by Roger Biermann
The midsize sedan segment is a tough one, with the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord leading the pack. That means the 2019 Hyundai Sonata has its work cut out for it. Priced from $22,300 to $31,900 the Sonata is priced competitively and offers six trim lines with varying specification levels. Three engines are available, with a lackluster base 2.4-liter developing 185 horsepower mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox, a 1.6-turbo developing 178 hp matched to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, and a 2.0-liter turbo does duty in the top Limited 2.0T developing 245 hp and paired with an eight-speed automatic. Drive on all models is sent to the front wheels. While all models from the SEL are well equipped, highlights available on higher trims include an eight-inch navigation screen, a ten-speaker Infinity premium audio system, and a wireless charging pad.
For 2019 the Sonata continues unchanged, after receiving a substantial revision for the 2018 model. Minor changes include the dropping of the "+” nomenclature while retaining all the features associated with it.
The Sonata’s styling has grown ever-bolder throughout its lifespan, with mid-2018 updates giving the seventh generation a fresh look to continue the fight against its rivals.
The SE gets a trim-specific grille, with horizontal chrome bars given a floating effect within the hexagonal frame, while all other models get a new diamond mesh design and chrome surrounds. Another SE-specific detail is the lamp-type daytime running lights housed low and wide on the front bumper, while higher trims get large triangular housings with faux air intakes and vertical-stacked LED daytime running lights. The SE, SEL, and Sport models feature projector headlights while the Limited and Limited 2.0T feature LED headlight clusters.
B- and C-pillars are blacked out on all trims (with a gloss-finished on Sport, Limited and Limited 2.0T trims) while the side sills of the Sport and Limited 2.0T models are given an additional chrome accent line and chrome door handles. Filling the wheel arches on the various trims are three wheel designs, ranging in size from 16-inches to 18-inches. Ten-spoke V-design alloys in a 16-inch size are standard on the SE, while the SEL, Sport, and Limited trims get split five-spoke 17-inch alloys. Reserved for the Limited 2.0T are sporty 18-inch Y-spoke design wheels. On the SE, SEL, and Limited there are single exhaust tips housed within a gloss black lower bumper design, while the Sport and Limited 2.0T get dual tailpipes. LED taillights are also incorporated into both Limited and Limited 2.0T models. Completing the exterior of the Limited 2.0T is a gloss black roof.
As one of the more spacious sedans in its segment, the Sonata boasts fairly sizable exterior dimensions. It measures 73.4-inches wide and 191.1-inches long while riding on a wheelbase measuring 110.4-inches. Track widths vary from trim to trim as the wheels increase in size, with the narrowest width on the highest spec Limited 2.0T due to the 18-inch wheels in the arches, while all models maintain the same riide height and measure 58.1 inches tall. Curb weight varies based on trim and engine fitment from 3,247 lbs in the SE trim to 3,527 lbs in the Limited 2.0T as the heaviest Sonata.
There are an available seven exterior hues to choose from, matching the lineup from the 2018 Sonata. There’s the standard Quartz White Pearl, Symphony Silver, Machine Gray, and Phantom Black to choose from, while those looking for something a little more exciting might rather opt for Electric Blue, Lakeside Blue, or Scarlet Red. All colors are aailable on al trim and at no extra cost.
The Hyundai Sonata is offered in three engine flavors, of which the most potent performer by far is the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder housed under the hood of the Limited 2.0T. It plates up 245 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, comparing moderately with those in class, sending power exclusively to the front wheels through a model-specific eight-speed automatic gearbox. Most in class match the front-wheel drive nature of the Sonata, but there are those who offer all-wheel driven alternatives like the Subaru Legacy.
With the turbocharged torque and slick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission, the Sonata Limited 2.0T manages a respectable 0-60 mph sprint of just more than seven seconds. But while respectable, it lags behind class leaders like the Honda Accord, whose own 2.0T derivative takes fewer than six seconds to make the mark.
On all but the Eco and top trim level, the Sonata is powered by a 2.4-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder gasoline engine developing 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque. It sends these outputs to the front axle through a standard six-speed Shiftronic automatic transmission. The Eco trim gets a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder worth 178 hp and 195 lb-ft paired with a dual-clutch automatic transmission. Meanwhile, the Limited 2.0T, in line with its name, gets a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with vastly increased outputs of 245 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. This more powerful motor also drives the front wheels but finds itself mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox instead of a six-speed.
