What kind of a car company invests in improving a car like the 2014 Hyundai Sonata, a vehicle that’s one model-year away from being replaced by an all-new model? One that’s serious about maintaining the momentum associated with a sedan that dared ask the question as to why the average family shopper can’t have nice things. Hyundai’s status as a major player was cemented when the Sonata appeared on the scene for 2011, and despite the fact that there’s a fresh interpretation of the automobile on its way for the 2015 model year, a number updates have been made to what was already a competent mid-size package.
This is no lame-duck Hyundai Sonata, then, sitting on the sidelines as more recent competitors like the Honda Accord and the Ford Fusion continue to poach potential buyers. Certainly not: the 2014 Hyundai Sonata is going down swinging.
The base 2014 Hyundai Sonata GLS (MSRP $21,4500) offers a respectable amount of standard gear, including Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio, power windows and door locks, air conditioning, a trip computer, heated exterior mirrors, cruise control, the BlueLink telematics system, and 16-inch rims. Moving up to the Sonata SE (MSRP $24,300) introduces significant value per dollar from a features perspective, including as it does heated seats (with power adjustments for the driver), LED lights throughout the passenger compartment, fog lights, automatic headlights, a touchscreen audio system, a rearview camera, sportier exterior trim and suspension tuning, 18-inch rims, a dual exhaust system, keyless ignition and keyless entry, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and leather seat inserts. The Hyundai Sonata Limited (MSRP $27,000) is the most luxurious of the three editions of the sedan, reverting to a more compliant suspension setup and 17-inch rims but adding heated rear seats, cooled front seats, leather upholstery throughout the car, an automatically-dimming rearview mirror, and its own special interior trim.
The 2014 Hyundai Sonata Limited that I drove for a week was outfitted with the optional Limited Technology package, which installed a navigation system, a larger eight-inch touchscreen in place of the standard 4.3-inch unit, an upgraded stereo system, and a panoramic sunroof. The total sticker price of my test vehicle came to $30,000.
The 2014 Hyundai Sonata continues its style-conscious ways for the current model year by way of a gentle update to its already considerable charms. The svelte shape of the Sonata has been one of its strong points since its extensive redesign in 2011, and the addition of a broader grille for 2014 has served to accentuate the vehicle’s grace and charm. The Limited trim also benefits from LED tail lights, which have fast become a symbol of sophistication throughout the industry. Impending replacement or not, Hyundai has made sure that the Sonata has not been left behind by fresher iterations of the Honda Accord and Mazda Mazda6.
Passengers inside the 2014 Hyundai Sonata are treated to a well-turned-out cabin that engages the senses without being overwrought. More organic than current Toyota designs, and not as reliant on LCD displays as those from Ford, the Sonata’s interior draws from simple shapes and classy materials (at least, in the Limited trim). There are a few areas where the Sonata feels cheaper than it should – particularly in the gauge cluster – but less so than the previous model year.
The 2014 Hyundai Sonata Limited is a much bigger car inside than it at first appears. In fact, based on interior volume, it qualifies for ‘large car’ status from the EPA, an appellation that it lords over rivals like the Fusion and Camry. Clinical measurements aside, the Sonata’s passenger compartment is indeed quite generous at all four positions, and while taller individuals may find the car’s sloped roof intrusive at the rear, my more modest frame fit well no matter where I happened to be sitting inside the Hyundai. Trunk space is equally big, checking in at 16.4 cubic feet.
As part of its continued effort to evoke an upscale feel inside the Sonata, Hyundai has worked to dial out as much vibration and noise as it can via this recent refresh. Increased sound deadening provides an effective barrier against the bustle of the outside world, working together with wheels and suspension that have also configured to tune-out rough roads.
The 2014 Hyundai Sonata provides buyers with the choice of either a 4.3-inch touchscreen (standard) or an eight-inch touchscreen (available on SE and Limited trims) in order to interact with the vehicle’s entertainment system. A rearview camera can be linked to both, while the eight-inch version gains a navigation component. The graphics and logic associated with the larger of the two screens (which was what I had to work with in my tester) is much improved over Hyundai’s older, more dated software, and I found it relatively easy to get around the car’s digital landscape without any trouble. Less impressive was the LCD screen located between the tachometer and speedometer, as it seemed more like a relic from Hyundai’s past rather than of a piece with the newer displays found in the car.
