The Hyundai Sonata is a tough act to follow. Automakers like Toyota, Nissan, Ford and Chevrolet learned that when the revolutionary sixth-generation Sonata went on sale in 2010 as a 2011 model.
The sleek midsize sedan’s value, looks and fuel economy won Hyundai legions of new buyers, carried the brand to new heights and sent other automakers back to the drawing board.
Now it’s Hyundai’s turn to feel the pressure, as the three-star 2015 Hyundai Sonata tries to fill its predecessor’s tire tracks.
The new Sonata makes Hyundai competitive with the best new midsize sedans, but falls short of the leaders.
The new Sonata features the second generation of the fluidic design styling theme Hyundai introduced on the 2011 Sonata. The look features a prominent grille, sweeping roofline, short rear deck, crisp horizontal lines and sharply raked windshield and rear window. The 2015 Genesis sport sedan is the other Hyundai sporting fluidic design 2.0.
The Sonata competes with family sedans such as the Chevrolet Malibu, Chrysler 200, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Kia Optima, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry and Volkswagen Passat.
Sonata prices start at $21,150 for a base model with a 185-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. A sporty, optional 245-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged engine in the Sonata 2.0T starts at $28,575. All Sonatas come with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Hyundai will add hybrid and high-mpg models of the Sonata with other drivetrains over the next several months.
None of its competitors match the Sonata’s features for that price, but Hyundai’s execution of some features is not up to the standard of leading models. The adaptive cruise control accelerates and brakes the car less smoothly, for instance. The lane-departure alert is fussy, sounding too often at highway speeds. I turned it off after a few miles, the last thing you want with a safety feature.
The Sonata’s fuel economy trails leading midsize sedans. The Hyundai’s EPA rating of 24 mpg in the city, 35 on the highway and 28 combined trails the combined rating of the more powerful 2.5L Malibu and equally powerful four-cylinder Accord, Altima and Mazda6. The Sonata’s combined mpg matches the 1.5L Ecoboost Fusion, 2.4L Chrysler 200, 1.8L Passat and 2.5L Camry.
The engine delivers acceptable performance around town and on the highway.
The steering feel, ride and handling are competitive. A sport setting adjusts steering effort, throttle response and shift points, but drivers interested in midsize performance should probably try the Sonata turbo.
The 2015 Sonata is noticeably quieter than its predecessor, an improvement owners will appreciate. Highway noise is now comparable to other good family sedans.
The passenger compartment is one of the largest in the segment. There’s plenty of headroom, despite the car’s low profile. The rear seat provides good leg room. The trunk is large and accommodating.
The interior materials look good, with light-colored leather and simulated wood in my test car. However, there’s less padding on the doors, dash and armrests than the Chrysler 200 and some other competitors offer.
The voice-recognition system works well. The gauges and controls are clear and simple. There’s no good place to put USB and 12-volt devices, just an open bin at the base of the center stack that looks sloppy with a phone, iPod and cords in it. My iPod switched from shuffle mode to playing my library track-by-track every time I turned the car off.
The 2015 Sonata lacks its predecessor’s breakthrough appeal, but its price, looks and many available features keep Hyundai competitive with other midsize sedans.
2015 Hyundai Sonata Limited
Front-wheel-drive, five-seat midsize sedan
Price as tested: $31,700 (excluding destination charge)
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
Reasons to buy: Looks; features; price; voice recognition
Shortcomings: Fuel economy; interior materials; interior storage; refinement of some features
Competitive EPA fuel-economy ratings:
(Automatic transmission models)
2015 Hyundai Sonata Limited: 24 mpg city/35 highway/28 combined. Regular gasoline.
Chevrolet Malibu LTZ 2.5L: 25/36/29. Regular gasoline.
Chrysler 200 C 2.4L: 23/36/28. Regular gasoline.
Ford Fusion SE 1.5L: 24/26/28. Regular gasoline.
Honda Accord EX-L 2.4L: 26/35/29. Regular gasoline.
Kia Optima SX: 23/34/27. Regular gasoline.
Mazda 6i Touring: 26/38/20. Regular gasoline.
Nissan Altima 2.5 SL: 27/38/31. Regular gasoline.
2014 Toyota Camry XLE 2.5L: 25/35/28. Regular gasoline.
VW Passat 1.8T Sport: 24/36/28. Regular gasoline.
(Automatic transmission models)
2015 Hyundai Sonata Limited: $26,525
Chevrolet Malibu LTZ 2.5L: $28,320
Chrysler 200 C 2.4L: $28,695
Ford Fusion SE 1.5L: $24,730
Honda Accord EX-L 2.4L: $28,420
Kia Optima SX: $25,700
Mazda 6i Touring: $24,895
Nissan Altima 2.5 SL: $28,150
2014 Toyota Camry XLE 2.5L: $30,705
VW Passat 1.8T Sport: $27,835
Source: Autotrader.com and Edmunds.com
Specifications as tested
Engine: 2.4L 16-valve four-cylinder
Power: 185 hp at 6,000 rpm; 178 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
EPA fuel economy rating: 24 mpg city/35 highway/28 combined Regular gasoline
Wheelbase: 110.4 inches
Length: 191.1 inches
Width: 73.4 inches
Height: 58.1 inches
Curb weight: 3,371 lbs.
Where assembled: Montgomery, Ala.
Key features on vehicle tested:
Standard equipment: Antilock brakes; stability control; electronic brake-force distribution; emergency brake assist; front-seat side air bags; curtain air bags; driver knee air bag; front seat belt pre-tensioners; blind-spot and cross-traffic alert; rear-view camera; LED daytime running lights; 17-inch alloy wheels; heated side mirrors with turn indicators; power front seats, windows, mirrors and locks; proximity key entry; push-button start; leather seating surfaces; heated front and rear seats; tilt and telescoping steering column; steering wheel controls; dual automatic climate control; rear side window sunshades; auto-dimming rearview mirror; Bluetooth phone and audio compatible; 90 days SiriusXM satellite radio service, AM/FM/CD audio with USB and auxiliary inputs.
Options: Power sun roof; HID xenon headlights; navigation system with 8-inch touchscreen; HD radio; 400-watt Infinity speakers and sub woofer; HD radio; ventilated front seats; memory for driver’s settings; heated steering wheel; LED interior lights; smart cruise control; lane-departure warning; forward collision warning; automatic high beam; rear parking assistance system; carpeted floor mats.