The base engine is lackluster and fails to provide adequate performance to cement the Sonata’s success in this segment. Pull-off is sluggish and the motor loathes being worked hard to extract maximum potency. The gearbox slurs softly through the gears; comfortable, but it’s hardly what one might define as slick-shifting or aiding performance in any way. The Eco’s turbo 1.6 is better, offering good mid-range punch and decent economy, but the seven-speed dual-clutch is clunky at lower speeds. The 2.0T motor, on the other hand, offers performance that we’d call plentiful. There’s great acceleration, both from a standstill and on the move when needing to overtake, and the gearbox is slicker and quicker than the six-speed gearbox equipped on lower trim lines.
We’d describe the driving dynamics of the Sonata as capable of spirited driving, but by no means sporty. Even the Sport model is little more than a cosmetic upgrade. Still, the Sonata isn’t incapable of a fun blast through a twisty section of road, particularly when you’ve got the 2.0T motor to get you up to speed and enable you to power out of a corner. It may not encourage you to push the limits of its handling ability, but there’s a good amount of support through corners with well-managed body roll and decent levels of grip, despite the low rolling resistance tires. The suspension manages to filter out mid-corner bumps without unsettling the Sonata.
The steering is direct and has a decent amount of weight to the wheel - the D-shaped wheel in the Sport trim feels great too - with the wheel being light enough at parking lot speeds and weighting up suitably when on the move. There’s not a lot of feedback going on, which doesn’t inspire spirited driving, but there’s also nothing outright wrong with the steering setup.
To the Sonata’s credit, the composed handling doesn’t come at the expense of comfort. Small to medium bumps are managed with grace and poise, and undulating surfaces are kept out of the cabin almost completely. Larger bumps aren’t too invasive, and the secondary body motions are well controlled. There’s a good amount of insulation with a cabin quieter than several rivals, too, but there is some wind noise that creeps over the mirrors.
Though it’s quite capable, the Sonata doesn’t beg to be driven hard, nor is it particularly rewarding. It’s no sports sedan, but in the company of the Accord, Fusion, and Camry, it doesn’t need to be. It’s comfortable and composed, and it’ll cater to the needs and wants of 99% of those in the market for a sedan of this size.
Great power comes with decreased fuel economy, and the turbocharged 2.0-liter motor bears EPA mileage estimates of 23/32 mpg for the city and highway cycles respectively. The base engine, meanwhile, offers figures of 26/35 mpg. With mixed driving environments, the 18.5-gallon gas tank will get you a range of approximately 540 miles on the 2.4-liter engine, with a combined estimate of 29 mpg, while the turbo-equipped Limited 2.0T will only achieve 481 miles on a tank with a combined estimate of just 26 mpg. The Eco model gets the best economy figures of the lot with 28/37 mpg city/highway figures and a combined figure of 31 mpg yielding a theoretical range of around 575 miles on a tank.
Simple, spacious, and comfortable is the best way to describe the Sonata’s interior, with logical placement of controls, an intuitive infotainment system, and comfortable seats with a wide range of adjustment opportunities. Extra amenities like heated and ventilated seats are available on higher trims, as is leather upholstery to add to the premium feel. Some materials may feel of lesser quality than rival interiors, but the build quality seems high. Both the front and rear of the cabin are generously proportioned, capable of housing most adults in relative comforts. Only the tallest of adults might find legroom a little tight behind the front seats. The rear bench folds in a 60/40 split and two full sets of LATCH anchors are standard for the fitment of child safety seats.
The Hyundai Sonata seats five occupants. Cabin space in the Sonata is generally quite capacious for all occupants. The front passenger and driver enjoy a wide range of seat adjustments - manual on lower trims - with good amounts of height variation, while the tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel offers a good amount of extension for taller drivers. Narrow roof pillars don’t impede visibility too much, and rearward visibility is decent too. Rear passengers will also find generous amounts of space, with ample head- and legroom for most adults. Only those taller than six-foot might find legroom marginally tight, while the sloping roofline impedes access to the cabin with accordingly sloped door openings.
Cloth upholstery is standard on the SE and SEL Sonata trims and is available in three colors, beige, gray, or black with matching lower dash and door panels. With the cloth upholstery, trim inserts on the doors and dashboard are a metallic finish. The Sport model gets a combination of black leather with cloth inserts on the bespoke sports seats, with a black interior, aluminum pedals, a leather-clad sports steering wheel, and 3D Tech accent inlays on the dash and doors. The Limited model gets access to full leather upholstery in beige, gray, or black. The beige upholstery is paired with wood grain accents on the dash and doors, while the gray and black leather get darker colored wood accents. The Limited 2.0T gets its own sports seats clad in black perforated leather with blue piping. Dash and door accents are the same 3D tech inlays from the Sport trim.
