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.
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.