2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T: Refined, well-equipped

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The ultracompetitive mid-size sedan market heats up with the addition of Hyundai’s new 2015 Sonata Sport. It’s been given a more refined design, inside and out, to draw additional mid-size sedan buyers.

This seventh-generation front-wheel-drive Sonata swaps the previous model’s ultra-sporty look for a more conservative one. However, this four-door sedan has a purposeful shape, with a coupe-like roofline and horizontal lines in the rear that underscore the car’s width and give it a planted (spell “road-hugging”) look. Hyundai likens the styling to an athlete in a well-tailored suit.

The new Sonata has a stiffer body structure, better ride quality, less noise, vibration and harshness and advanced safety and convenience features. A revised multilink rear suspension design enhances responsiveness, handling and stability while reducing impact harshness. Reinforced side and cross members strengthen sub-frame mounting points and improve suspension responsiveness.

In short, the new Sonata is more fun — and safer — to drive.

A new upscale interior has intuitive buttons and controls on the center stack, which is angled toward the driver to help keep him focused on the road. There’s a mixture of large and clearly marked small controls. I especially liked the digital speedometer, which backs up a conventional one, in such areas as speed trap zones.

Still, despite much sound-deadening material and a body with an admirably low drag coefficient of .27, my test car had above-average wind noise at highway speeds in the otherwise quiet, upscale cockpit, which has lots of storage areas.

The 2015 Hyundai Sonata has been refined and redesigned.
The 2015 Hyundai Sonata has been refined and redesigned.

All Sonatas are designed for the fiercely competitive mid-size sedan market. They easily seat four tall adults, who can slip in and out through wide-opening doors.

Safety features include seven air bags, including a new driver’s knee air bag.

The sportiest 2015 Sonata is the Sport 2.0T, which I tested. It has a unique interior with such things as a D-cut steering wheel and paddles for manually shifting its responsive six-speed automatic transmission. A sport instrument cluster has six o’clock needle positions that hint at track driving.

Hyundai hasn’t overlooked the small things. For instance, the Sport 2.0T has a unique rear bumper fascia with four horizontal-shaped exhaust tips beautifully integrated into it. Good attention to detail here.

Although it’s no sports sedan, the Sport 2.0T also has a sport-tuned suspension with low-profile 45-series tires on 18-inch alloy wheels and larger 12.6-inch front brakes. The new electric power steering is accurate and provides a more natural steering feel. The ride is supple. The brake pedal likes to bite down early, but generally has good linear travel.

A smaller turbocharger drops horsepower rating of my test car’s advanced turbocharged 2-liter engine to 245 from 274 in the 2014 Sonata. Hyundai says the 2015 engine has been optimized for lower-rpm driveability with the smaller turbo, which provides better responsiveness and more torque in the low and mid-rpm range most drivers use.

The 0-60 mph time drops a little, but it’s doubtful that drag racing will be on the minds of most Sport 2.0T buyers.

Estimated fuel economy of the 3,505-pound car is 23 miles per gallon in the city and 32 on highways. Fuel tank capacity is 18.5 gallons.

Despite the power loss, I found the engine provides strong acceleration in town and fast 65-75 mph passing on highways, besides easy 80 mph cruising.

There are various Sonata models, starting at $21,150 and going to $33,525. My test Sonata 2.0T had a $28,875 sticker price, although options such as a panoramic sunroof, navigation system, easily read electroluminescent gauges, heated rear seats, forward collision warning and rear parking assistance and lane departure warning systems upped the bottom line price to $34,460.

Standard were a rearview camera, vehicle stability management with traction control, electronic brake force distribution, a 5-inch color touchscreen audio display, hands-free phone system and blind-spot detection system with a rear cross-traffic alert.

The Sport 2.0T has leather-covered and heated supportive power front seats, pushbutton starter, dual automatic temperature control and a decent AM/FM/CD/MP3 sound system.

The large trunk has a wide, but rather high, opening. Rear seatbacks sit flat as pancakes when flipped forward to increase cargo capacity, but the pass-through area between the trunk and backseat area is only moderately large.

All new mainstream cars last a very long time if driven sanely and get proper maintenance. But many may find it’s comforting to know that the new Sonata has Hyundai’s 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Pros: Refined. Roomier. Better interior. Quick. Supple ride. Sound handling. Well equipped.

Cons: Less power. Highway wind noise. Rather high cargo liftover.

Bottom Line: More of a middle-of-the-road sedan to attract midsize car buyers.

Dan Jedlicka has been an automotive journalist for more than 40 years. To read more of his new and vintage car reviews, visit: www.danjedlicka.com.

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