sport SE’s P215/55R-17s provided all we needed in handling sportiness.

The whole picnic lunch

With the 2015 Hyundai Sonata, your choices begin at the $21,110 Sonata SE or the new, high-efficiency, $23,275 Sonata 1.6T with its small turbocharged engine and seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. If you skip the intermediate combinations and go right to the top of the line, there are the $31,575 Sonata Limited Ultimate and $33,525 2.0T Sport Ultimate. The range of audio features is astonishing considering the price (Apple Car Play and Google Android Auto among them), as are the active safety features (including forward collision alert and rear cross-traffic warning).

As a country of what once were simple farmers, Americans are cheap, so we’ll never spend more than we have to. As former colonials who were once far from sources of supply, Americans are practical, and we look for reliability and durability. Americans are inventive, so we appreciate innovative technology, yet we’re not willing to pay more for it unless the cost has been reduced as far as possible. And Americans are upwardly mobile, so we believe in luxury and comfort. When you think about the story of Hyundai in America since it arrived in 1986, the company has focused on each of these things in turn, and maybe it’s the combination of these values that makes the 2015 Hyundai Sonata so American.

One day soon maybe we’ll all stop thinking of the Hyundai Sonata as a car from Korea. After all, Montgomery, Alabama, is not in Korea.

2015 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T Sport Ultimate Specifications

Base Price: $34,335
On Sale: Now
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4
Power: 245 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 260 lb-ft @ 1350 – 4000 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Drive: Front-wheel
Steering: Electronically assisted rack-and-pinion
Front suspension: MacPherson strut, coil springs, gas-charged dampers, anti-roll bar
Rear suspension: Multi-link, coil springs, gas-charged dampers, anti-roll bar
Brakes (front/rear): Ventilated discs, ABS
Tires: 235/45R-18
L x W x H: 191.1 x 73.4 x 58.1 in
Wheelbase: 110.4 in
Track F/R: 62.9/63.1 in
Weight: 3616 lb
Passenger Volume 106.1 cu ft
Cargo Volume: 16.3 cu ft
EPA Mileage: 23/32/26 City/Highway/Combined
Hyundai took a step backwards by taking its bold styling and making a bland, extremely generic looking mid-size sedan that does not stand out at all.  Definitely a huge mistake an a deal breaker for me.  The Honda Accord  sedan followed this same bland and generic path and it is the reason I would never buy the current Accord.The Mazda6, and Ford Fusion are still the best looking cars in this class.  I would buy a Mazda 6 over Hyundai's underwhelming redesign (perhaps like Honda, Hyundai has become overly conservative and lost its innovative mojo)..
Since the 2013 Accord came out, I keep reading first reviews of competitors which make it sound like they've matched or exceeded the Accord in performance and driving pleasure. Then, a few months later, other than the excellent Mazda 6, the car mags begin picking up on flaws not covered in the previous review. "The new best thing" turns out not to be. While the Mazda 6 is the one sedan in this class which outhandles the Accord, the Accord EX-L V6 bests them all with excellent handling, little body roll, extremely comfortable and attractive interior, and Car & Driver's 5.6 0-60 clocked speed--which Mazda doesn't offer at all. The Accord is the best all around sedan in this class, especially the fabulous V6. Sounds like the Sonata is a worthy contender, but it won't carve curves the way the Accord or the 6 do, and the Fusion is showing up in CR with some real reliability problems--though it is a beauty. The initial reviews of the Chrysler 200 sounded spectacular...the followup reviews, not so much.
Yeah, I'm an Accord partisan, as is C & D. I'm no drag racer, but my V6 will blow away all its competitors, when needed. It's a silky power plant, and the Accord is actually fun to drive on country roads. A BMW? Nope. But value, fun, and performance unmatched by its competitors.
Hmm.  Disappointing to read about the "sticky" steering on the SE.  I had a 2009 Elantra that was a great car except for one major fly in the ointment.  The electric power steering was terrible.  Never thought of the word sticky to describe it, but that is very apt.

I've seen this car in person, and it looks better than it does in photos.  I agree that the old styling was a tad overwrought.  That is corrected this time around.  Somewhat more generic, but less gaudy.  I like it.

