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Introduction

The 2019 Hyundai Sonata serves as the automaker’s mid-size family sedan. It’s now in its seventh generation and to some eyes, it’s the best Sonata yet played.

Restyling during the 2018 model year improved the Sonata over the rather dowdy 2015-2017 version. Little has changed for 2019, except that the turbocharged engine is no longer available in Sport trim.

SE, Eco, SEL, Limited, and Sport trim levels are offered for the gasoline-engine Sonata. Hybrids come in SE and Limited trim, with an Ultimate Package available. The Plug-in Hybrid comes only in base and Limited guise.

Sonatas come in a choice of five powertrains. Most common is the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, rated at 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque, mated with a 6-speed automatic transmission. All Sonatas are front-wheel drive.

Fuel-efficiency fans can choose the Sonata Eco, with a 178-horsepower, 1.6-liter turbo-4. Instead of the 2.4-liter inline-4, the Sonata Limited may be equipped with a 2.0-liter turbo-4 that generates 245 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque.

Regular Hybrid models pair a 154-horsepower, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder gas engine with an electric motor. Positioned between the gas engine and 6-speed automatic, the electric motor is rated at 38 kw (51 horsepower). Total system output is 193 horsepower. A 1.6-kwh lithium-ion battery sits beneath the trunk floor.

In the Plug-in Hybrid, a higher-capacity 9.8-kwh battery helps raise vehicle weight near 3,800 pounds. Recharging takes place while driving, or by plugging into a 240-volt outlet for at least 3 hours (9 hours using a 120-volt household outlet). On battery power alone, the Plug-in can travel up to 28 miles.

Crash-test scores have excelled. The NHTSA rated the 2019 Sonata at five stars overall, and for both frontal and side-impact. The IIHS named Sonata a Top Safety Pick+.

All Sonatas have blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert. Automatic emergency braking is either standard or available in an option group for most Sonatas.

Model Lineup

Prices do not include $920 destination charge.

SE 2.4 ($22,500) comes with air conditioning, keyless entry, cloth upholstery, blind-spot monitors, Bluetooth, and 16-inch alloy wheels. A 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

Eco 1.6T ($22,850) is equipped similar to SE, but promises greater efficiency with its 1.6-liter turbo and 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.

SEL 2.4 ($24,150) gets a 2.4-liter engine, adding dual-zone automatic temperature control, 17-inch wheels, keyless ignition, heated front seats and steering wheel, wireless smartphone charging, and a power driver’s seat.

Automatic emergency braking is grouped with adaptive cruise control and active lane control in a $600 Tech Package for SEL and Sport.

Sport 2.4 ($25,000) is more of a cosmetic enhancement than sporty, with leather/cloth seats, special styling touches, black headliner, and sunroof.

Limited 2.4 ($27,700) gets cooled front seats, leather upholstery, LED headlights, a hands-free trunk lid, and sunroof. Automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and adaptive cruise control also are standard.

Limited 2.0T ($32,100) substitutes the 2.0-liter turbo-4 engine, adding a sport-tuned suspension, 18-inch wheels, paddle shifters, and alloy pedals.

Hybrid SE ($25,750) largely echoes the standard SE in content.

Hybrid Limited ($31,300) is equipped similar to standard Limited, but with a panoramic sunroof.

Plug-in Hybrid ($33,400) is similar in equipment to Hybrid SE, but with 17-inch wheels and plug-in capability.

Plug-in Hybrid Limited ($39,000) is equipped similar to regular Hybrid Limited, including active-safety features.

Walkaround

The recently restyled Sonata presents a fresh face to the world that strikes a nice balance between showy and sedate. In the comparatively fancy front end of the Sonata, faired-in headlights flank an expansive, stylish six-sided grille. LED lighting is included on top trim levels.

Reaching toward the ground, the grille tucks neatly into the hood. Sonata bodies are defined by a low profile and long roofline.

Interior

Though admirably roomy, the Sonata cabin suggests a modest approach. It’s not extravagant, nor is it overly expressive. It is attractive and cohesive. What stands out most, atop the dashboard, is the big touchscreen.

Impressively spacious up front, the Sonata should entice tall occupants. Seats are not only comfortable, but offer multiple adjustments.

In most Sonatas, seats are height-adjustable. Front seats in the Sonata Sport contain firmer cushions, and snug in at the waist.

The Sonata’s low roofline makes it harder to get into the rear compartment. Back-seat comfort could be a bit better. Leg clearance and knee room are appropriate for two adults, but a third person may balk at longer trips. If they sit upright, heads of taller passengers might hit the headliner.

Fit/finish is adequate, but no more. Cloth upholstery goes into lower-priced Sonatas. Sport models get leather-trimmed bolsters. Only Limited trim includes full leather.

With 16.3 cubic feet of space, the trunk can hold a couple of roller suitcases. Low liftover to the cargo floor eases loading. Plug-In Hybrids are less spacious, with a trunk pass-through that’s considerably smaller.

Driving Impressions

Relaxing, comfortable ride quality heads the list of Sonata merits. Every version yields an absorbent, well-balanced ride. Base-model cars and Eco models with smaller wheels provide a slightly softer experience.

No Sonata is sporty, including Sport models. Their suspension and steering tuning is identical to lower-rung Sonatas. The Sonata Limited is more firmly tuned, but only with the 2.0-liter turbo-4 engine. That Limited can jostle passengers a bit more on certain flawed pavement surfaces.

Electric power steering subdues the worst trouble spots without seeming too artificial. Its steering grows heavier, with stronger on-center road feel.

Hyundai’s 185-horsepower engine is just powerful enough to provide a moderately engaging experience. Performance is helped by the 6-speed transmission, which shifts swiftly and decisively.

Stepping up to the Limited’s turbo-4 quickens the pace, though not dramatically. The Eco edition benefits from impressively flexible engine power, but its 7-speed dual-clutch transmission isn’t as smooth as the 6-speed automatic.

In Hybrid models, the strong powertrain integrates smoothly with the conventional automatic transmission. Unlike some hybrids with a continuously variable transmission, Hyundai’s 6-speed imparts a traditional, connected driving feel.

Hybrids have no trouble keeping up with traffic. Determining when the gas engine turns on and off isn’t easy. On the highway, it can be shut off, in “sail” mode, for improved efficiency.

Fuel economy is average or better with each powertrain. Most efficient of the gasoline-only Sonatas is the SE, EPA-rated at 26/35 mpg City/Highway, or 29 mpg Combined. In higher trim levels, the estimate dips to 25/33/28 mpg.

With its 1.6-liter turbo-4 and dual-clutch transmission, the Eco is EPA-rated at 28/37 mpg City/Highway, or 31 mpg Combined. The Limited’s turbo is EPA-rated at 23/32/26 mpg.

Hyundai’s Hybrid is EPA-rated at 39/44/41 mpg (40/46/42 mpg for SE) .The Plug-in Hybrid is estimated at 39 mpg Combined when running on the gas-engine alone, with an efficiency rating of 99 MPGe.

Summary

The 2019 Hyundai Sonata continues to target (and attract) value-minded shoppers who seek conventional, all-around family transportation. Sonatas might lack sportiness, but they’re well-equipped and strong in value. The best choice might be the SEL, adding its reasonably-priced group of active-safety features. Hybrid and Plug-in versions have the virtue of behaving like ordinary automobiles, while providing welcome fuel efficiency.

 

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

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