When Hyundai came out with the sixth-generation Sonata, it was a wakeup call for midsize sedans and other manufacturers' mundane styling. With its "Fluidic Sculpture" design, the Sonata dared to be different. Now for the new generation Sonata, Hyundai — for better or for worse — has reined in those sculptural flourishes.
Appearance: Overall, the 2015 Sonata is longer and wider. In fact, it's now classified as a large sedan. Lyra sees the new design as a natural progression to a more mature look. Peter thinks it now looks like most of its competitors — generic. Still, he will admit that the sloping, coupelike roofline, especially with our tester's panoramic sunroof, is a winning design. But he doesn't care for the wider, more stately grille that now wears its Hyundai badge on an unattractive black insert. Some nicer touches on our Limited tester: an integrated spoiler on the rear decklid, dual chrome exhaust tips and LED running lights and taillights.
Performance: The 2.4-liter 4-cylinder puts out 185 horsepower, which is actually 5 less than the previous generation. (The Sport and ECO models have different powerplants.) The 6-speed dual-clutch automatic shifts smoothly enough, but Peter wasn't fond of the sluggish acceleration. Still, the slightly bigger and stiffer chassis makes for a smooth, big-car ride and feel.
Interior: Quiet. Very quiet. Hyundai has added more sound insulation in the dash and under the floor to keep engine and road noise out. We were both impressed. Our Limited tester came with the optional Tech Package ($3,500), which adds the panoramic sunroof, upgraded gauges and navigation, Infinity sound system, ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel and driver's-seat memory. The Ultimate Package contains safety features that include Smart Cruise Control with full start and stop, forward-collision warning and lane-departure warning. In highway driving, these features work almost too well — some might find them a bit intrusive on the driving experience. The upgraded infotainment screen has a vivid 8-inch display. What's more, the controls — buttons and dials — are simple and intuitive. (Thanks, Hyundai.) The heated and ventilated front seats — they almost resemble sport seats — are well designed and comfortable. The car's increased dimensions also make for generous head- and legroom; Peter even felt there was plenty of room for him in the backseat — although if you are much taller than he is, the sloping roof could make for cramped headroom. One feature we didn't like: the faux wood trim (one of our pet peeves), which just looks dated and out of place.
Our 3 favorites
Hands full? Stand with the key fob near the trunk for three seconds and the lid pops open.
Panoramic view: The large sunroof makes for a more open driving experience.
Technology: Smart Cruise Control is smoother than other systems I've used.
Silence! Barely any engine or road noise.
Less is more: Simple, more mature design.
Bells and whistles: Load the car with optional safety features.
The bottom line: The Sonata now has a more stately bearing and refined technology. Lyra thinks it's an impressive next step of an already successful family sedan. Peter wishes that evolution had included a more unique design.