2015 Hyundai Sonata: Less Character, More Value

Strong points
  • Improved interior quality and design
  • Roomy passenger compartment
  • Reasonably fuel efficient
  • Affordable entry-level pricing
Weak points
  • Styling is more mundane than in 2014
  • Canadians don't get Eco model yet with its DCT and 1.6-liter turbo engine
  • Sonata Hybrid won't be redesigned for at least a year
  • Performance is middle-of-the-pack
Full report

Canadians love Hyundai, but more to the point, they tend to fall for the smaller stuff first like the Elantra and the Accent - a reflection of our more frugal buying habits, as well as our lofty fuel prices.  The 2015 Hyundai Sonata, however, remains the main thrust of the Korean brand's North American renaissance, a vehicle that's intended to do battle with the mighty Ford Fusion and Honda Accord mid-size sedans that increasingly define the family car segment.

For 2015, the Sonata has been given a thorough redesign that moves the sedan in a different direction, one that’s somewhat more conservative than in years past but which maintains the value and quality that have come to be associated with Hyundai.  I had the chance to pilot the new Sonata on the rural highways and by-ways surrounding Montgomery, Alabama, and found a lot to like about this refreshed mid-size offering.

The Same, But Different

One area where the 2015 Hyundai Sonata might at first seem to have taken a step backwards is under the hood, where we are presented with slightly weaker editions of the same motors that were offered the year before.  The base 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine that comes with the Sonata now features 185 horses and 178 lb-ft of torque, which represents a minor reduction compared to 2014, but the real story is the vehicle's 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder which has seen 29 horsepower lopped off of its official output.  The new rating of 245 ponies and 260 lb-ft of twist (also lower than in 2014) renders the sedan a little less fleet of foot: I tested the two models back to back and found only a small gap between the two when timed to 100 km/h from a standing start.

Why did Hyundai revise both engines down for 2015?  The answer is driveability, specifically the desire to shift torque and horsepower to the middle of the rev range rather than keep a higher amount available at the peak.  This is especially noticeable with the 2.0-litre edition of the Sonata, which has seen its turbo reconfigured so as to reduce the amount of time between pressing down on the go-pedal and receiving a usable amount of power.  A six-speed automatic transmission remains standard with the 2015 Hyundai Sonata, and fuel mileage for the 2.4-litre shows as the better of the two (8.4 l/100 km in combined city and highway driving).

A More Reserved Character

Bigger changes to the 2015 Hyundai Sonata can be found in its sheet metal, which abandons the flowing lines of the automaker's original 'Fluidic Sculpture' design language in favour of 'Version 2.0' of the same.  The effect is underwhelming - much of the character of the previous generation Sonata has been muscled out of the picture by harder lines and a broader face - but it's in keeping with where bogeys like the Toyota Camry and the Nissan Altima have headed with their own respective exterior designs.

The Sonata's passenger compartment is a different story, as Hyundai has reorganized the car's dashboard and centre stack to be that much more intuitive to use.  Controls are now grouped together more closely than in the past, and a new eight-inch LCD touchscreen now tops the car's range of infotainment options (there's also a five-inch unit available on more affordable models).  If you order the Sport trim - new for 2015 - you also get niceties such as performance-look gauges, a flat-bottom steering wheel, paddle shifters for the automatic transmission, and more aggressive front and rear treatments on the outside of the vehicle.

All versions of the Sonata are quite roomy regardless of where one is sitting, and trunk space remains competitive.  On top of its practical nature the 2015 Hyundai Sonata also boasts a higher quotient of available safety gear, including adaptive cruise control with forward collision warning, a blind spot monitoring system, and a newly reinforced crash cage that protects the vehicle's cabin.

More Of What Hyundai Buyers Want

There's no question to me that the 2015 Hyundai Sonata is a worthy upgrade over the departing version of the sedan.  The more reserved exterior styling is balanced out by a larger and much nicer interior, as well as the car's stiffer, more controlled chassis that makes for increased confidence when driven quickly.  Although far from being sporty, the redesigned Sonata's ride quality and suspension response give it an edge over the 2014 model, and while setting the car's adjustable drive mode to Eco robs you of a bit too much fun, Normal and Sport are more than most mid-size sedan owners will ever need.  Combine all of this with the value side of the equation - Hyundai prices the entry-level Sonata GL at $23,999 - and you have a competent and well-built family car that starts at roughly $1,500 less than the Camry.  To many Hyundai shoppers, that's music to their ears.

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