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2015 Hyundai Sonata - Steve Purdy's Initial Impressions +VIDEO


Initial Impressions
By Steve Purdy
Michigan Bureau

The good folks at Hyundai spent the past couple months showing off the new Sonata all over the country to a variety of journalists. You may have seen the report from our senior correspondent, Thom Cannell, a few weeks ago detailing his initial impressions of this substantially redesigned and restyled mid-size mainstream sedan from these talented Koreans. Thom’s story on the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Limited and 2.0T models.

I had my chance last week at the Hyundai R&D center near Ann Arbor where they had all the variations of the Sonata for us to examine and experience first hand. Though a limited half-day drive is not enough for a full review I can certainly offer initial impressions of the car, and they are overwhelmingly positive.

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During the morning tech briefing we heard all about the changes under the skin of this sixth generation Sonata. Gens 1 through 4 were forgettable but Generation 5, introduced as a 2009 model and built at the then-new Alabama assembly plant, really moved the brand forward both in terms of style and content. Everything about that car was new including the platform which was intentionally engineered to accept only 4-cylinder engines for efficiency, and it was the first iteration of what they called “Fluidic Sculpture” – a new design language that snatched our attention with its panache.

They refer to this new car, Generation 6, as being built on the fourth new platform called “LF.” We expect there must be some shared architecture but it is always difficult to pin marking people and engineers down on those details. Powertrains are updated a bit but mostly carried over, but the new car is a tad lower and wider than its predecessor and blessed with beautifully updated styling they’re calling “Fluidic Sculpture 2.0.”

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The new Sonata is more sophisticated, refined and understated than the outgoing car that we now think of as a bit showy and perhaps too swoopy to feel fully modern. The adjectives the Sonata designers used for the new car are: organic, taut, crisp, balanced, refined and less aggressive. I’ll give them all of that and not struggle to find my own. Those are all accurate. A more stately grille and front fascia and coupe-like profile along with less chrome and other shinny bits make it feel more upscale. LED daytime running lights add to the modernity. Though it looks less aerodynamic than the outgoing car it claims an amazing 0.27 coefficient of drag.

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Inside we find similar updating with less shine and complexity and more simplicity and functionality. The all new dash simplifies the instrument cluster and the center stack keeping the functionality that was a strong point of the outgoing model. It all gets updated with a larger 8-inch touch screen and the next generation BlueLink infotainment and apps system. Most materials get an upgrade with surfaces that could easily pass muster in a more expensive car. Tactile qualities provided no fodder for complaint, disappointing those reviewers who pride themselves on being stern critics.

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Hyundai claims the largest passenger and trunk space in the mid-size sedan class, partly the result of the extra space saved by not having to engineer the engine bay for anything but 4-banger power-plants. Sitting in the back and just feeling the space we’ll not argue with that claim either. Cruising down these rural southern Michigan roads where a glacial end moraine caused often ill-maintained roads to be nicely winding we found the cabin reasonably quiet and plenty comfortable.

Handling seems improved. Though not driving the last gen car back to back makes it a bit subjective to make such an assessment. We found the electro-mechanical steering to be precise with a good feel of control and on-center balance. The engineers claim a substantially more rigid structure and liberal use of high-strength steel as well as firmer bushings and slightly repositioned McPherson strut front suspension which would account for a more solid road feel.

Three engines can be had with the car: a normally-aspirated, 185-hp, 2.4-liter, a 245-hp turbo 2.0-liter with an impressive 260 pound-feet of grunt (both get the carry-over 6-speed automatic transmission) and a new turbo 1.6-liter making 175 hp and 195 pound-feet of torque that will be capable of 38 mpg on the highway with a new 7-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission. On the road we liked all three powertrains. Both turbo motors exhibited noticeable lag in spite of being of a dual-scroll design. Rated fuel mileage is impressive on all three powertrains.

A variety of trim levels are available, mostly similar to the outgoing range, and prices begin at $21,450. The top-level trim begins at $33,525. As in the past each Hyundai model will be priced under competitors with comparable content. That gap may be thinning a bit as Hyundai continues its upscale move but compare carefully and we expect you’ll be impressed.

Will there be a hybrid version of the new Sonata? Not yet, they say, but they plan to offer one in about a year when a new hybrid system becomes available.

So, watch this space as my colleagues and I get the chance for more full reviews of each of the specific Sonata models. Until then, if you’re shopping in the mid-size, mainstream sedan category, be sure to include the Sonata.

ęSteve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved