2014 Sonata New Car Test Drive
The four door Hyundai Sonata accommodates five passengers in fine style and more than holds its own with the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion and other mid-size sedans. Sonata delivers excellent quality in all of its iterations, with great manners, fuel efficiency and features, all at a competitive price.
Sonata was completely redesigned for the 2011 model year. The 2013 Sonata got an updated navigation system. Changes are more considerable for the 2014 model year, including exterior design enhancements as well as new safety technologies. New 17-inch wheels are mounted on 2014 models, which get a refined grille, HID (high-intensity-discharge) xenon headlights, and LED taillights. A Driver Selectable Steering Mode is now standard on all versions. So is a tire-specific tire-pressure monitor. A sport-tuned exhaust is newly standard on the SE 2.0T sedan. Blind Spot Detection is optional on SE, standard on Limited. Also standard on Limited are a ventilated driver's seat and fully automated temperature controls. SE models gain standard carbon fiber interior trim for 2014. A redesigned Sonata is being introduced for 2015.
The 2014 Hyundai Sonata comes in four models, including a hybrid that can be driven at highway speeds in full electric mode and an available turbocharged engine that is one of the most powerful in this class but still delivers excellent fuel mileage. Sonata uses front-wheel drive.
Sonata's styling is busy for our taste and not as clean as its corporate sibling, the Kia Optima. Many other critics have praised Sonata's look, however, and if it's confused with any other sedan, it's more likely to be mistaken for a Lexus or some other luxury model than for another mainstream mid-size.
Inside, features, materials and fit and finish are among the best in the class, especially in build quality and tolerances.
The 2014 Hyundai Sonata lineup starts with the GLS, which retails for $21,350 and comes with a full complement of power features, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity and more power than other cars in its class. Another $900 for a Popular Equipment Group adds heated front seats, automatic light control, a rearview camera, power driver's seat, and leatherette upholstery. The mid-range Sonata SE satisfies sporty tastes with a firmer suspension and sharper steering, while the Limited comes nearly loaded, with full leather, dual-zone automatic climate control and audio upgrade, blind-spot detection and a ventilated driver's seat, starting at $26,900.
Sonata's standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder delivers 190 horsepower, or 192 hp with a dual exhaust system in the Sonata SE. It's substantially more powerful than the base engine in competitors, but at 24/35 mpg City/Highway it runs neck and neck in the Environmental Protection Agency's fuel economy estimates. The four-cylinder is matched to a smooth-shifting, well programmed 6-speed automatic transmission.
Hyundai's upgrade engine led a trend in this class, eschewing a larger V6 for a smaller, efficient turbocharged four-cylinder. The 2.0T, as Hyundai calls it, satisfies America's perceived need for performance, with 274 horsepower yielding excellent acceleration on regular-grade gas. Yet it's EPA-rated at 32 mpg Highway. (Early turbo Sonatas were rated 34 mpg Highway, but Hyundai revised some fuel-economy estimates in late 2012.)
First introduced for 2011, the Sonata Hybrid features a full parallel hybrid system, allowing the car to be driven on its 40-hp electric motor at speeds up to 62 miles per hour. While such an occurrence would be rare in the real world, the Hybrid's blended gas-electric operation still improves fuel economy, with higher mileage ratings than similar hybrids from Honda and Toyota. Moreover, while other hybrids in this class have a gearless, continuously variable transmission, the Sonata Hybrid got the same 6-speed automatic as other Sonata models. It drives and sounds like the cars most of us know, with actual upshifts and downshifts.
The 2014 Hyundai Sonata sedan comes in standard, sporty and luxurious trim levels, with a choice of two four-cylinder engines and a standard 6-speed automatic transmission. There's also a Hybrid model, returning later in the 2014 model year.
Sonata GLS ($21,350), the standard trim, is powered by a 190-horsepower, 2.4-liter inline four with direct fuel injection. The GLS is equipped with air conditioning, a full complement of power features, 60/40 split-folding rear seat and a six-speaker, 104-watt audio system with single CD and satellite radio with a three-month subscription. A Driver Selectable Steering Mode is new for 2014. The standard wheels are 16-inch alloys. The GLS Popular Equipment Package ($900) adds a power driver seat with manual lumbar adjustment, leatherette door panels (in place of the base molded, hard plastic), heated front seats, automatic light control, and a rearview camera.
Sonata SE ($24,200) is the sporty model, with a firmer suspension, a manual shift feature with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters and 18-inch alloy wheels. It comes standard with the contents of the Popular Equipment Package, as well as a leather wrapped steering wheel, shift knob and seat bolsters, carbon-fiber interior trim, and a proximity key with push-button start. The Sonata SE can be upgraded with a 274-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four ($25,750). An SE Premium Package ($3,000 additional) includes touch screen GPS navigation, sport-tuned exhaust, power tilt and slide sunroof and an audio upgrade with Dimension premium speakers, subwoofer and 360 watts of power.
Sonata Limited ($26,900) is the most luxurious model, and it's available with the standard or turbocharged engine ($28,650). Limited comes standard with dual zone automatic climate control, rear console mounted vents, full leather seats, the 360-watt audio, heated front and rear seats, and turn signal indicators in the outside mirrors. Piano Black or Woodgrain interior trim accents are included, along with a sunroof, auto dimming rearview mirror with compass, blind-spot detection, a ventilated driver's seat, fully automated temperature controls, and 17-inch aluminum wheels. The Limited Technology Package ($3,000) adds navigation with an 8-inch screen, a panoramic sunroof and Hyundai's top level Infinity audio system.
Sonata Hybrid has been powered by a more fuel-efficient 166-horspower version of the 2.4-liter engine, mating with a 40-horsepower electric motor. EPA mileage ratings improve, and Hyundai has claimed that the Hybrid could run at speeds up to 62 mph on electric power alone. Hybrid features and options essentially mirror those of the SE model.
Beyond the packages, options are limited to dealer-installed features such as remote start ($350), rear spoiler ($250) and rearview mirror with Homelink garage-door control ($275).
Safety features standard on all models include front-impact airbags, driver and front passenger side impact airbags, front and rear seat head-protection curtains, anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and brake assist, electronic stability control, active front-seat head restraints and a tire-pressure monitor. Hyundai's Blue Link crash-reporting telematics system comes standard, too, with a temporary subscription to basic services. Blind-spot detection is standard on Limited, available for SE. The rearview camera on SE and Limited, and that comes with the GLS Popular package, can help the driver spot a small child behind the car when backing up.