Hyundai Sonata


Debut: 2014
Maker: Hyundai
Predecessor: Sonata (2009)


 Published on 15 Jul 2014
All rights reserved. 

The so-called “Fluidic Sculpture 2.0” design language adds a dose of conservatism to please family men and women...


Hyundai Sonata has been around for 30 years and across 6 generations. For most of the time it was seen as a budget choice only, but recently it got stronger and stronger following the rise of Korean motor industry. The last generation Sonata had an ambition to rock the establishments by its head-turning styling (called “Fluidic Sculpture”) and efficient GDI engines. It looked to be a winner. However, people realized soon it did not drive as good as it looked. Mediocre ride quality and acoustic refinement prevented it from challenging Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Ford Fusion in the all-important American market. Some criticized it for looking too radical for a family car. Then it was hit by the MPG-gate (fuel economy overrated). As a result, its sales ambition never materialized.

For the 7th generation Sonata, Hyundai takes a more cautious approach. The so-called “Fluidic Sculpture 2.0” design language adds a dose of conservatism to please family men and women. This is implemented by a more upright front grille, flatter bonnet and more chrome decorations. It is still a handsome car, if not as emotional as Mazda 6 or as sporty as Ford Fusion. A sloping back still distinguishes it from the camp of Camry and Accord while contributing to a low drag coefficient of 0.27 (a small improvement from the outgoing car’s 0.28).


It might have all the necessary specifications to excel in handling, but somehow the tuning and detailed engineering are not up to the task...


More than half of the monocoque body is now made of high-strength steel, yielding a 41 percent gain of torsional rigidity. MacPherson struts and multi-links continue to serve in its suspensions, but now the latter employs 2 lower links instead of one, allowing Hyundai to fine tune its geometry to handle lateral forces better, therefore enhances stability under braking. The mounting points of suspension subframes have been strengthened. In addition to the stiffer chassis, softer suspension setup can be adopted to improve ride quality without hurting handling. Meanwhile, the front subframe employs harder bushings to reduce slack and sharpen steering response. Speaking of steering, the majority of new Sonata versions continue to use an electrical power steering with column-mounted motor. Although its assistance has been recalibrated to be more consistent, it has no hope to deliver the right kind of feel. Instead, the range-topping 2.0 Turbo model employs a more expensive rack-mounted dual-pinion EPS (like Volkswagen Golf and Alfa Romeo Giulietta), no wonder it feels a lot better. Besides, the new car also features a multi-mode driver control, with Eco, Normal and Sport setting for you to choose and alter the characteristics of steering weight, throttle response and gearshift pattern.

That said, no Sonatas could be described as a sporty family car in the same breath of Ford Fusion or Mazda 6. It might have all the necessary specifications to excel in handling, but somehow the tuning and detailed engineering are not up to the task, even though Hyundai unusually tested it at Nurburgring during development. There is nothing wrong with its body control or balance, but it just isn’t as sharp to steer or as interactive as the class best.


Comfortable ride is offset by too much tire, wind and engine noise.


On the plus side, the new car does ride more comfortable than the old one, especially when dealing with low-speed bumps. It is by no means the most comfortable car in the class, but more than adequate for the majority of drivers. Less improved is noise level. Although it is already reduced, it still lags behind most competitors – remember, all rivals are improving markedly in this respect. There is still too much tire noise generated by the Kumho, too much wind roar produced at the A-pillars and too much harshness can be heard from the GDI engines when they work hard.

While this cabin is not the quietest, it is one of the largest. US EPA measured 122 cubic feet and rated it as a large car, i.e. roughly equals to the European term "E-segment". Admittedly, this could be somewhat exaggerated by the monospace shape, which adds space at locations not benefitting passengers, i.e. under the base of windscreen and rear window. Anyway, the rear bench of Sonata can swallow six-footers easily, with plenty of legroom and decent headroom. Visibility is a bit shallow though.


Sonata has one of the largest cabins in the class, but the dashboard design is nearly disastrous.


In my opinion, the new dashboard design is nearly disastrous. It is actually a regression from the old design. While the old dash was a mix and match of beautiful curves, the new one is flat, angular and 1980s-straightforward. It has no aesthetic to speak of. The smallish LCD screen and air vents do not fit well into the center console and look as if they are taken straight from another car. Likewise, the plain dials do not fill the large instrument pod fully, delivering an impression of aftermarket products. Its cheapness is a sharp contrast to high-tech TFT instrument of Chrysler 200… and this is a car designed by the same country that builds Samsung Galaxy mobiles!

If you can overcome the interior styling, you will find out its materials, fit and finish are actually improved considerably. There are adequately textured soft plastics covering major surfaces. The steering wheel looks and feels more upmarket. The center console, angled slightly to the driver side, is more convenient to access. Just avoid the very fake wood trim.


