With an all-new model waiting in the wings, the 2019 Hyundai Sonata carries over last year's mid-cycle refresh that somewhat awakened the mid-sizer from its design somnolence. It also offers a roomy interior, comfortable ride, flexible engines, and solid value proposition, but remains light on personality with a middling interior, and a Sport model that's hardly sporty.

Best Value

The 2019 Hyundai Sonata lineup continues with six trim levels – while dropping last year's "+" nomenclature – and three powertrain options, not including the Hybrid or Plug-In Hybrid models which are covered separately. Pricing begins at $23,220 for the SE trim, and tops out at $32,820 for the Limited 2.0T model.

We'd opt for a Limited, but sans the turbocharged engine. You could add the $2,300 Ultimate Package, but unlike last year, the advanced safety goodies are all standard. So, if you can forego a panoramic sunroof, navigation, Infinity audio, Blue Link guidance, rear parking sensors, and rear side window sunshades, you'll still get a mid-size sedan with a hands-free smart trunk, bending LED headlights and LED taillights, heated and ventilated leather seats with driver's memory, dual-zone climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel (heated) and shift knob, satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, HD radio, and Hyundai's BlueLink connectivity suite.

Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert is standard on all Sonatas, with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane keeping assist standard on both Limited models and optional on SEL and Sport trims.

Here's the one we'd pick:

  • Model:2019 Hyundai Sonata Limited
  • Engine:2.4-liter four-cylinder
  • Output:185 hp / 178 lb-ft
  • Transmission:Six-speed automatic
  • Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
  • Fuel Economy:25 City / 33 Hwy
  • Options:None
  • Base Price:$28,420 (including the $920 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price:$28,420

Performance

2019 Hyundai Sonata

The Sonata’s three engines are trim-level specific. Four models, the SE, SEL, Sport, and Limited, are offered with the normally-aspirated 2.4-liter four-cylinder. Two turbocharged units, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder found on the Sport, and the 1.6-liter that's standard on the Eco, offer additional performance and efficiency, respectively.

Throttle response from the direct injection 2.4-liter four-cylinder is quicker than we normally would expect from a base engine, with linear acceleration and fuss-free shift quality from the conventional six-speed automatic.

The 2.0-liter turbo offers an impressive upgrade with 245 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque matched to a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox that's programmed to take advantage of the engine's broad torque band, with peak torque that stretches from 1,350 to 4,000 rpm, and offers lively performance. It manages an EPA-estimated 23 miles per gallon in the city, 32 on the highway, and 26 combined.

Hyundai furnishes the Eco model with a smaller 1.6-liter turbo with 178 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque, and an EPA-estimated 28/37/31 mpg (city/highway/combined). It's mated to a less-impressive seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that felt jerky and overwhelmed at low speeds.

Regardless of engine, Hyundai balances the Sonata’s ride and handling character well. It’s comfortable on most road surfaces, minimizing larger impacts while eliminating smaller ones. At the same time, body roll is well-controlled and, although not as poised as a Mazda6 or Honda Accord, it bests both the Nissan Altima and Toyota Corolla.

While ride and handling are impressive for the class, the Sonata isn’t as communicative as either the Mazda6 or Accord. Although typical of many mid-size sedans, the driver is too isolated from the chassis, while the steering – both numb and too light – communicates little of what's happening up front.

In addition, the Sport trim pays only lip service to the name, as it shares the same suspension as lower-rung models. A body kit, chrome door handles, and chrome-tipped dual exhaust outlets don't make a sport sedan.

Style

Last year’s facelift did its best to return the Sonata to the breakout sixth-generation model's glory days, offering a more aggressive six-sided grille – particularly with the Limited 2.0T – that drops nearly to the ground. Along its flanks, the long roof and low profile suggest a hatchback, while the rear fascia sports narrow, Elantra-inspired teardrop-shaped taillights, although LED units are only offered on Limited trims.

Inside, there's a great deal of passenger and storage space and, aside from the middle position in back, the seats – most of which offer height adjustment – are comfortable and supportive with plenty of cushioning for long road trips. Lower trims have cloth upholstery, Sport models are cloth with leather bolsters, while those on Limited trims are covered in leather. The driver's seat position is good, the steering column both tilts and telescopes, and the sight lines out the front, sides, and rear three-quarters is excellent.

A big center console holds small items, and there's a dedicated space for smartphones, while a number of physical buttons located below it augment the infotainment screen's functions. It's both quick and intuitive and drivers can also avoid needlessly fiddling with menu screens while driving by simply pressing a button. It also makes navigating the navigation system far easier than touchscreen-only setups.

Cargo volume, at 16.3 cubic feet, is also very good, with enough space for a few roll-ons plus smaller items and a low liftover height that makes loading easy, while the rear seats fold down for trunk access and add to its versatility.

At the same time, unlike the window switches and steering wheel buttons, the action of the dashboard buttons doesn't feel as solid as we'd like, while the back seats, though tolerable for two adults, offer just 35.6 inches of leg room, compared to the Toyota Camry's 38 inches and the Honda Accord with just over 40 inches. It's also more difficult to get in the rear seats with the low roofline, and reminds us of why more buyers are gravitating to crossovers.

The Best and Worst Things

2019 Hyundai Sonata

The Sonata offers a trio of engine options for buyers to choose from, and the ride is comfortable no matter which they choose.

However, the Sport model is only sporty in name, and the dashboard buttons can be finicky.

Right For? Wrong For?

Families on a budget looking for an alternative to the ubiquitous crossover will appreciate the Sonata's comfortable ride, roomy interior, and excellent value proposition.

At the same time, the Sonata's cushy ride and lack of design personality compared to rivals like the Honda Accord and Mazda6 limit its appeal to the image-conscious and enthusiasts.

The Bottom Line

Despite an interior we hardly find class-leading, and a design that's still far from exciting, the 2019 Hyundai Sonata is a solid choice in the mid-size class thanks to its comfortable ride, roomy interior, and well-founded value proposition.