July 8, 2014
2015 Hyundai Sonata. Bottom: 2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Paul Williams
Ann Arbor, Michigan – When the previous generation Hyundai Sonata was introduced in 2010 it caused something of a sensation in the marketplace and in the industry. It was all about the styling. Hyundai’s swoopy “Fluidic Sculpture” exterior design was dramatic, eye-catching and very appealing in a midsize sedan segment notable for its conservative – some would say bland – vehicles. It arguably influenced all the other manufacturers to offer more daringly designed models thereafter.
Naysayers said the look went too far. “Where does it go from here?” was the typical question, and in a sense they were right (although in retrospect it appears to have gone just far enough). So after making a huge impact in the marketplace and updating all of its other vehicles to the same Fluidic Design 1.0, Hyundai is moving on by introducing Fluidic Design 2.0. The 2015 Hyundai Sonata is the first to wear the new duds.
You’ll notice it’s not quite as fluidic… It is a departure, perhaps even a retreat, from the sharp, expressive lines of the previous model. “Where the last generation Sonata was beautiful,” says Michael Ricciuto, Hyundai Canada’s National Manager, Product and Strategic Planning, “the new one is handsome.”
Well, I get the idea, but you could also say that the 2015 Hyundai Sonata is dressed in a more mature look for a maturing buyer: a tailored downtown suit, rather than suburban hip.
Don’t get me wrong, that’s not to deny its appeal. What we have is an all-new Sonata that’s slightly longer and wider (both by 30 millimetres), has more interior room (it’s actually classed as a large car based on its interior space) sharing styling most obviously with Hyundai’s luxury Genesis. In appearance it’s calmer, more sophisticated, more refined and it exudes quality.
With the 2015 Sonata, therefore, Hyundai takes a breather from design dramatics, regroups and throws down the quality gauntlet. Rich paint, subtle two-tone interiors, impressive and unexpected features, superb road manners and super-quiet interiors. It’s really the same winning formula from this company: excellent value, a lot of standard content, and a notch higher in quality each generation.
There are two “looks” for the new Sonata. The GL/GLS/Limited/Sport are targeted at a more efficiency-minded mainstream buyer while the 2.0T Sport models are for the performance-minded. The visual differences are subtle, however, focusing on the front bumper insert, grille, chrome trim and rear exhaust. I’m not sure that most consumers would readily spot the differences.
Pricing starts at the same point as the previous base model: an aggressively low $23,999 for the GL, which along with the GLS, Limited and one of the Sport models, is powered with Hyundai’s 2.4L gasoline direct injected (GDI) four-cylinder engine now making 185 hp. This is slightly lower than the previous generation’s 190 hp, but Hyundai points out that the engine consumes less fuel and delivers more torque at lower engine speeds.
2015 Hyundai Sonata engine bay & driver’s seat. Click image to enlarge
There is a turbocharged version, the Sport 2.0T (it has quad exhaust tips, if you want a quick visual to identify the model), also GDI, starting at $30,999. The Sport 2.0T delivers 245 hp and 260 lb-ft torque which are again lower numbers than the previous generation’s, but likewise torque is delivered at low engine speeds (peak torque can be had at only 1,350 rpm) enabling the car to accelerate very briskly from standstill. Additionally, the suspension and steering in this model is tighter, quicker and more responsive than the 2.4L powered cars (sport suspension on 2.4L Sport; sport suspension and dual-pinion rack-mounted motor-driven power steering on 2.0T). All models are fitted with a six-speed automatic transmission; no manual is available.
Inside there’s an extra 25 millimetres (one inch) of legroom for rear-seat occupants, making that area of the car even more cavernous than the outgoing model, but also important, the entire dashboard and instrument panel (the HMI, or Human Machine Interface) is redesigned into a simple and rationally grouped set of push buttons in neat rows that are immediately easy to understand and use. It seems an almost Germanic array in appearance, surely inspired at least by Volkswagen/Audi and definitely European in essence. Likewise the instrument binnacle with its large, bright major gauges. This will find favour with many buyers in this segment, and as some 2015 Sonatas will go into fleet, many daily renters, too.
New this year are what Hyundai refers to as “class-above” available features (really, “class above” could apply to the entire vehicle). Indeed many of its features, including adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert and lane change assist, blind spot detection, frontal collision warning, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, rear side window sunscreens, hands-free trunk opening, electronic parking brake with automatic vehicle hold and a standard five-inch colour touchscreen are safety and comfort amenities that are typically found in near-luxury models.