Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Hyundai Sonata and its competition are becoming niche models

2014 Hyundai Sonata 2.0.

Hyundai

Rating
7.5
Overall Rating
7.5
Overall
The Sonata is solid in all the right ways and the pricing has long been a major advantage.
Looks Rating
8.5
Looks
Hyundai calls this design language “Fluidic Sculpture” and I call it interesting. Critics say the look is over the top, but if nothing else, it’s not boring.
Interior Rating
7.5
Interior
Nothing here is out of place and lots of where you live is very good. The eight-inch navigation screen is wonderfully easy to use and the instrument cluster is fancy. Room for four adults and a decent trunk, too.
Ride Rating
7
Ride
The steering just isn’t quite right. It’s lighter than it should be, in fact. The car is quiet enough, but the suspension while firm, just lacks the precise, balanced feel of the best cars in this class.
Safety Rating
9.5
Safety
Air bags and electronic aids abound and the Sonata does well in crash tests.
Green Rating
6.5
Green
The turbo Sonata is not the fuel economy leader in the Sonata line. At least it uses regular fuel.

Mid-size sedan? Want one? You could not have picked a better time.

It's a stretch to say intermediate cars are on life support, but as a percentage of the car market, mid-sizers have collapsed to 20 per cent of the total, versus more than 40 per cent in the early 2000s. Battered by the growing appeal of crossover wagons, the segment is suffering a slow, steady death, kept breathing (wheezing?) in large part by sales to rental car fleets. For the retail buyer, that means two things:

1. Hyundai Sonatas, Toyota Camrys, Honda and Accords, Ford Fusions all are terrific cars by necessity, even if they are fleet-sales darlings. The only way to keep suburban, middle-class buyers remotely interested is to offers loaded cars with delicious looks. Technology, styling, fuel economy. … Today's mid-size car typically gets the fuel economy of a compact from the previous decade. Case in point: a 2014 Sonata's basic 190-horsepower four-banger gets 8.5 litres/100 km in the city and 5.8 highway, versus a 2004 Hyundai Elantra's 138-hp four-cylinder rated at 8.9 city/6.4 highway.

Story continues below advertisement

2. Thrifty as these sedans are, car companies find themselves forced to throw incentive money into the negotiating pot. Lots of it. The 2013 Sonata, for instance, has a $5,300 cash offer available until the end of February – if you can find one of these clear-out models.

If you can't, the 2014 Sonata has been nicely updated and comes with 0-per-cent financing for up to 60 months. Free money is good, and so is a better car.

Remember, the Sonata was last reinvented as a 2011 model. Here, just past halfway to the next Sonata remake, the changes are subtle but real.

The grille is different but not by much. The 17- and 18-inch wheel designs are also changed. Changed for the better, giving the car a luxurious look, are LED tail-lamps and available high-intensity discharge Xenon headlamps.

The Sonata remains a modern design and that flowing roofline does not squish headroom inside. The numbers say the Hyundai's cabin is, in fact, larger than many rivals. It's a good-sized sedan with room inside for four normal adults.

The base Sonata for 2014 starts at $23,999 and it's powered by that 190-hp four, which is more powerful than all its main rivals. My tester was a top-of-the-line Sonata 2.0T with fancy features such as Hyundai Driver Selectable Steering Mode, which lets one adjust the feel and feedback of the rack, along with safety bits like blind spot detection, and a luxurious heated/ventilated driver's seat.

My tester's eight-inch touch-screen navigation system let me easily program a destination without cracking the manual. The instrument cluster has sharp readouts with all the basic information, as well as extras such as an instant fuel economy readout. At higher speeds, the cabin is muted – thanks to more sound-deadening foam in the pillars and new carpet.

Story continues below advertisement

Both available engines have just four cylinders and are modern, direct-injection mills. And both can be programmed to emphasize fuel savings. The system is called ActiveECO and it plays with the power curve and shifts of the six-speed autobox to get you up to 7 per cent better fuel economy.

The fun engine in the 2.0T is a 2.0L turbo four (274 hp). It's quick to light up, but like all turbos, it can be jumpy if you're carelessly aggressive with your right foot. That's the reality of turbos.

Turbos generate a lot of heat, however, and heat can lead to quality issues. Indeed, the Sonata Turbo is rated slightly below average for reliability by Consumer Reports, while the basic four-cylinder Sonata is ranked above average, and about on par with the four-cylinder Accord. J.D. Power and Associates ranks the Sonata above the average for quality, too – runner-up in its class in the latest Initial Quality Study, just behind the Camry. Crash test scores are good.

And so is the overall ride. Generally, the Sonata is on a par with others in the mid-size pack. The steering could be more precise and heavier, though.

Hyundai Canada has sold nearly 60,000 Sonatas over the past four years, with only the Fusion and Camry more popular. That's because the Sonata is a good car, even if the segment is heading to niche from mainstream.

TECH SPECS

Story continues below advertisement

2014 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T Limited

Type: Mid-size sedan

Base price: $34,199

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged

Horsepower/torque: 274/269 lb-ft

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Drive: Front-wheel drive

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 10.0 city/6.3 highway using regular fuel

Alternatives: Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy, Mazda6, Volkswagen Passat, Honda Accord, Kia Optima, Chrysler 200, Chevrolet Malibu

If you have questions about driving or car maintenance, please contact our experts at globedrive@globeandmail.com.

Follow us on Twitter @Globe_Drive.

Add us to your circles.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Report an error
About the Author
Senior writer, Globe Drive

In 25 years of covering the auto industry, Jeremy Cato has won more than two-dozen awards, including three times being named automotive journalist of the year. Jeremy was born in Montreal and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. More

Comments

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