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Review of the 2015 Hyundai Sonata: You've Come a Long Way!

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On: Tue, Dec 1, 2015 at 1:58PM | By: Lou Ruggieri

Review of the 2015 Hyundai Sonata:  You've Come a Long Way!

As a member of a family that owned at 1989 Hyundai Sonata, I can tell you that even though I was still in single digits age-wise, I knew then that we had gotten the strange sounding car (I had to be told about a hundred times that no, it was not a Honda), that we chose that car out of necessity and not luxury. It was the best bang for the buck that could hold our expanding family, and, truth be told, it did a very commendable, if not extravagant, job at accomplishing what it was built for.

Fast forward a little more than a quarter century, and look at how far Hyundai has come with the Sonata! There have been six generations, with the 2015 version beginning the seventh, and the advances are nothing short of amazing, considering where it came from. But we will limit the majority of our comparisons of the seventh generation to the sixth mainly, just to be fair and not make it sound as if the newest Sonata is the greatest car on the planet. Compared to its immediate predecessor, the Gen 7 Sonata is improved, if not completely redone. The upgrades are notable. Stylistically, the new model has a more adult look to it, gone is the futuristic super-streamlined coupe-turned-sedan look, and in place is a very solid, classically penned design that looks as though it has taken a cue or two from its more expensive brethren, the Genesis and Equus.

There are three model designations to choose from when shopping for a Sonata: The Eco, the Limited, and the Sport 2.0T. Each coming with their own price tag and option list different from its siblings. The Eco comes in with the lowest base price of the three at $24,085 while the Limited will cost you $27,335, and the Sport will run you $29,385. Comparatively, the three cars bring different qualities to the table. The Eco has a 1.6L turbocharged DOHC inline-4 that produces 178hp and 195-lb-ft of torque. The Limited sports a naturally aspirated 2.4L DOHC inline-4 that produces 185hp and 178-lb-ft of torque and the Sport 2.0T has what you would expect if you play the car name-game; a 2.0L turbocharged DOHC inline-4 that produces a hefty 245hp and 260-lb-ft of torque. The engines in the Limited and Sport are carryovers, but have been revised to provide more linear power delivery instead of the peaky, somewhat sporadic, delivery of last year. Both the Limited and Sport come with a 6-speed automatic while the Eco uses Hyundai's first ever 7-speed dual-clutch automatic.

Opt for the leather interior, and you should be pleased, as you should also be with the increased rear passenger room and the more refined and cleaned up center stack. You won't mistake it for a Bentley, as the faux-wood trim is still a little chintzy, but, hey, it shows effort at least. The Gen 7 even comes with optional lane departure warning and/or forward collision warning—that's a long way from an automatic seat belt running up the window frame!

In terms of performance, the placing isn't exactly what you would expect. Yes, the Limited being the "luxury" option is the slowest of the bunch, posting a 0-60 mph time of 8.4 seconds and a quarter mile trap of 16.5 seconds @ 86.7 mph. You would expect the Sport to be the quickest of the bunch, but it is actually the Eco that takes top acceleration honors. The Sport shoots to 60 mph in 8 seconds flat and through the quarter mile in 16.2 seconds @ 88.4 seconds while the Eco accomplishes the same feats in 7.8 seconds, and 16.1 seconds @ 89.4mph respectively. What could cause the skewed numbers? Well, it may be due to the curb weight of these models. The Eco is actually the lightest of the bunch at 3,307 pounds, while the Limited clocks in at 3,488 pounds, and the Sport is actually the heaviest of the three at 3,605 pounds. So while the Sport outguns the Eco by 60 ponies, it also has an extra 300 pounds of mass to get up and going, which could account for the slower times. We would bet that as speed climbs past 90 mph the Sport would start to pull away from the Eco and those 245hp would show their dominance.

Around the skidpad, you get what you pay for it seems. The Eco posts a moderate 0.76g, the Limited a 0.79g and the Sport a respectable 0.81g. Fuel mileage does play out the way you would expect with no surprises. The Eco is the "performer" of the bunch posting an impressive 28/38/32 city/highway/combined mpg. The Limited is middle of the pack with a 25/37/29 mpg and the Sport is the laggard, all that power has to cost you somewhere, and with a 23/32/26 mpg rating, it's pretty easy to see where. That being said, the Sonata, in any trim, has some very good mpg ratings compared to everything except a few hybrids.

On the road, the Sonata still shows its economical roots with some jerky shifting, noticeable understeer, and frustrating turbo lag (where applicable) despite the improved engine mapping. It is, however, a wonderfully quiet and stable highway cruiser at normal highway speeds.

There are a couple new models set to join the lineup in 2016, but, all in all, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata is a very magnified version of what it began its life as: A very good bang for the buck. It is a car that is big enough for a budding family and won't break the bank at the dealer, or at the pump. It does everything well enough to not be disappointing, and, compared to some of its competitors, it offers a bit more fit and finish than one might expect. Yes, it is still an economical car at heart, but, after 26 years, the Sonata has evolved by what feels like centuries, not decades and still does what it was meant to do in a very commendable, if not extravagant, fashion.

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