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.