Test Drive: Hyundai Sonata is tricked out and spacious

We’ve been around long enough to remember when the Hyundai Sonata was a quirky, inexpensive sedan that lagged badly behind the Toyota Camry, Chevrolet Malibu, Nissan Altima, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion and the rest of the midsize stalwarts. The best that could be said of the Sonata was that a new model likely cost about the same as a two-year-old Camry or Accord, and probably had more standard features. But the early Sonatas were too noisy, underpowered and unrefined to take on the best of the American and Japanese sedans.

But as we’ve noted with practically every Hyundai and Kia model we’ve driven, the Sonata has come into its own. Our latest test car, a 2018 Sonata Limited, was priced at about $28,000 without options and $31,310 fully loaded. It’s as smooth, quiet and refined as any of its major competitors, and like all Korean models, it has more standard features than most.
The test car was demure under its Machine Gray paint and sensible styling. Its power numbers also were modest; its inline 4-cylinder engine produced just 185 horsepower. But it motivated the ton-and-a-half sedan with spirit. And optional engine choices include one that produces 245 horsepower.
The day we turned in the Sonata, Connecticut weathered the last of four winter nor’easters, so naturally, we wondered if the car was available with all-wheel drive. That’s one of the few features Hyundai doesn’t offer in this model.
One feature Hyundai does offer is room for passengers and their stuff. At 122.4 cubic feet, “The Sonata has more total interior volume than any vehicle in its class,” Hyundai boasts on its website. The Sonata also has a class-leading 16.3-cubic-foot trunk. Even the fuel tank is unusually large for a midsize sedan – 18.5 gallons. That adds up to a maximum cruising range of about 650 miles, assuming an open highway and a light foot on the accelerator pedal. Equipped with the 2.4-liter Four and 6-speed automatic transmission, the Sonata is rated at 25 mpg city, 35 highway.

The Sonata’s main attraction, predictably, is couched in the word “Included,” which appears repeatedly on the car’s list of features. A sampling: blind-spot detection system, hands-free smart trunk with auto open, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, power front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, satellite radio, and push-button start. Our test car came with the $2,900 Ultimate option package, which added automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, smart cruise control, navigation system, automatic high-beam assist, rear window sunshades and heated steering wheel. These standard and optional features place the Sonata Limited firmly in the near-luxury category.
Other strengths: The new Sonata handles more crisply than Sonatas we’ve driven in the past, and its safety record is impressive: 5 stars overall in government crash tests, and a Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

2018 Hyundai Sonata Limited

Price: $31,310
Engine: 2.4-liter inline Four , 185 horsepower, 178 lb.-ft torque
Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic
Drive: front-wheel
Weight: 3,311 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 17-in. alloy
Tires: P215/55R17 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 16.3 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 18.5 gallons
Fuel economy: 25 mpg city, 35 mpg highway
Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline
Steven Macoy (semacoy@gmail.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.