Like a Rorschach ink-blot test, the old Hyundai Sonata looked like different things to different people. “Youthful,” said some. “An anti-Camry,” said others. “Attention getting,” agreed many. “Overwrought and ugly,” opined a significant few.
Well, not anymore. Because while Hyundai chose to get noticed when it introduced its sixth-generation Sonata to the North American market in 2011, turning out a car whose “Fluidic Sculpture” styling was all swoopy curves and prominent creases with a big upswept chrome grille, for the seventh-generation 2015 Sonata things have changed. Now, it seems, the Korean-based manufacturer has decided that the key to getting ahead of the top-selling Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion and Honda Accord in the crowded mid-size sedan market is to ease back on the styling statement and go with a more conservative, grown-up appearance.
Hyundai calls the new style “Fluidic Sculpture 2.0” and says it encapsulates a trio of main design elements: fluid aesthetics, the “modern Hyundai look”, and a premium ambiance. Translation? The new Sonata still has a hint of the old Sonata’s flowing lines, but overall it has moved decidedly towards the mainstream. So no, it’s not the anti-Camry anymore (well actually, maybe it is, since the Camry has gone the other way and adopted an aggressive gaping grille for 2015, but I digress).
Hyundai says its new design philosophy is adaptable to a wider variety of vehicle types and sizes, and certainly you could argue that the new Sonata does bear a striking resemblance to Hyundai’s upscale new Genesis full-size sedan. If you were cynical, however, you could argue that it also looks exactly like what you’d get if you blended together the latest Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion and Honda Accord, and reconstituted them into a single new car. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
My test car was Hyundai’s top-of-the line Ultimate 2.0T model, which combines all the performance-oriented features of the Sonata Sport 2.0T with most of the luxury features of the Sonata Limited. It adds up to a genuinely impressive level of equipment for a car that lists at $36,494 destination included (and not counting a $1,614.86 price adjustment that the manufacturer was showing on its website at the time of writing).
Highlights in the Ultimate 2.0T include dual-zone air conditioning, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated power-adjustable front sport seats, heated rear seats, eight-inch touchscreen navigation system with rear-view camera, nine-speaker Infinity audio system with satellite radio, keyless entry with alarm, push-button start, blind-spot information system, lane departure warning system, front collision warning system, adaptive cruise control, electric parking brake with auto function, panoramic sunroof, alloy pedals, built-in rear sunshade blinds, 18-inch alloy wheels (even base models get alloys), hands-free smart trunk, and a bunch of sport-specific exterior trim including a more aggressive front grille, rocker panel extensions, trunk lip spoiler, rear diffuser, dual twin-tip exhaust, and chromed side moulding. There’s a whole lot more besides, but I don’t want to bore you with the full equipment list. Suffice to say there’s little lacking except perhaps a heated steering wheel, which shows up in the Limited but not the Ultimate (it gets a fat, flat-bottomed sport steering wheel, but it’s not heated — go figure).
2015 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate 2.0T, sunroof, dashboard. Click image to enlarge