I'm now curious to drive an SE.  For some reason, getting electric power steering down right has not been Hyundai's strong suit.  I wish they could get a handle on it.  Hopefully it's not like my Elantra.  That car felt like the steering system was made of wooden parts.  It was, though, ultra reliable and the equal on a quality front of any Civic or Corolla of the day.
they start doing the honda/toyota way..more boring sells car. too bad.
What a shame that Hyundai has abandoned its daring styling for a car that looks just like all the other generic A7 wanna-be's out there: Fusion, Chrysler 200, etc. The interior also is too conservative, and the price advantage that was Hyundai's forte seems to have disappeared. Add in the horsepower drop, and I'm puzzled by the direction Hyundai is taking. At least it sounds like the car drives better.
34K hyundai. why? and after all the writting I was expecting a very nice interior and I look at the picture and it's a sea of black plastic and a flat flat center stack that looks like it's from a 1990s SAAB....so ugly compare even to a KIA's interior.... that is probably the child company KIA use italian interior designer and parent company use american designer and it shows.There is a common theme here. Toyota Camry/honda accord /hyundai Sonata all have bad interior...why? because it's all designed in America. Just look at american cars, they all had been ugly... FORD.GM.Dodge. The only good looking interior ones are the European version of their cars...which is designed by European.When will they learn....American can't design car interiors unless price is not a factor .
Matt Piccolo
^ Haha, Hyundai a success story, good one Jeff Gilleran. Try telling my dad that, his 2010 Santa fe has been sitting at the dealer, because apparently their warranty doesn't cover an electrical failure on a 3.5 year old vehicle.
Danny Baker
I just like the previous style way better!
Jeff Gilleran
Hyundai is NOT the shittiest car company on earth. Not even close. Toyota makes fine appliances, but they make mistakes too like everyone else. Obviously, Brandan, you haven't owned a Hyundai, and your mind is made up not to. Your Business. But its your opinion. Hyundai is a success story. They have been getting better and better since 2001, with the best warranty in the business. Ive owned 3 since 1995. All have been great cars.
John Lopez
John Lopez
Agreed, but I notice this design is more conservative. I think it will age better than previous models
John Lopez
I see the Fusion over either of those.
John Lopez
True, but things change. Every generation they have gotten stronger and stronger. If nothing else, they will push the top brands to do even better. I see this as a win for all.
John Lopez
I like that they are taking the best from Ford, Toyota, and Honda, and making it part of their car. I think this will sell very well for that reason.
John Lopez
It's design has evolved some. I think this will age better and sell better.
John Lopez
John Lopez
Can you please provide links to factual data on this claim?
John Lopez
Your information is about a decade old. I would also take a Toyota over a Hyundai in most cases, but that doesn't mean the Hyundai is crap. And for the record, I would take a Honda before a Toyota.
Tim Lucas
The Sonata is far too interesting to be the new Camry!
Wil Bebe Vélez
They must be doing something right selling so many..
Joseph Paradise
Sorry, still has the stigma of being a cheaply made driving appliance. No thanks.
Abhishek Danole
Hybrid car
Dave Oeskovic
Nose looks like a new Subaru Legacy. The tail end and new bloat makes it look like a Honda Crosstour. (Neither are compliments)
Jacques René Delange
Joe Hauge
saw this on my phone earlier & thought it said the sonata is the new camry...thought to myself, that's a back-handed compliment!
Autocertif Sarl
Jordan Tyler Roybal
Far mor superior than a camry
Slreap Heart
hi.. this is Pearl from car finder magazine and i would like to invite you to post an ads and avail od dscounted rate call us 09235746518/09398522953
Lee Klein
Their cars don't age well. Maybe they plan it that way.
Rob Silver
I would rather talk about the velostar.
Paul Olsen
At least it looks better
Eric Glueckert
Looks too plain to me.
Eric Wondoloski
I drove a 2014 Sonata 4 months ago. I bought a 2014.5 Camry. Hyundai can pretend all they want but they cannot match Toyota.
Danny Baker
I like the 2014 better, now it looks like a Volvo!
Brandan McArthur
Hahaha is this a joke? Camry has proven to last, hyundai is the second shittiest car company on earth, after kia. There's really no argument. I dont like the new camry styling but I'd certainly buy a camry from the 90's before I'd buy a brand new hyundai; a shitbox straight from the factory.
Ron Jones
Well, it definitely looks better then the Camry.
Craig Jackson
Its still a Hyundai and will depericiate as such. Give me the Toyota.
John Kurtz
Looks sooo much better now.
Mstr Wzzrd
Good luck. It's built from tsunami damaged materials that have micro fractures and don't weld effectively. Materials are poor.
Jack Geerer
Ford Fusion profile. Stay original Hyundai.
Luis Calderón
I think any car wants to BETTER the Camry.
@donpaul0 You street race?  Really?  You do know only degenerates do that right?  You put other people in danger to make yourself feel better?  You need help.
@donpaul0 I agree with you that the Mazda 6 unfortunately does not offer a more powerful engine option and if you do need a v-6 then the Mazda 6 is not your car (I'm hoping for turbo diesel or a turbo gas engine option).  However, I have I and every review I have read rate the Mazda 6 better than the 4 cylinder Accord.  I have driven both cars many times and  the Mazda 6 and the Mazda 6 is better handling and more fun to drive car than the Accord.  Styling is really no contest as the Accord's generic, overly conservative styling cannot even compete with the stunningly attractive Mazda 6 which was a finalist in World Car design.  The 6 also has b better trunk design then the Accord as it has a 60/40 folding rear seat versus the Accord's one piece seat and furthermore the opening for the fold down rear seat in the Mazda 6 is wider and larger and does get as narrow on the top as the Accord (thereby allowing larger objects to be placed through the trunk and rear seat).  The Accord also has exposed trunk lid hinges which could damage cargo when you close the trunk lid.  The Mazda 6 hinges slide into housings which ;prevent this possibilty.   I also like the smooth and quick shifting 6 speed automatic over the Accord's CVT.  (Yes, that is another reason to only buy a V-6 Accord  over the four cylinder).  I agree with you that the Honda V-6 is good engine. 
Forgot to mention...I'm averaging 28-29 mpg in mixed driving with that 3.5 liter engine.
You must have the mind of a shitbox straight from the factory. It clearly shows.

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