The 2014 Hyundai Sonata comes standard with dual forward airbags, side curtain airbags that run along the length of the entire passenger compartment, seat-mounted side impact airbags up front, electronic stability control and traction control, as well as the BlueLink telematics system. The latter can automatically notify first responders in the event that the Sonata is involved in a serious accident. Available on SE and Limited editions of the sedan is a new blind spot monitoring system.
2014 Hyundai Sonata Limited Crash Test Ratings: The Hyundai Sonata enjoys a five-star crash safety rating from the NHTSA, as well as ‘Good’ ratings in all but the small-overlap frontal offset impact crash test from the IIHS.
The 2014 Hyundai Sonata starts out with a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine under its hood. Capable of generating 190 horsepower and 179 lb-ft of torque in GLS and Limited trims, it's worth noting that in Sonata SE the presence of a dual exhaust system bumps its output to 192 horses and 181 lb-ft of twist. Fuel mileage for the engine, which is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, is listed at 24-mpg in city driving and 35-mpg on the highway.
The Sonata is also available with a 274 horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. With 269 lb-ft of torque on tap, the turbo unit is surprisingly frugal, featuring an EPA rating of 22-mpg around town and 34-mpg during highway cruising. It shares its gearbox with the base sedan.
There is certainly a lot to like about how the 2014 Hyundai Sonata comports itself out on the road. For starters, the automaker’s talk about a quieter cabin isn’t just marketing hype – the Sonata is remarkably better than before when it comes to keeping the outside world outside. This includes reverberations from rough pavement through the car’s suspension system, as the Sonata tolerated much more jostling that I thought it would from Montreal’s decrepit infrastructure.
The Limited’s not-so-sporty chassis (in comparison to the stiffer SE) proved to a be boon in other ways, too. More give in the car’s shocks and springs helped the Sonata stay flat and controlled mid-corner over surfaces that were far from glassy, and yet the car never felt as though it was floating down the boulevard. I was impressed by the balance that Hyundai’s engineers were able to strike between comfort and competence when evaluating the sedan’s handling, and I think the modestly-sized wheels played no small part in this achievement.
A new Sonata feature for 2014 is Drive Selectable Steering Mode (DSSM), which has already debuted on other Hyundai models like the Elantra GT. The three-setting system can be thought of as a way to attenuate the amount of power assist provided by the sedan’s electric steering system. Ranging from Comfort to Normal to Soft, DSSM controls how progressive steering effort becomes, in addition to the weight of the wheel in your hands. It’s somewhat gimmicky on a car like the Sonata, which at least in Limited trim offers no sporting pretensions whatsoever, but it doesn’t get in the way of enjoying the car. I found myself drawn to Normal mode’s well-proportioned setup over the more artificial feeling of Sport and the detached sensation of Comfort.
The Sonata Limited that I drove came with the base 2.4-liter, four-cylinder motor, and for the most part this is a competent power plant that is well matched with the car’s six-speed automatic transmission. Power is excellent for such an unpretentious engine, offering up enough grunt down low to spin the front tires on cold pavement as well as make it past the car ahead of you before the end of the passing zone. Where the Sonata’s drivetrain falls short is refinement: although the 2.4-liter mill is better than some other Hyundai four-bangers in this respect, there’s still a coarseness at the higher engine speeds that feels out of place given the smooth nature of the car’s chassis.
I know what you’re thinking: if the current Hyundai Sonata is this good, then certainly the 2015 edition is going to be that much better, and definitely worth postponing your purchase for. There’s no way to know for sure, but I don’t recommend dismissing the 2014 Hyundai Sonata out of hand merely based on the fact that there’s a new model coming. The Sonata’s combination of affordable pricing, pleasing ride comfort, and attractive styling keep it a strong contender in the family sedan sweepstakes, regardless of the fact that it’s about to be replaced. This is a car that you simply must drive if you are in the market for a mid-size sedan, even with so many newer options to consider. Hyundai has kept the flame alive with the 2014 Sonata instead of quietly putting it out to pasture, and the effort is deserving of your attention.
Hyundai Canada supplied the vehicle for this review