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2017 Hyundai Sonata Overview
In a crowded midsize sedan market segment loaded with high-profile competitors like the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, and Nissan Altima, the resilient Hyundai Sonata holds its own. Fairly pedestrian-looking for much of its 30-year production history, the midsize Sonata has been turning heads for more than half a decade now, since the 2010 debut of its sixth generation drew rave reviews and established it as a contender. The seventh-generation redesign, which appeared in 2015, softened the sedan's exterior design dynamics and gave it a more mature look. For 2017, the Sonata receives only a minor update in the form of optional Dynamic Bending Lights on certain trims with HID headlights, leaving it largely unchanged from the previous year.
Despite the lack of new features for 2017, the Sonata has a lot to offer buyers seeking a competent, well-equipped, quiet, and attractive daily commuter. Critics and owners alike praise its roomy interior, high-quality materials, and easy-to-use tech features. While its performance remains underwhelming at times, the Sonata continues to offer a lot for the money, making it a good overall value and a viable alternative to its more iconic competitors. Sweetening the pot even more is the fact that Hyundai is actually dropping the prices of certain trims this year.
Hyundai again offers the Sonata in six trims with three different powertrains. A base 2.4-liter 4-cylinder GDI engine powers the SE, Sport, and Limited trims. It's paired with a 6-speed Shiftronic automatic transmission and generates 185 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque. Fuel-economy numbers clock in at 25 mpg city/36 highway/29 combined for the SE and 25/35/28 for the Sport and Limited.
Packing a little more punch, the Sport 2.0T and Limited 2.0T trims upgrade to a turbocharged version of the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, which pumps out 245 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. It also links to the 6-speed Shiftronic transmission and posts fuel-economy numbers of 22/31/26 for the Sport 2.0T and 21/30/24 for the Limited 2.0T.
The fuel-efficient Eco trim comes equipped with a twin-scroll turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder, which produces 178 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque, while delivering fuel-economy numbers of 28/36/31. The powertrain includes a 7-speed EcoShift transmission with a manual shift mode.
For 2017, Hyundai offers its new Dynamic Bending Lights on the two Limited trims when equipped with HID headlights. A new safety option on Hyundai vehicles ranging from the Elantra to the Genesis, the Dynamic Bending Light feature adjusts the headlight beams in the direction in which the car is turning or lengthens or shortens the beams depending on the car's speed.
Outside, the Sonata's current design doesn't push the limits the way the sixth generation did, and that's probably the point. Rather than swooping and swirling, the sedan's sidelines are now essentially straight from headlights to taillights, although the tapering roofline remains. The front end, meanwhile, finds a good balance between aggressive and sedate. The daytime running lights at the top of the air intakes and three-dimensional louvers in the grille (on certain trims) are nice touches, adding a uniqueness to the design. Overall, though, it's a conservative look, and while the Sonata is not quite the head turner it once was, it now better matches the competition, making it acceptable to a wider range of buyers.
Hyundai likewise gave the interior a makeover for the seventh generation, aiming more toward a classic appearance rather than the groundbreaking and controversial design of the sixth-gen cabin. The more traditional dash and instrument cluster no longer overwhelm the interior, and the attractive and logically arranged diamond-shaped center stack puts all the essential knobs and dials within easy reach of the driver. The Sonata seats five passengers comfortably in its quiet cabin, with generous headroom and legroom in both rows. Likewise, cargo space checks in at a roomy 16.3 cubic feet. Flat-folding rear seats add flexibility, although some reviewers find the rear trunk opening too narrow.
The Sonata's lengthy list of standard features adds to its value quotient. Outside, all Sonatas come equipped with heated side mirrors, automatic headlights, and a rear spoiler. The Sport and Limited trims get dual exhaust pipes, while the Sport 2.0T and Limited 2.0T upgrade to quad tailpipes. The Sport and Limited trims also receive a sport front grille and LED daytime running lights, while the Limited trims include chrome door handles, LED taillights, and a hands-free smart trunk, a class-exclusive feature. HID headlights are optional on the Limited trim and standard on the Limited 2.0T.
Inside, all trims come with basics like illuminated vanity mirrors, a tilt/telescopic steering wheel, and a 6-speaker audio system with HD Radio, Bluetooth, satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. All trims get a 7-inch color touchscreen except the Limited 2.0T, which upgrades to an 8-inch screen. The Sport and Limited trims include an 8-way power-adjustable driver's seat, while the Limited trims also get a 4-way power-adjustable passenger seat. Leather upholstery comes standard on the Limited trims, which, along with the Sport 2.0T, also get heated front seats. The top-of-the-line Limited 2.0T maxes out the standard-feature list with such goodies as a panoramic sunroof, heated rear seats, and a 9-speaker 400-watt Infinity audio system.
All Sonatas ride on a front-wheel-drive platform, with a suspension and chassis tuned to find the right balance between comfort and sportiness. The exceptions are the 2.0T trims, which lean more toward a sporty driving experience, with special suspension tuning and sport-tuned steering. The base engine provides decent performance around town, though some might find it lacking a little on the highway. Buyers seeking a little more power under the pedal will want to opt for the 2.0T trims. In addition, the Eco trim, with its small but peppy engine, gets good marks for its performance. The SE and Eco trims roll on 16-inch wheels, while the Sport and Limited get 17-inch wheels and the 2.0T trims ride on 19-inch wheels.
Hyundai has always excelled on the safety front, and the Sonata continues that tradition. A rear-view camera comes standard across the lineup, for instance, and all trims get the usual component of traction control, stability control, and brake-assist features. Inside, a full range of airbags, including a driver's knee airbag, keep passengers safe. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded the Sonata a 5-star safety rating in 2016, while the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety named it a Top Safety Pick in 2016.
Rob has been a contributor to CarGurus since 2007, and an automotive test-driver and writer since the early ’90s. He’s test-driven everything from BMWs and Jags to Bentleys and Saabs, with an occasional Range Rover, Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini thrown in. He also created the annual Car of the Year and Exotic Car of the Year awards for Robb Report magazine. He currently resides in California.
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