In its segment, the Sonata offers marginally larger amounts of trunk storage than rivals do at 16.3 cubic feet. The rear seats fold in a 60/40 split to allow the through-loading of longer items, and they can be released via remote seatback releases for ease of use. The lift-over height to access the trunk with larger items is quite high, though, which robs it of some practicality. There’s an available hands-free trunk opening feature on some trims, which works with the proximity key to release the trunk lid when you stand behind the trunk for a few seconds. But when the catch releases the trunk lid only opens marginally and doesn’t open to the full aperture which is mildly frustrating. Opening the trunk manually from outside is also tricky, as the trunk release is hidden in the Sonata’s Hyundai badge.
As far as small item storage in the cabin goes, Hyundai’s clever placement of bins and pockets means there are loads of available spaces to store personal items. The wireless charging pad is rubberized and grips onto your phone tightly, and the various storage bins are all on the larger side of things.
In a tough segment, the Sonata delivers on high levels of feature specification, with items like a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, power adjustable seats on all but the SE trim, and cruise control, a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert standard across the range of models. Keyless entry and push-button start, as well as a hands-free trunk lid, heated front seats, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and lane keeping assist are all available from the SEL trim, while the Sport and Limited trims boast a sunroof, and the latter also featuring an auto-dimming rearview mirror, ventilated seats, dual-zone climate control, and an available panoramic sunroof and rear park sensors.
Hyundai employs a default seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with six speakers as the standard on all but the top trim of the Sonata. In the SE derivative, it’s equipped with AM/FM/MP3 functionality, with higher trims adding SiriusXM satellite radio and HD Radio functionality to its repertoire. USB and auxiliary inputs are standard, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality are equipped to the full model line-up. From the SEL model, all Sonata derivatives are equipped with a second-row USB charge port and a wireless charging pad up front for compatible devices. The Limited 2.0T tops the range in technology as well as mechanical prowess and equips a standard eight-inch infotainment screen with built-in navigation capabilities. This system is paired with an Infinity ten-speaker premium sound system and Clari-Fi music restoration technologies.
This generation Hyundai Sonata has typically earned above-average reliability ratings from the likes of J.D. Power, and there’s little to suggest any major problems lurking just beyond the horizon. Hyundai’s solid warranties: a five-year/60,000-mile limited warranty and 10-year/100,000-mile drivetrain warranty give buyers additional peace of mind, while Kelley Blue Book rated it highest in the segment in its five-year cost to own analysis. The Sonata has also been on the market in this generation since 2015, so any kinks should be ironed out by now.
The Sonata achieves top rankings from government agencies for 2019, with the HTSA awarding it five out of five stars overall and the IIHS bestowing upon it top honors as a 2019 Top Safety Pick + with superior front crash prevention with optional features.
Seven airbags are standard on the Hyundai Sonata: dual-front airbags, a driver’s knee airbag, driver and front passenger side airbags, and side curtain airbags. But the best safety features are the combination of standard and optional features available from the SEL trim. Standard, you’ll get blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, while optionally the Sonata gets automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and lane keep assist. Further safety on higher trims includes rear park sensors, automatic high beams, and headlights with dynamic bending light functionality.
Compared to rivals, the Sonata’s base 2.4 engine is dismally underpowered, while even the 2.0T isn’t quite as potent as what some competitors offer. But it’s still a good engine, paired with a good eight-speed automatic gearbox and a surprisingly nimble chassis that handles as well as it wafts along comfortably. There’s more cargo volume than rivals, loads of equipment, high levels of safety, and impressive levels of comfort for all occupants. So why not choose the Sonata? Well, despite there being a good deal to like about the Sonata, it doesn’t feel memorable. Capable, yes, but it just seems to lack character, which may be a deciding factor when it comes time to lay down a deposit on this, or a Toyota Camry or Honda Accord, the latter being an outright class-leader with character to boot.
With six trims and three options packages available, the Hyundai Sonata offers up to eight different steps up the pricing ladder, all within the $22,300 - $31,900 price range. The base SE model starts the range off at $22,300, while $23,950 gets you the bang-for-your-buck SEL. Marginally more expensive at $ 24,800 the Sport package is primarily a styling upgrade, while the Limited, at a sticker price of $27,500 ups the standard to a premium offering. The range-topper is the Limited 2.0T, which is priced from $31,900 excluding taxes, licensing fees, destination charges, and any discounts or incentives that may be applicable.
For the 2019 year model, the Sonata is available in six trim levels; SE, Eco, SEL, Sport, Limited, and Limited 2.0T as a sub-trim for the Limited derivative. From the SE to the Limited models, with the exception of the Eco, power comes from a 185 horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder with a six-speed automatic gearbox. The Limited 2.0T is one of two turbocharged Sonatas, with a 245 hp turbocharged 2.0-liter and an eight-speed automatic. The Eco gets a smaller, 178-hp 1.6-liter turbo motor.
