Though it never went from hero to zero, the current version of the Hyundai Sonata met nearly instantaneous challenge the moment it went on sale for the 2011 model year. In the four years since it debuted, every significant competitor has been redesigned, making the rakish Sonata one of the oldest cars in its class.
Well now, that certainly will not do. That’s why the 2015 Hyundai Sonata is completely redesigned, bigger and better than ever before. Take that, Chevy Malibu, Chrysler 200, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy, Toyota Camry, and Volkswagen Passat.
This review is not about the redesigned Sonata. Pictured above is the 2014 Hyundai Sonata, the car that basically blew up midsize family sedan design conventions and affirmed the automaker as an official A-list player in the North American market. Four years after its arrival, the 2014 Sonata gets subtle but significant changes to ensure its competitiveness in advance of the new 2015 version.
Given the Sonata’s continuing popularity, and the fact that the 2014 model is going to be heavily discounted in coming months as dealers broom them from inventory, I figured I’d spend a little quality time with the turbocharged version of this groundbreaking sedan before it whooshes into retirement.
2014 Hyundai Sonata Review and Quick Spin: About Our Test Car
You can buy a 2014 Sonata for as little as $22,260*. That’s what the base GLS model costs, and for an extra $900 you get all the extras you really need in a family sedan except floor mats, which run another $125. That makes the Sonata GLS a great value at $23,285*, and that’s before applying any discounts and rebates.
Next up is the Sonata SE ($25,110*), which includes a sport-tuned suspension, sport steering, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters, a rear lip spoiler, fog lights, and 18-inch aluminum wheels. The SE also gets a 4.3-inch color touchscreen audio system, a reversing camera, Proximity Key passive entry with push-button starting, a power driver’s seat, heated front seats, special trim inside and out, and more.
The luxury-themed Sonata Limited ($27,810*) replaces the SE model’s upgraded hardware with GLS underpinnings and unique 17-inch aluminum wheels. Additionally, this model has leather seats, a ventilated driver’s seat, heated rear seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear climate vents, an upgraded audio system, a universal garage door opener, and a power sunroof. The Limited also features a Blind Spot Detection system, and the cabin can be trimmed with piano black or woodgrain accents.
A turbocharged engine is optional for the Sport and Limited models, adding $1,550 to the sticker price. My Sonata Limited 2.0T test car ($29,360*) had this more powerful engine, and it represents money well spent if you like to go fast and have fun. I wasn’t a fan of the Iridescent Silver Blue Pearl paint seen in the accompanying photos, but my wife was.
My 2014 Sonata Limited 2.0T test car also had the optional Technology Package ($3,200), which included 18-inch aluminum wheels, a power panoramic sunroof, a navigation system with an 8-inch touchscreen display screen, an Infinity premium sound system, HID headlights, and LED taillights. Add a set of floor mats, and the Sonata seen here totaled $32,685*.
* All prices include a very reasonable destination charge of $810
2014 Hyundai Sonata Review and Quick Spin: Styling and Design
Hyundai tweaked the Sonata’s styling for 2014, and I’m not convinced the changes are for the better. The sharply defined rear bumper looks too much like the Sonata Hybrid, the grille gets a tweak, the SE gets a lip spoiler, and new wheel designs debut. Why’d they bother, with a redesigned 2015 model set to arrive within months, and especially considering that the Sonata was already one of the most stylish cars in its class? Appreciated upgrades for the Limited model include new HID headlights and LED taillights.
The Sonata’s interior layout is symmetrical, except for the oddly arranged center console design. Here, the transmission gear selector is tucked left, with the manual shift gate placed even further left where it sits tight against the driver’s leg. The console also has exposed bins, trays and cup holders that would be more aesthetically pleasing if they were covered, an approach that would also serve to keep devices hidden from prying eyes while connected to the USB port.
The Sonata Limited model’s cabin is more refined than the SE model’s, which has leatherette seats and busy cloth inserts, and which also gets exclusive fake carbon fiber trim this year. Even so, for the next-generation version of the Sonata Hyundai needs to better harmonize materials, tones, and textures for all trim levels.
2014 Hyundai Sonata Review and Quick Spin: Comfort and Cargo
For 2014, Hyundai takes steps to quiet the Sonata’s cabin. The new wheel designs are intended to reduce noise (oh, so that’s why), new carpet aims to quiet the interior, and insulation is added for the windshield and center roof pillars. The changes work, and dramatically so. This is a much quieter car at highway speeds than it was last year. Good move, Hyundai.
One thing Hyundai didn’t change this year is to install a height-adjustable front passenger’s seat, which would have resolved one of the car’s most significant flaws. Worse, on Limited models, the driver’s seat gains standard ventilation this year, but Hyundai doesn’t provide the same feature for the front passenger. Couples who own a Sonata had better plan on fights for the keys.
The Sonata’s other seating positions are exceptionally comfortable. My Limited model’s 8-way power driver’s seat provided a surprising degree of adjustment, and in combination with the tilt/telescopic steering wheel a perfect driving position awaits people of varying heights and sizes. Do note, though, that if you’re wearing shorts or a skirt and you rest your leg on the driver’s door panel, your skin is going to get a waffle pattern from the speaker grille, one that take awhile to fade.
