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2017 Hyundai Sonata
New Car Test Drive

Introduction

The 2017 Hyundai Sonata is a midsize family sedan with front-wheel drive and a choice of four-cylinder engines. Sonata delivers plenty of interior space, well-controlled ride/handling qualities, and fuel efficiency.

Sonata carries over unchanged for 2017 except for a new safety feature: Dynamic Light Bending is available for the Limited trim level. Sonata was last redesigned for the 2015 model year and is currently in its seventh generation.

Sonata comes with a choice of three four-cylinder engines plus hybrid versions. A 2.4-liter engine that makes 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque comes standard on Sonata SE, Sport, and Limited trim levels. A twin-scroll turbocharged 2.0-liter engine is available with Sonata Sport and Limited trims that produces 245 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Fuel-efficiency leader is the Sonata Eco, with a small 178-horsepower, 1.6-liter engine.

Each engine mates with a 6-speed automatic transmission, which yields smooth, prompt shifts. Paddle shifters are included with Sport models. A three-mode driving selector (Sport, Eco, and Normal), standard on all Sonatas, affects shift tuning, throttle, and power-steering assist. Turbocharged and Sonata Limited models have an electric parking brake; others retain a foot-activated brake.

Relatively light in weight compared to other midsize sedans, all Sonatas have front-drive. (All-wheel drive is not offered.) Although Sonatas are marketed as midsize sedans, the Environmental Protection Agency classifies them as large cars.

Sonatas score highly in safety, earning five-star crash-test ratings overall, and for frontal and side-impact, from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Sonata a Superior score and Top Safety Pick+ award, when it was equipped with an optional forward-collision warning system.

Seven airbags are installed, including a driver-side knee airbag. Sonatas may be equipped with several active-safety features, which are standard on upper trim levels and optional for others. They include forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alerts, adaptive cruise control, and rear parking sensors.

Model Lineup

The 2017 Hyundai Sonata 2.4L ($21,600) gets the 2.4-liter engine, cloth upholstery, air conditioning, remote keyless entry, split-folding rear seat, AM/FM/CD/MP3 radio, satellite radio, USB port, Bluetooth, a lip spoiler, and 16-inch alloy wheels. Sonata SE ($21,950) adds a rearview camera, automatic headlights, a 7-inch Display Audio screen, HD radio, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, and Blue Link telematics. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)

Sonata Sport ($23,400) features 17-inch wheels and distinctive exterior trim, as well as a power driver’s seat, dual exhaust, and LED daytime running lights. Sonata Limited ($27,150) adds leather upholstery, heated front seats, sunroof, hands-free trunk opener, LED taillights, pushbutton start, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. A Technology package for the Limited adds navigation, dynamic bending light, Infinity premium audio, xenon headlights, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and memory. The Ultimate package adds adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and rear parking sensors.

Sonata 2.0T Sport Turbo ($26,600) contains the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, paddle shifters, a sports suspension, bigger front brakes, dynamic bending light, 18-inch wheels, aluminum pedals, and sport seats. Sonata 2.0T Limited Turbo ($34,350) comes with the hands-free trunk, automatic climate control, dynamic bending light, panoramic sunroof, ventilated front seats, Infinity audio, and navigation. Safety features include lane-departure warning, rear parking sensors, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control.

Sonata 1.6L Eco Turbo ($23,125) holds a 1.6-liter engine and 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.

Hyundai also offers Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid versions of the Sonata.

Walkaround

Redesigning for 2015 gave the Sonata a more traditional, far less flamboyant appearance. Formal but attractive, relying upon horizontal lines, the neatly tapered profile is clearly conservative.

With its distinctive front end, the Sport model stands apart from other Sonatas, enhanced with side rocker extensions as well as chrome bodyside moldings. Sport 2.0T sedans ride on vivid 18-inch alloy wheels and include quad exhaust outlets.

Interior

Like the Sonata’s subdued exterior, its cabin is on the plain side, with a formal, down-to-business air. A large horizontal space contains a touchscreen, and the center stack holds a sizable selection of buttons and knobs. The dashboard’s textured look simulates carbon fiber. Materials look durable. Printed woodgraining, unfortunately, does not convey an authentic appearance.

Passengers can expect plenty of space up front. Comfortable seats have ample cushioning and bolstering, especially in 2.0T Sport models. Rear-seat occupants get ample knee room, even behind a six-footer, though the center-seat passenger is likely to feel squeezed. Rear headroom matches most rival sedans. The cabin has a relaxed air, quiet enough for passengers to converse without strain.

Storage bins are bountiful, and trunk space totals a generous 16.3 cubic feet. Seat-folding levers are located in the trunk. The glovebox and console are deep enough to hold tablet computers.

Driving Impressions

Revving freely, both the 2.0- and 2.4-liter engines deliver power quietly enough, with almost no vibration. Some competitors accelerate more swiftly, but Sonatas earn points for providing a quiet, nicely isolated ride.

Sport models have bigger tires and slightly stiffer suspension tuning, but each Sonata is admirably compliant, absorbing plenty of road imperfections. Cross a railroad track at 60 mph and either the regular or Sport suspension reacts compliantly.

Handling is helped by the Sonata’s relatively light, but stiff, body. Still, the sedan is made for mainstream families, so you can’t expect the steering qualities and firm road feel of a sport sedan. All Sonatas have electric power steering, but the 2.0T’s setup promises better feel and responsiveness, a bit crisper overall.

Downshifts can be hesitant in Eco mode, and the difference between Normal and Sport mode isn’t great.

With its 1.6-liter turbo and dual-clutch transmission, the Sonata Eco beats its mates in gas mileage, but this powertrain emits more exhaust noise. Except at very low speeds, transmission shifts are almost indiscernible, unlike some dual-clutch units. Lower overall weight gives the Eco’s steering a lighter feel, and slight shift-shock can be felt at low speeds.

Gas mileage of the Eco is EPA-rated at 28/36 mpg City/Highway, or 31 mpg Combined. The 2.4-liter is EPA-rated at 25/36 mpg City/Highway, or 29 mpg Combined. Sport Turbo sedans are EPA-rated at 22/31 mpg, or 26 mpg Combined; but the Limited is rated 21/30 mpg City/Highway.

Summary

Hyundai Sonata promises value in the family-sedan market. Innocuous and inconspicuous, Sonata boasts strong crash-test scores and admirable fuel economy, as well as ample standard equipment and a satisfying ride.

Driving impressions by Marty Padgett, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.


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