The SE comes equipped with standard features such as cruise control, a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a seven-inch touchscreen, a six-speaker sound system, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
The Eco is a carryover from 2018, specced the same as the SE with the main difference being the differentiated drivetrain.
The SEL receives larger 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry with push-button start, LED daytime running lights, a hands-free trunk lid, power driver’s seat adjustment, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and satellite and HD radio.
The Sport trim is largely cosmetic, with unique front and rear styling, a sunroof, leather sports seats with cloth inserts, Sport-specific interior trim, and a flat-bottom steering wheel with paddle-shifters.
Stepping up to the Limited trim loses most of the Sport’s upgrades but retains the sunroof. Additionally, the Limited gets LED headlights, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, full leather seats, memory functions for the driver’s seat, power adjustment for the front passenger, ventilated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, and extra safety features.
The Limited 2.0T is the range-topping derivative, adding a panoramic sunroof, rear park sensors, rear side window shades, an eight-inch navigation system, and Infinity ten-speaker premium audio system.
|SE||2.4-liter Inline-4 Gas||6-Speed Automatic||Front Wheel Drive||$21,564||$22,500|
|ECO||1.6-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas||7-Speed Automatic||Front Wheel Drive||$21,894||$22,850|
|SEL||2.4-liter Inline-4 Gas||6-Speed Automatic||Front Wheel Drive||$22,875||$24,150|
|Sport||2.4-liter Inline-4 Gas||6-Speed Automatic||Front Wheel Drive||$23,664||$25,000|
|Limited||2.4-liter Inline-4 Gas||6-Speed Automatic||Front Wheel Drive||$26,175||$27,700|
Between the five trim lines available, most equipment is bundled into an all-inclusive package. Hyundai has, however, made available two main options packages to be equipped to various trims.
The first of which is the $600 Tech Package, applicable to both the SEL and the sport trim lines. It’s primarily a safety package that equips the relevant model with an electronic parking brake with automatic vehicle holding functionality, smart cruise control with stop/start functionality, lane keep assist, and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. These options are all standard on the Limited and Limited 2.0T trim lines.
The second options package, dubbed the Ultimate Package for Limited, is exclusive to the Limited trim. It includes the addition of a panoramic sunroof, rear parking sensors, rear window sunshades, an eight-inch navigation system, Infinity premium audio system with ten speakers, HD Traffic with real-time traffic information, SiriusXM Travel Link with a 90-day trial, and three years complimentary service to the Blue Link guidance package. The Ultimate Package costs $2,300, and all these features are equipped as standard on the Limited 2.0T.
All Sonatas from the SEL up are extensively equipped with features and creature comforts, and many buyers will be happy with either of the three top trims. But our pick is the most expensive of the lot, the Limited 2.0T. Not only does it receive a panoramic sunroof, full leather upholstery with heated and ventilated power-adjustable front seats, front seat memory function, rear park sensors, navigation, premium audio, and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, but you receive the punchy turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, which itself is reason enough to splash out on this range-topping derivative.
In this segment, the Honda Accord is target number one for the Hyundai Sonata as it’s ruled the roost for a number of years as the best in class. The Sonata fares admirably too, albeit in a different manner. It’s more plush and comfortable rather than driver focused, but as a result it doesn’t quite handle as well as the Honda, nor does it perform as well with its lackluster base engine and underpowered 2.0T motor. However, the Sonata undercuts the Accord on pricing, and top spec trims like the Limited and Limited 2.0T come jam-packed with tech, securing IIHS TSP+ status for the Sonata compared to just TSP status for the Accord. The Accord may offer a slightly fancier interior, and marginally more cargo volume (just 0.3 cubic feet is all that separates them), but the Sonata’s infotainment is easier to use . Where the Accord is comprehensively better, however, is in interior room, where no segment rival can match it for front and rear occupant accommodation. Both of these sedans are exceptional in different ways - the Sonata comfortable, safe, and technologically jam-packed at an affordable price - while the Accord is a potent performer, roomy, and reliable. Buyers will be happy with either, but the Accord is marginally better in most aspects.
Yet another name synonymous with class excellence, the Camry has been a segment favorite for decades. The Sonata is better in several regards, offering 16.3 cubic feet in its trunk to the Camry’s 15.1, while also rating higher on safety, and packing a more comprehensive infotainment system - the Camry doesn’t offer Android Auto. But the Camry has the Sonata beaten when it comes to firepower, its V6 engine nearly 100 horsepower up on the 2.0T in the Sonata. It rides more comfortably, too, and the interior feels more luxurious, and it allmost matches the Sonata for available technology and creature comforts, while maintaining an affordable price. The Camry is our pick here as the better all-rounder in the segment.