Rear seat comfort levels are high, too. Accommodations are roomy, and passengers sit high with great thigh support, lots of legroom, and excellent outward visibility. The Sonata’s trunk is big at 16.4 cu.-ft., and a 60/40-split folding rear seat adds to the car’s utility. There’s even a pass-through designed to accommodate longer items, like skis. The trunk easily swings shut thanks to a large handle on the inside of the lid.
2014 Hyundai Sonata Review and Quick Spin: Features and Controls
Hyundai makes a number of changes to the 2014 Sonata’s interior. The SE and Limited gain a full leather-wrapped steering wheel, a standard 4.3-inch color touchscreen audio system with a reversing camera and HD Radio (optional for GLS models), and new Supervision gauges with a center information display. The gauges are terrific, offering excellent clarity, soothing white and violet lighting, and deftly embedded temperature and fuel displays along with a comprehensive trip computer.
As an option, the SE and Limited can be upgraded to a new, next-generation infotainment system with an 8-inch color touchscreen display. It works well, and I like that Hyundai includes knobs for audio system power, volume, and tuning. However, I found it hard to reference exterior temperature in this car because it isn’t displayed on the navigation map, which is the only screen on which outside temperature is not shown, and it is not available by cycling through the trip computer screens.
I suppose it is easy enough to switch to a radio display, or to click the Info/Setup button, or to roll down a window to see how warm or cold it is outside, but I think this information really needs to show on the map or within the gauge display.
Otherwise, the Sonata is well arranged and everything is easy to find and operate. I’m a fan of the optional power panoramic sunroof, and like how each storage tray and bin is thoughtfully lined with rubber or other material to reduce noise and vibration associated with items kept there.
2014 Hyundai Sonata Review and Quick Spin: Safety Matters
As far as I can see, the main reason to rework the Sonata for 2015 is to improve the family sedan’s crash-test performance. While the current car is a safety rock star, it misses the mark in one new assessment performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and that’s the small overlap frontal-impact test. Here, the current Sonata gets a ‘Marginal’ rating.
Nevertheless, Hyundai does improve the 2014 Sonata’s safety by adding a new driver’s side blind spot mirror as an option for the GLS model and as standard equipment for the SE and Limited models. A Blind Spot Detection System is also new, optional for the Sonata SE and standard for the Sonata Limited. The visual warning is included on the upper left corner of the side mirror glass, and if you signal to change lanes the system beeps to warn you that another vehicle is in the next lane.
2014 Hyundai Sonata Review and Quick Spin: Driving Impressions
Equipped with the optional direct-injected, turbocharged, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, my Sonata Limited 2.0T test car never lacked for acceleration. This engine generates 274 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and, more important, 269 lb.-ft. of torque from 1,650 rpm to 4,500 rpm, and thanks to that broad torque curve the Sonata 2.0T responds in linear, rapid fashion. Even on a hot 90-degree testing day the car felt exceptionally energetic.
A 6-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic manual gear selection is standard, featuring an intuitive shift gate pattern and, for SE and Limited models, paddle shifters on the steering wheel. The transmission shifts unobtrusively, but the manual shift gate places the gear selector too snug against the driver’s right leg. You’ll want to use the shift paddles, if you decide to take control of changing gears in the first place.
Engage the standard Active Eco system, and under normal driving conditions the car resists the temptation to downshift when the driver pushes lightly on the accelerator. It doesn’t take much effort to override this tendency, and the majority of the time I didn’t even notice whether or not the Active Eco system was engaged. During a week of driving, I averaged 21.4 mpg, short of the EPA’s combined-driving estimate of 25 mpg.
My Sonata Limited 2.0T test car had the optional 18-inch Hyper Silver aluminum wheels with P225/45R18 Hankook Optimo tires, and they did a terrific job of communicating the limits of adhesion while sluicing down a mountain road at an impressive clip. Better yet, the tires are relatively quiet, both in terms of noise and squeal.
The Sonata’s MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear suspension provides an excellent ride quality combined with sure-footed handling. Especially when equipped with the optional 18-inch wheels, the Sonata is unexpectedly athletic. However, while the Sonata’s 4-wheel-disc brakes are effective under normal driving conditions, when the car was driven with vigor on a mountain road in 90-degree temperatures, they faded to the point where I needed to push on them hard enough to surpass the threshold that engages ABS.
For 2014, the Sonata gains a Driver Selectable Steering Mode, offering a choice between Comfort, Normal, and Sport calibrations. Around town, Comfort is best. On the highway, I liked Normal. On a twisty back road, Sport proved optimal. Know what would be even better? Speed-sensitive steering that simply behaves in a consistent and better-connected fashion regardless of velocity.
2014 Hyundai Sonata Review and Quick Spin: Final Thoughts
Despite the fact that it is among the older midsize sedans on the market, the Hyundai Sonata has aged remarkably well. The redesigned 2015 Sonata arrives soon, but I think the new car is less daring and dramatic than the one it replaces. In my opinion, Hyundai likely could have simply given the current Sonata a thorough refresh and a structural upgrade to improve that single unfavorable crash-test result.
The good news is that if you like the way this Sonata looks, great deals will be available throughout the summer of 2014.
Hyundai provided the 2014 Sonata Limited 2.0T for this review
2014 Hyundai Sonata photos by Christian Wardlaw