2013 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T Review: What Is It
Remember when Hyundais were the cheap and - let's be frank - subpar alternatives to mainstream Hondas, Nissans and Toyotas? These days, the reverse is often true, especially when it comes to the Hyundai Sonata midsize sedan.
Hyundai last redesigned the Sonata for the 2011 model year, bringing with it a sense of upscale style and a luxury appearance for the masses. For 2013, the Sonata faces stiffer competition as several redesigned midsize sedans arrive on the market, yet Hyundai elects to limit changes to its best-selling sedan’s recipe. For now.
Given the impending arrival of fresh competition, we figured it was time to get reacquainted with the Hyundai Sonata, so we borrowed this 2013 model in 2.0T Limited trim and spent a week whooshing around Southern California with a family of four aboard to see how the three-year-old sedan might stack up.
Based on our experience, members of the latest crop of family cars need to be pretty spectacular if they want to convince family sedan buyers to skip the Hyundai dealership.
2013 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T Review: Pricing and Trim Levels
The 2013 Hyundai Sonata lineup includes a standard model with a normally aspirated 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine; a 2.0T model with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder; and a hybrid model with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder, an electric drive motor, a lithium polymer battery pack, and a claimed electric-only top speed of 62 mph. The standard model is available in GLS, SE and Limited trim, while the Sonata 2.0T is only offered in SE and Limited trim. Hybrids can be upgraded through option packages. Prices start at $20,895 for a Sonata GLS with a loaded Sonata Hybrid priced at more than $32,000 (2012 price used for Hybrid model).
Our test vehicle was a loaded Sonata 2.0T Limited with a window sticker reading $31,655 after adding the Limited Premium Package, a set of accessory floor mats, a cargo net, and an iPod cable. Considering that our test car included the more powerful turbocharged engine, 18-inch aluminum wheels, leather seats, dual-zone automatic climate control with rear seat vents, a power panoramic glass roof, a premium Infinity audio system with satellite radio, navigation, a reversing camera, and more, this price represents competitive value among midsize sedans.
2013 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T Review: What It’s Up Against
Fast forward to 2013, and the Sonata faces a significant challenge to its success. The Honda Accord is redesigned this year, and the Toyota Camry received a complete revision for 2012. Additionally, Chevy is introducing a new 2013 Malibu, Volkswagen debuted a larger and more popular version of the Passat for 2012, Subaru has freshened its all-wheel-drive 2013 Legacy, and Korean rival Kia Optima offers a level of style, sophistication and value equal to the Sonata’s. Shortly after the first of the year, Mazda will also join the fray with a totally revamped Mazda 6.
As daunting as this situation may appear to the suddenly elder statesman, the Sonata, if any competitor is poised to do some damage to the Hyundai’s popularity with midsize sedan buyers, it’s the dramatically redesigned 2013 Fusion. Equipped with luxury car styling, upscale materials, the latest technology, and an available all-wheel-drive system, the new Fusion is poised to become the class leader in terms of sophistication if not sales.
2013 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T Review: Exterior
What’s New for 2013:
- Sonata 2.0T Limited comes with standard single-panel sunroof
- Panoramic glass roof added to Limited Premium Package
How It Looks
When I first laid eyes on a 2011 Hyundai Sonata, I saw the car in GLS trim under fluorescent lights and thought that the company’s designers had made a terrible mistake. In the light of day, and in higher trim levels with aluminum wheels, the Sonata’s shiny, wide-eyed face with its odd chrome spears running from the headlights to the greenhouse looked better. Not attractive, but better. Today, despite my familiarity with the car’s look, I still haven’t acquired a taste for the Sonata’s front-end.
The rest of the car looks sensational. This is a balanced design, one featuring forms and shapes that complement one another, and character lines that relate to one another. Hyundai calls this styling language “Fluidic Sculpture,” an apt and vivid description.
The result, especially on the upper-level models, is a vehicle that looks sophisticated, sleek, and upscale. And while I’m personally not a fan of the rippled grille, I’m not sure I would change it, either. Look at what happened to the Sonata Hybrid.
2013 Hyundai Sonata Review: Interior
What’s New for 2012:
- Sonata 2.0T SE gains standard heated front seats
How It Looks and Feels
Slip behind the Sonata 2.0T Limited’s wheel, and you will find an appealing two-tone cabin treatment, materials that look and feel like quality, and an eight-way power driver’s seat with a ridiculous amount of travel fore, aft, and in terms of height adjustment. And by “ridiculous” I mean that if you can’t find a comfortable position behind the tilt/telescopic steering wheel, no matter how short or tall you are, you’re not trying hard enough.
The rear seats are comfortable, too, deeply sculpted with good thigh support and, on Limited models like our test vehicle, both air vents and heated cushions. If you’re relegated to the Sonata’s rear seat, you’re not going to be terribly unhappy about the situation.
