New cars are special. Baked into that new car smell is a feeling of excitement. Why else would we pay thousands of dollars more for something that loses 10 percent of its value the first time we use it? Compared with the redesigned Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, the refreshed Hyundai Sonata fails to excite, even in its top-of-the-line Limited trim.
That doesn’t mean the midsize sedan is bad. In fact, it is all-around good in terms of performance, spaciousness, safety, fuel economy and all those other functional items important to car shoppers. But car sales are made — and marketing departments built — on something that often counters logic: emotion.
The feeling of the revised Sonata is of exceptional value without sacrificing quality. This stokes wallets more than hearts, which makes for a compelling emotion all its own: the deal. The top-of-the-line Limited trim is priced $3,000 to $4,000 less than the similarly equipped but less stylish 2018 Honda Accord Touring and 2018 Toyota Camry XSE.
The last generation Sonata from 2011 to 2014 might have more to do with the flat feeling of this Sonata. It made the competitors take notice and reconsider the need for both dull design and a V-6 engine.
While the 2018 Sonata is technically a midcycle refresh, it is about as close to a redesign as you can get without changing engines. The only change under the revised chiseled hood is pairing the 245-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine to a more efficient eight-speed transmission.
The changes are mostly cosmetic, though significant, in an attempt to keep pace with Accord and Camry. The grille is a broader mesh honeycomb pattern on the sporting 2.0T Limited trim. The headlights start narrow and wrap around the side, and the daytime running lights rise up from the lower bumper toward the rear, so everything appears to flow back, which is then complemented by wrap-around taillights tapering to the revised rear.
It looks sharper than the 2015, matching the refined suspension with more stiffness and more direct steering.
It’s snappy off the line with no lag and 260 pound-feet of torque available at just 1,350 rpm. Output is a tad shy of the 2-liter turbo Accord, and V-6 Camry XSE, yet it’s noticeably slower. It feels more nimble in turns than the Camry, but not as powerful. The Accord is the benchmark for the midsize sedan, and at 27 mpg combined it beats the Camry and Sonata — even with the eight-speed — by 1 mpg.
On the inside the controls are easy to use and intuitive, the advanced safety assist systems aren’t obtrusive, and the overall layout is sleeker and sharper.
It’s everything a refreshed sedan should be. Its most exciting feature is the price, which is the most compelling factor for many new car shoppers. That’s special enough.
2018 Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.0T
Vehicle type: midsize sedan
Base price: $32,450
As tested: $32,575 (excluding $885 destination)
Mpg: 23 city, 32 highway
Engine: 245-horsepower 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Parting shot: You can get a deal.