2.0GDT engine loses 31 horsepower, so it is no longer an alternative to Japanese V6s.


In the US market, the Sonata has a choice of 3 engines. Biggest selling has to be the 2.4-liter GDI Theta II four-cylinder, carried over from the last generation with minor updates. It has the hydraulic intake VVT replaced with electrical one to extend its operation to cold start-up, hence reducing cold-start emission. A more honest calibration resulted in an output rating dropped from 201 to 185 hp. That might not affect real-world performance much, but its raucous sound at high rev doesn't change either. Sitting above the 2.4 GDI is the familiar 2.0 GDI Turbo, now switches to a smaller twin-scroll turbo to improve low-end response. This can be seen from its peak torque which arrives at merely 1350 rpm. On the flip side, its maximum horsepower is toned down from 274 to 245, while max. torque is reduced from 269 to 260 lbft. In the real world it feels even less powerful, so it is no longer an alternative to Japanese V6s. Besides, the turbo motor has to be criticized for unrefined noise. In fact, best of the bunch is the 177 hp 1.6 GDI turbo. Similar to the marketing strategy of Ford Ecoboost, it is priced higher than the more powerful 2.4 GDI, but in return it gives you considerably better fuel economy, more usable performance (thanks to more torque at lower rpm) and higher refinement. Moreover, it is the only engine mated to the new 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox whose gearshift quality is nearly as good as Volkswagen DSG.

Choose the 1.6T and you will find a pretty good-looking car with adequate performance, handling and ride, plus a large cabin and Hyundai's usual great value for money. It is not going to be a class leader, but should be more rounded and more competitive than the last generation. A 4-star car, just.
Verdict:
 Published on 19 Jul 2017
All rights reserved. 
Sonata facelift 2017


Sonata gets a real facelift...


When the current generation Sonata debuted 3 years ago, its styling was deliberately toned down from its radically-styled predecessor in a bid to please average men and women. Unfortunately, that swing was too heavy-handed, and the market found it too conservative. The result is another few years of slipping sales. This time Hyundai’s California studio is responsible to give it a desperately needed facelift. Its massive mesh front grille gives the car a much stronger presence on the street and even a hint of premium car. A pity the body sides are unchanged and the tail is barely touched. In other words, this is a real facelift.

Inside, the story is more disappointing still. We used to reckon the dashboard design too 1980s, and its fit and finish left a lot to be desired. It deserved a full makeover in the mid-life refresh. Somehow, Hyundai skips the request and keeps it largely the same. Only the buttons and air vents etc. have been replaced with barely higher grade alternatives. The outdated look and lack of quality perception remain, so the only thing you can appreciate is the vast amount of cabin space, which is still strong by class norm.



The 1980s design and lack of quality perception remains.


Changes to the mechanical aspect are equally scarce. All 3 engines (177hp 1.6GDT, 185hp 2.4GDI and 245hp 2.0GDT) are left untouched, although the top engine now pairs with an 8-speed automatic instead of the last 6-speeder to enhance fuel economy by 1mpg in EPA combined cycle. As a result, the Sonata remains a weak performer among its rivals. The steering is said to be stiffened and retuned for better response and more feel, but frankly, both are still not something to be proud of. The rear suspensions get stiffer trailing arms and reworked bushings, but the car still lacks body control. It is too softly sprung, displaying lots of roll in corner. On the upside, the ride is comfortable, just as before. A more premium face it might have, the Sonata never drives like a premium car. Instead, it feels just like a conventional Japanese or American family car, with emphasis on comfort rather than excitement. By today’s standards, this mid-life facelift is too thin.
Verdict:
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Sonata 1.6T
2014
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4855 / 1865 / 1475 mm
2805 mm
Inline-4
1591 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
Turbo
DI
177 hp
195 lbft
7-speed twin-clutch
F: strut
R: multi-link
-
205/65R16
1483 kg
133 mph (c)
6.7*
18.4*
Sonata 2.4
2014
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4855 / 1865 / 1475 mm
2805 mm
Inline-4
2359 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
-
DI
185 hp
178 lbft
6-speed automatic
F: strut
R: multi-link
-
215/55R17
1475 kg
133 mph (est)
7.9*
22.0*
Sonata 2.0T
2014 (2017)
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4855 / 1865 / 1475 mm
2805 mm
Inline-4
1998 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
Turbo
DI
245 hp
260 lbft
6-speed auto (8-speed auto)
F: strut
R: multi-link
-
235/45VR18
1590 kg
140 mph (est)
7.2* (6.8*)
18.5* (17.5*)




Performance tested by: *C&D




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