That’s not the case for the front seat passenger, who gets a 4-way power adjustable seat that is mounted close to the floor. My 73-year-old father felt silly riding in the Sonata, grumpily complaining that Hyundai ought to provide a booster seat for older folks. My retired uncle recently passed on the Sonata for this same reason. This car really needs a seat height adjuster for the front passenger.
Minor complaints are aimed at the Sonata’s speaker grilles and navigation/audio controls. If you’re wearing shorts – or a skirt, I would imagine – and you happen to rest or brace your leg against the speaker grille, it will become imprinted with an attractive honeycomb pattern. I also never got completely familiar with the hard key controls for the stereo and navigation system. Even after a week, I would momentarily stare blankly at the control panel wondering how I might call up the exterior temperature, or tune to a different station, or view the map to orient myself in an unfamiliar neighborhood.
2013 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T Review: Powertrain
What’s New for 2013:
- Manual transmission cancelled for GLS model
How Does It Go
The Sonata 2.0T is equipped with a direct-injected and turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that generates an impressive 274 horsepower and 269 lb-ft. of torque. Better yet, that torque peaks between 1,750 and 4,500 rpm, right where you’ll feel it every time you step on the accelerator – unless you’re stepping on the accelerator from a stop. When launching, it takes a moment for the torque to kick in, but when it does, it can threaten to break the front wheels loose if you’re not careful with throttle modulation.
A six-speed automatic transmission delivers the power to the front wheels, and the Sonata 2.0T is equipped with paddle shifters to give the driver manual control over gear changes. Downshifts, however, are not rev-matched, so they can be abrupt at times.
According to the EPA, the Sonata 2.0T is expected to get 22 mpg in the city, 34 mpg on the highway, and 26 mpg in combined driving. These numbers do not reflect our experience. We managed to extract just 21.8 mpg from the Sonata 2.0T in combined driving
2013 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T Review: How It Drives
If I needed to pick a single word to describe what it’s like to drive a 2013 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T that word would be “whoosh.” And the Sonata whooshes whether it is warm or cold outside, whether you’re cruising the Pacific coast or powering over the Rocky Mountains. Speed is effortless with this thrilling engine.
Fortunately, the Sonata 2.0T Limited’s standard 18-inch wheels, 225/45 Hankook Optimo tires, and four-wheel-independent suspension is tuned to provide a firm grasp on the pavement while providing an agreeable ride quality. On certain sectioned concrete freeways around Los Angeles, the Sonata could have displayed more compliance and fewer jitters, but for the most part buyers will be satisfied with this car’s ride and handling.
That said, I’ll tell you that I prefer the Sonata SE’s stiffer suspension and sport-tuned electric steering. Past experience with that setup reveals the Sonata to be a surprisingly capable canyon carver, and in combination with this turbocharged engine Hyundai’s family sedan is a legitimate sport sedan. By comparison, our Limited 2.0T allowed extra body roll and wooze in curves and on undulating pavement. The car remained utterly composed, of course, it just felt like it was floating more when pushed to limits that, honestly, few owners are ever likely explore.
I’m pleased to report that Hyundai has evidently been working to refine the Sonata’s electric steering, formerly a significant dynamic detriment. The ghosts in the machine have been almost completely excised, and the Sonata’s steering feels more accurate, natural, and responsive off-center than it ever has. Also note that the Sonata’s braking components resisted fade on a blisteringly hot day, despite repeated abuse on downhill sections of the Santa Monica Mountains.
Previously, I mentioned how terrific the Sonata’s eight-way power driver’s seat is. In addition to supplying a perfect driving position behind the smooth, leather-wrapped steering wheel, the Sonata provides excellent forward sightlines and the side mirrors are shaped in such a way that when properly positioned they reveal more about your blind spots than some other cars. Reversing can be challenging due to the Sonata’s fastback and large rear headrests, but models with navigation have a reversing camera to help resolve the issue.
2013 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T Review: How It Drives
Getting into a Sonata is like slipping into a favorite pair of quality jeans. This car – as long as you’re not the front seat passenger – is instantly comfortable and familiar, and it makes you look good because people who know how terrific modern Hyundai products are also know how smart the people who buy them are.
If you’re looking for an attractive, safe, fun-to-drive family sedan that looks and feels more expensive than the price you’ve paid, you definitely need to test drive the 2013 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T.
2013 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T Review: Pros and Cons
- Appealing design
- Impressive turbo thrust
- Balanced ride and handling
- Comfortable driver’s seat
- Roomy back seat and trunk
- Excellent crash-test ratings
- Great warranty
- Nice price
- Norelco grille design
- Low-mounted front passenger’s seat
Hyundai provided the vehicle for this review
2013 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T Limited Photos by Christian Wardlaw