It has been no secret that passenger car sales are dwindling, and automakers are doing everything they can to hold on to what few car customers they have. Case in point Hyundai and its Sonata midsize sedan that sees a refresh for model year 2018.
Sonata arrived on its seventh-generation platform just a few years ago, a platform that saw the model grow in size while offering a quieter and smoother ride. For 2018, designers and engineers have focused on a few key areas to keep Sonata fresh in the eyes of the consumer while also staying competitive in the segment. The new Sonata gets new front and rear styling while also seeing upgrades to suspension, transmission, steering, interior components, technology, and safety.
“It’s all about making an impact,” said Chris Chapman, chief designer, Hyundai North American Design Center. “We wanted to deliver an exciting expressive car to our customers and show the world how passionate Hyundai is about design and craftsmanship. The objective was to make an impact, this design provides the visual excitement and unique identity our customers associate with Sonata.”
The new design is clean and modern but reminds me a bit of a couple of key competitors in the midsize sedan segment. Inside, Sonata offers seating for five adults with room and comfort. Our tester arrived in Limited trim level with the addition of the Ultimate package so there was really nothing else Hyundai could have added onto or into the vehicle. Leather was everywhere and we enjoyed heated and ventilated front seating along with a heated steering wheel in those really cold winter mornings. The car rode on 17-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires and rear side window sunshades keep the rear seat occupants a bit more comfortable on bright, sunny days.
Hyundai offers the Sonata with choice of the 2.4-liter inline four GDI gasoline engine or choice of base 1.6-liter turbo GDI four or peppy 2.0-liter turbo GDI four. All engines are mated to automatic gearboxes with the 1.6L Turbo seeing seven speeds and 2.0L Turbo cars now getting eight gears in the transmission. Our tester arrived with the 2.4-liter GDI engine, rated at 185hp and 178 lb. ft. of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic manual shifting and Drive Mode Select for Eco, Normal, and Sport driving modes. Most of our week was spent in Sport mode as my driving style tends to be a bit more aggressive.
Inside there is a new center stack and instrument panel providing more than adequate information for the driver and passengers. All new Sonata models now come standard with a 7-inch color touchscreen for infotainment purposes with our loaded tester seeing an 8-inch monitor and navigation technology. We enjoyed SiriusXM satellite radio, Blue Link multimedia, Infinity premium audio system, HERE HD real-time traffic, and wireless device charging pad (yay, I can wirelessly charge my new iPhone in the car now).
The enhancements to steering and suspension make for a more pleasant ride in the new Sonata while also providing better handling. And given that I drive mostly in Sport mode this was a definite upgrade and quite noticeable. Safety technology includes blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert, vehicle stability management system with traction control, full complement of airbags, tire pressure monitoring system, LED daytime running lights, headlights with dynamic bending technology (turn into the corners with the car), rearview camera, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane keep assist system, smart cruise control with stop/start capability, rear parking sensors, and high beam assist.
Pricing for the 2018 Hyundai Sonata midsize sedan begins at $22,050. Our loaded Limited tester with Ultimate package arrived with a final window sticker of $31,310. Fuel economy for the 2.4-liter inline four GDI engine is rated at 25 mpg city and 35 mpg highway. While Hyundai does offer the more powerful turbo engine we found this normally-aspirated powerplant to provide more than adequate power in mixed driving situations and it operated quite smoothly and quietly.
Hyundai has had to step up its passenger car game as crossovers are taking away customers every day. And model year 2018 is especially tough as mainstays Toyota and Honda have delivered significantly new midsize sedans to the marketplace as well. It is a tough road ahead for passenger cars but as long as automakers like Hyundai keep making improvements such as what we see in the new Sonata the consumer is the one who comes out as the winner.