April 16, 2014
2015 Hyundai Sonata. Click image to enlarge
Preview and photos by Jonathan Yarkony
Summary: 2015 Hyundai Sonata makes its first appearance on North American soil and we get the details from the New York show floor.
NEW YORK, New York – We were on hand in New York City as Hyundai’s 2015 Sonata made its debut on North Ametrican soil after first being revealed in Korea.
Although not Hyundai’s top seller in Canada, it was in the USA until last year and with a new model on the market it will likely reclaim that top spot. Mid-size sedans are big business in the States, and as such can influence the fortunes of a company, so Hyundai has been extremely aggressive with its product cycle, replacing the current Sonata that has only been on the market since model year 2011. It was also an incredibly dramatic design, and a departure from the homely and conventional Sonatas that preceded.
The 2015 might be labelled more conventional, eschewing some of the more flashy character lines and organic curves, but it continues Hyundai’s efforts in the styling department to remain fresh and to capture the latest trends in design. The big bold grille is backed by a more stately, less curvy and more vertical front end, while the roofline reaches back into the trunk in a fastback profile. The trunk and taillights have elements of Fusion and Optima, two beauties in the segment that are tough acts to follow.
The interior also goes for a more angular, technical look while adopting higher quality materials that seem more in line with the Genesis luxury targets than the mid-size sedan segment. If the Hyundai system can match the 2014 Optima’s effective balance between style, functionality and quality, it should be a simple system and easy to learn. As is the norm, the model grows, this one by 35 mm in length and 31 in width, with most of the increase translated into greater interior volume. Indeed the back seat is reasonably spacious, with notably better headroom, and the interior materials feel high quality, but don’t quite leap to the head of the pack. The seats are comfortable, but some of the door trim feels a bit, well, cost effective.
The 2015 Sonata also promises improvements on the road, the engineering team aiming to improve ride quality and driving feel. To that end, Hyundai returned to the Nurburgring and other demanding testing environments to sort out a chassis balance that will appeal to demanding drivers, though this likely represents only a small portion of mid-size sedan shoppers. It does sound cool, though. As for the technical side of it, the frame is 41 percent stiffer in torsional rigidity, 35 percent in bending strength thanks to increased use of high-strength steel by 30 percent. The stiffer body will allow a more capable suspension tuning, while greater steering column rigidity and reprogramming of the power steering should yield better steering feel but the verdict on these will have to wait until we drive it. Knowing Hyundai, we expect significant improvements as they have always delivered from generation to generation.
Hyundai will also be offering “Sport” trims for more enthusiastic types, consisting of unique exterior, interior, and suspension components.
2015 Hyundai Sonata. Click image to enlarge
However, another key focus of this redesign was the incorporation of advanced driver assistance technologies: Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Blind Spot Detection (BSD) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), a Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS), and more. Most of these are available on competitive products so Hyundai is keeping pace in the tech race for those that want the added reassurance from safety systems. On the frivolous convenience side, there is a new hands-free trunk, heated rear seats and rear parking sensors.
The engine lineup is familiar, with the standard 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine and optional 2.0-litre twin-scroll turbocharged four-cylinder engine, both updated to generation “Theta II”. Both were revised “to offer increased low-end response and enhanced drivability”. Preliminary power estimates are 185 horsepower, 178 lb-ft of torque (at 4,000 rpm) for the 2.4, and the 2.0T coming in with 245 horsepower, 260 lb-ft of torque from 1,350–4,000 rpm for really good low-end response. Hyundai is aiming for significant improvement in refinement as well, both from the engines and the suspension.
No word yet whether the eight-speed automatic from the Genesis will be fitted to either engine, and that would be a nice addition and a big talking point. Hyundai USA reps hinted at a major powertrain announcement in the near future, but Hyundai Canada reps state that the powertrain is final and the specs list only a 6-speed electronic automatic, but with paddle shifter in Sport models. So pretty much carryover.
The new Sonata takes a less daring approach to styling than the previous generation, but still stands out as an expression of Hyundai’s new styling direction, with more class-competitive features and ergonomics that will help it maintain its sales momentum in this fast-changing segment.
The 2015 Sonata will be assembled in Alabama and pricing will be announced closer to the vehicle’s arrival in the summer of 2014.