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2015 Hyundai Sonata First Drive and Review By Larry Nutson

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2015 Hyundai Sonata
A First Drive Right Off Assembly Line
By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, New York Bureau
The Auto Channel

When it comes to new vehicle introductions to the national automotive media the norm for a manufacturer is to find a location with a nearby airport and good airline access, appropriate hotel facilities, plus good driving roads that allow the media to drive a new car or truck under the various road conditions that will be experienced by the eventual owners and drivers. Of course the weather also comes into play depending on the time of year.

When it came to the all-new 2015 Hyundai Sonata, the place that met all of the requisite criteria as well as giving the added bonus of a look at the actual production of Hyundai’s Sonata was Montgomery, Alabama. In addition to Montgomery being Alabama’s capital, it is the location of Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama (HMMA) and the home of the Sonata, as well as the Hyundai Elantra.

HMMA has been in operation since 2005, employees about 3000 people and produced 398,000 Hyundais last year running on three shifts, five days a week. This plant is new, state-of-the-art, fully air conditioned and spotlessly clean. Why this is important to anyone considering a Sonata, or Elantra for that matter, is that employees are extremely happy, work in a comfortable environment, and care about their jobs. Thus they work diligently and perform well to assemble high quality cars. This is evidenced in Hyundai’s fourth place ranking in the 2014 J.D.Power Initial Quality Study (IQS) and it being the number one non-premium brand.

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After a briefing on the new Sonata, a tour of the plant concluded appropriately at the end-of-the-line when we then drove the all-new 2015 Sonata right off the assembly line and out the door into the Alabama countryside.

Before getting to this fully assembled point, the Sonata body is welded together by 280 robotic welders in the body shop, and a very quiet body shop at that. It spends nine hours in the paint shop with 80 robots applying layers and layers of sealer and protectant and paint. Every production car is driven on a 2.3 mile test track at the plant before it is shipped off to customers.

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Dave Zuchowski, President and CEO of Hyundai Motor America, describes Hyundai as a challenger brand; a brand that needs third party endorsement. In this day and age of brand promiscuity by many (many) car buyers, the time is ripe for Hyundai to gain more and more followers. The Hyundai customer base has changed in the last five years and the 900 dealers in North America have changed in response to that. Hyundai buyers are younger, more educated, higher earners and more diverse. This has paid off with Hyundai being ranked number one in brand loyalty for each of the last five years.

The outgoing Sonata has only been around since 2011 but it has established itself as a credible contender in the Midsize Sedan segment and is the brand ambassador for Hyundai.

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The overall design of the new Sonata is a modern and sophisticated design. Hyundai calls it Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 that is aimed to project inner strength and confidence. The purpose is to also differentiate and make a mark. The mid-size segment is packed with choices and the Sonata does well to distinguish itself from the rest of the pack.

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The Sonata interior has received a major redesign with straightforward controls, high quality materials and a maximization of driver focus. The driver-oriented cockpit is enhanced with a slight pitch of the center stack toward driver. The instrument cluster and audio screen are located on the same plane to minimize eye movement and thus distraction from the road. There is attention to detail with stitching on the instrument cluster cover and door panel inserts.

Many mid-size cars offer a V6 engine option, which takes up more room under the hood. Hyundai was very smart by not doing so which allowed them to move the Sonata cowl forward to make more room for passengers. The Sonata is the only midsized car classified by EPA interior volume as large car.

Of course beyond looks is the driving experience and on the road behavior. The Sonata delivers lots of driver confidence that was proven out in our Alabama test drive. A high quality ride, excellent steering response and on-center feel, and low NVH due to improved road noise isolation were very apparent. The Sonata is equipped with class-above technology including forward collision warning, smart cruise control, lane departure warning, blind spot detection, parking sensors and Apple Car Play & Android solution.

Pricing for the all-new 2015 Sonata begins at $21,150. Models range from the SE, to the Sport, Limited, Sport 2.0T, as well as a new Eco model. Most folks will choose the Sport ($23,175) or the Limited ($26,525) with the Sport 2.0T ($28,575) for the performance-minded and the SE and Eco ($23,275) for the efficiency-minded.

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2015 Sonata SE, Sport and Limited models are powered by a revised 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 185 horsepower and 178 lb. ft. of torque. New for 2015 is an Electronic Intake Continuously Variable Valve Timing (E-CVVT) system that improves performance in low temperatures and reduces emissions. A revised 2.0-liter Theta II turbocharged GDI, also featuring E-CVVT, powers Sonata Sport 2.0T models. The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine is optimized for lower-RPM drivability and it produces 245 horsepower and 260 lb. ft. of torque. The SE, Sport and Limited all feature a six-speed automatic transmission.

The 2015 Sonata Eco is powered by a 1.6-liter turbocharged Gamma four-cylinder engine producing an estimated 177 horsepower and 195 lb. ft. of torque. Sonata Eco is the first Hyundai product to utilize a new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, which no other mid-size sedan offers. This innovative powertrain helps Sonata Eco deliver an estimated 28 mpg city and 38 mpg highway. The estimated 32 mpg combined rating is more than a 10 percent improvement over a 2015 Sonata SE powered by the 2.4-liter Theta II engine.

We drove a Limited with the 185HP 2.4-L as well as a Sport 2.0T with its 245HP. I’m more in the performance mindset and would opt for the later. Both powertrains however are smooth and refined, providing good acceleration and response. Highway merging and overtaking are accomplished without any signs of strain.

The 2.4-L is EPA test rated at 28 mpg combined (or 3.6 gallons per 100 miles), with 24 city mpg and 35 highway mpg. The 2.0 Turbo is rated at 27 mpg combined (or 3.8 gallons per 100 miles) and 23 city mpg and 32 highway mpg. The Sonata’s three powertrain choices “cover the bases”, as the saying goes.

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All 2015 Sonatas come standard with iPod/USB and auxiliary input jacks, SiriusXM satellite radio and Bluetooth phone connectivity with phonebook transfer and voice-recognition. Available upgrades include an 8.0-inch navigation system with downloadable apps, HD radio, Dimension or 400-watt Infinity premium audio systems with next-generation Blue Link telematics. All 2015 Sonatas equipped with navigation will also support Pandora and SoundHound applications as well as “Eyes Free” Siri integration, which allows drivers to perform a variety of functions without taking their eyes off the road. Apple CarPlay will take iPhone integration to the next level on the 2015 Sonata later this year.

If you are interested to compare the 2015 Hyundai Sonata to other midsize sedans you can do that right here on There’s a lot more information and detailed specifications on the 2015 Hyundai Sonata just a mouse click away at

The all-new 2015 Hyundai Sonata is in dealer showrooms now. The one exception is the Eco model which will come a little late this year. A new Sonata hybrid will be coming in less than a year.

Drive it; you’ll like it.

© Larry Nutson