Hyundai sedans used to play second fiddle to four-doors with mainstream nameplates: the Detroit Three, Honda and Toyota, maybe Nissan and Mazda. You picked Hyundai when saving money was Priority One. Not anymore. For a fast-growing number of shoppers, a Sonata is the first choice, not an also-ran purchased as a consolation prize.

Pricing and Equipment

Starting at $21,750 (plus $825 destination charge) in SE trim, the Sonata comes with a 185-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission. Additional choices include a 2-liter turbo four, rated at 245 horsepower, and a 1.6-liter Eco four with dual-clutch transmission, as well as hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains.

Standard equipment for our Sonata Sport (starting at $23,400) includes:

  • Power driver's seat
  • Rearview camera
  • Cloth seat upholstery
  • Sporty exterior trim
  • Heated foldaway power mirrors
  • Three-bar grille
  • LED daytime running lights
  • 17-inch alloy wheels

Performance Pros

Hyundai Sonata Interior
  • Refined powertrains. No, Sonatas aren’t the swiftest-accelerating sedans; but nobody should expect them to be. Hyundai’s easy-revving engines, including the turbo, deliver power quite quietly, with almost no vibration. The six-speed automatic transmission also provides smooth, quick shifts.
  • Fuel-efficiency. Hyundai was among the first to go with all four-cylinder engines, and that choice has paid off in fuel-economy figures.
  • Eco engine. Performance is surprisingly spirited with the Eco, whose 1.6-liter engine can strain a bit at times, yet generally feels eager. Even more surprising, unlike some dual-clutch transmissions, you barely notice shifts from the Eco’s unit, except at lowest speeds. Hybrid driveability and smoothness have improved considerably, too, and the Plug-In Hybrid delivers especially good performance.

Performance Cons

While it’s possible to question Hyundai’s decision to step back from flamboyance, switching to a more subdued exterior look, it is not so easy to find much fault with any version’s performance or road behavior.

  • Eco mode. Switching to Eco mode holds back on the downshifts, thus cutting into performance. Fortunately, you can flick that dial back to Normal or Sport instead.
  • Eco drivability: Steering feel in the Eco edition is lighter than in, say, a Sonata Limited. Most drivers probably won’t notice, but some may find the lightness a little disconcerting. The Eco engine’s exhaust gets a bit noisy, too.

Interior Pros

Hyundai Sonata
  • Spacious interior. Front-seat passengers enjoy lots of head room, provided they’re willing to lower the seat as needed. But when doing so, there’s a feeling of sitting rather low.
  • Rear-seat space. The Sonata’s ample width shows up best in the back seat, where, unlike so many contemporary cars, there’s actually room for three adults. In addition to elbow room, those occupants can expect lots of leg and toe space, as well as satisfactory headroom.
  • Instruments. Great, large white-on-black gauges are exceptionally easy to read. So is the high-mounted video screen, with crisp and clear characters.

The Most Pleasant Surprise

Light weight and a stiff structure help give gas-engine Sonatas a controlled, settled ride, neatly-damped when rolling over bumps. Cross a train track even at highway speed, and the suspension complies with little fuss. Though it’s not exactly surprising, the Sonata stands tall in the midsize-sedan group for its confidence-inspiring safety scores, including five stars all-around from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The Least Pleasant Surprise

Hyundai has been among the leaders in doing away with traditional printed owner’s manuals. That’s good news for the tech-hungry, but irritating to those of us who prefer printed manuals and/or lack a smartphone or tablet computer. (Yes, such Luddites do exist, and they do buy cars.) Late in 2015, Hyundai plans to introduce an “augmented reality” manual. Rather than cheer, some of us fear adding yet another complication. Hmmm.

The Bottom Line

Hyundai Sonata

Making efficient use of its interior dimensions, Sonata is one of the roomiest midsize sedans, which helps boost its standing against the most popular models. Front seats offer plenty of space for six-footers. With its expansive selection of powertrains, there’s a satisfying Sonata for just about every sort of shopper.