A fresh look at Hyundai's middling midsizer
Once incredibly popular, midsize sedans are quickly falling out of favor as Americans choose crossovers. Every single nonpremium midsize sedan on the market has slipped in the sales charts during the first 11 months of 2017. But that doesn’t mean the segment is becoming any less competitive. Honda has rolled out an impressive new Accord, right on the heels of Toyota introducing a solid new Camry. For the 2018 model year, Hyundai has spruced up the Sonata with a fresh transmission lineup, a more upscale interior, and a more refined exterior with a newly designed grille, hood, and headlights. An updated chassis succeeds in improving handling.
Despite many changes, Hyundai kept the same engines. Most buyers will find the standard 2.4-liter engine sufficient with 185 hp, as we’ve noted before. The 2.0-liter turbo-four engine still makes 245 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, but it receives a new eight-speed automatic transmission. The turbocharged Sonata drives like a V-6 without feeling bulky.
Remarkably, our turbocharged 2018 Sonata tester went from 0 to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds. That’s almost a whole second quicker than the prerefresh 2015 Sonata Sport 2.0T we clocked at 8.0 seconds.
Unfortunately, this more potent Sonata is slower than its direct competitors. A 2018 Honda Accord 2.0T Touring we tested reached 60 mph in just 5.7 seconds, tying a 2017 Chevrolet Malibu 2.0T Premier we’ve also tested.
The Sonata also fell behind in the quarter-mile run with a time of 15.3 seconds at 93.7 mph (150.7 km/h). The Accord managed the run in 14.3 seconds at 99.3 mph (159.8 km/h), and the Malibu sped through the test in 14.3 seconds at 99.4 mph (160 km/h).
Associate road test editor Erick Ayapana and testing director Kim Reynolds both praised the Sonata for its satisfying brake feel during the track tests. Reynolds noted the Sonata felt nimble around the figure eight, where it recorded a time of 26.7 seconds at an average of 0.66 g—pretty close to competitors we’ve tested.
On real roads, the Sonata doesn’t feel like a large sedan as it would be considered these days. It handles tighter maneuvers with ease; we didn’t have to make nearly as many three-point turns as we expected. As we said in our First Drive review, the eight-speed transmission performs smoothly. Hyundai updated the Sonata’s steering, and it shows. The result is a precise steering wheel that does what you command it to do.
Buyers looking to maximize fuel economy will likely choose the Sonata Eco. If you’re willing to make do with 178 hp, you can achieve an estimated 28/37/31 mpg (8.4/6.4/7.6 L/100km) city/highway/combined on this model. Our more powerful Sonata is rated 23/32/26 mpg (10.2/7.3/9 L/100km). Or at least that’s what the EPA says.
In our Real MPG tests, the turbo Sonata exceeded expectations by a considerable margin. Our results came back at 23.5/40.5/28.9 mpg (10/5.8/8.1 L/100km) city/highway/combined. That highway number would be quite impressive even on smaller cars with smaller engines.
Although slower than certain competitors, the Sonata 2.0T receives a competitive price tag. This top-trim model came loaded with standard features; there are no packages and limited accessories available. Safety features include rear parking sensors, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot detection, rear cross traffic alert, lane change assist, lane keep assist, and brake assist. Meanwhile, expect almost all the comfort and convenience features you can hope for on a model in this segment, including a hands-free trunk, LED headlights and taillights, heated and ventilated front seats, dual-zone auto climate control, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, navigation, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, wireless device charging, and a 10-speaker audio system with subwoofer. Special visual cues including a mesh grille, dark chrome exterior trim, black lower front bumper, and black bezel headlamps are included on 2.0T models.
After adding carpeted floor mats, our model rang out to $33,460 USD. The 2018 Honda Accord Touring with the 2.0-liter engine has a similar set of features, but it wears a price tag of $36,690 USD. However, this model comes standard with a head-up display.
Inside the cabin, the Sonata 2.0T doesn’t look quite as new as the Accord. While other automakers are moving toward touchscreen-only controls, the Sonata still has quite a few buttons. The infotainment system also looks a little older, thanks in part to the map graphics. But we found the sport seats to be very comfortable. It’s quite easy to see out of the Sonata, thanks to its low front windshield and large side windows.
In our eyes, the Sonata is not the top competitor in its segment. But once again, the Sonata stands apart because it offers great value for the money, a particularly impressive feat once you get to the top trim level. With improved acceleration and driving dynamics, as trite as it sounds, the Sonata is a good pick in a segment filled with many good options.
|2018 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T Limited|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$33,460|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||2.0L/245-hp/260-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,522 lb (61/39%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||191.1 x 73.4 x 58.1 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.1 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||15.3 sec @ 93.7 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||113 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.87 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.7 sec @ 0.66 g (avg)|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||23.5/40.5/28.9 mpg|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||23/32/26 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||147/105 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.74 lb/mile|