The seventh-generation Hyundai Sonata has been refreshed inside and out for 2018, with new technology, hardware and features throughout, in addition to more-stylish looks from front to rear.
Trims and equipment have also been reconfigured for more value. Seven models are now available, with a middle-of-the-line, well-equipped SEL added for 2018, priced at $23,700.
With this year’s redesign, the S models were eliminated, and SE is the new entry-level trim. Pricing ranges from $22,050 for the base SE to $32,450 for the top-of-the-line Limited 2.0T – down $1,900 from 2017 – my test vehicle for this review.
Steering and rear suspension have been tweaked for improved ride and handling. Headlights on Limited and Limited 2.0T models are now LED; and the optional panoramic sunroof is now normal size to help reduce weight and improve fuel economy.
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Blind-Spot Detection with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert and Lane Change Assist are now standard (Lane Keep Assist is now available on SEL and Limited, standard on Limited 2.0T), and a new eight-speed automatic transmission replaces the six-speed on 2.0T models.
Drive modes – Eco, Sport, Comfort and (on 2.0T models) Smart, which mixes and matches based on driving style – alter accelerator response, gear settings and steering. All models are front-wheel drive.
Now available on select models are a second-row USB charging port, Qi wireless charging station, heated steering wheel, upgraded navigation system with improved processor, new Bird’s Eye View (slanted perspective) camera system, and HERE HD Traffic – in addition to SiriusXM Travel.
Blue Link Connected Care, Remote (starting, locking, cabin conditioning via smartphone), and Guidance, previously available for a three-month to one-year trial, are now available for three years. Blue Link now communicates with smart home speakers, such as Amazon Echo, allowing control of the vehicle from wherever the device is located.
The steering wheel now has three spokes, down from last year’s four. The center stack is redesigned for added dimension and visual appeal, with piano-style keys for audio, HVAC, and navigation.
The black interior – cloth or leather – previously available only on Sport trims, is now available on all models.
The exterior receives a major redesign with new front and rear fascias, new headlight and taillight designs, new front grille, and a new hood, fenders, and trunk. The front fascia has a more-angled, aggressive look Hyundai calls “catamaran,” featuring deep air vents in gloss black along with stacked vertical LED daytime running lights.
Also, the hood and rocker panel are more aggressive, with sharper creases.
The side seam of the hood is accented by a chrome strip extending from the lower edge of the side window – the strip surrounds the window opening from front to rear and extends all the way across the upper edge of the redesigned headlight pods, down and around to the back.
Sonata’s smoky gray “cascading” grill, inspired by molten steel being poured, gives the new sculpted hood a longer, sleeker appearance.
New slim taillights wrap around the rear, and show three distinctive LED reflectors and a line of white LED backup lights, which extend the strong line running the length if the car.
The new rear fascia repeats the catamaran look, with the license plate positioned in the middle of the lower bumper. Due to the license plate lowered to the bumper and the slimmer taillights, an uninterrupted smooth line flows from the top of the trunk lid to the bumper, with a Sonata logo added to the center. The trunk opener is a cleverly disguised soft-touch button located in the upper part of the “ H” badge.
Seven exterior colors are available, including new Machine Gray (Shale Gray Metallic), new Electric Blue (Nouveau Blue), Quartz White Pearl, and Scarlet Red. Several new 16-, 17-, and 18-inch wheel designs are also available, depending on model.
My Sonata was a striking Limited 2.0T ($32,450) in Phantom Black Metallic, with Black leather seating with blue stitching and piping (the only color offered on 2.0T models), riding on 18-inch silver alloy wheels with five “U” spokes, powered by a 245-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to the new eight-speed automatic, with paddle shifters on the steering wheel. It has 260 foot-pounds of torque.
The base Sonata engine is a normally aspirated 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 185 horsepower and 178 foot-pounds of torque, and is connected to a six-speed automatic.
The exterior had some special features, such as smoked chrome door handles and rocker panel strips, and smoked chrome around the sport grille and across the lower front fascia. The sport grille was an open honeycomb design (still cascading from the joints), and the sport front and rear fascia were bolder, the rear sport diffuser tucked under and showing dual chrome trapezoidal exhaust outlets.
Headlights featured Automatic High-beam Assist and Dynamic Bending Light Technology, especially nice for winding roads where deer cross in the evening.
Interior redesigning included a reshaped dash with new air vents on the driver’s side, a new, better-positioned center stack and controls (easy to learn and use) with a higher eight-inch touch screen; and a new steering wheel (heated D-bottom in my tester), shifter and instrument cluster.
Seating was comfortable, front (heated and cooled sport seats) and rear (near perfect seatback rake), with plenty of legroom (35.6 inches), even for the middle seat in the rear.
Even with the sloping roof, rear passengers had 38 inches of headroom. Rear passengers also had manual side sunshades, center console air vents, door bottle pockets, and a USB charging port.
The rear seat folded 60/40, using handles under the trunk lid. The trunk still holds 16.3 cubic feet of cargo, making it one of the largest in class
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration are standard, with a device bin under the center stack with USB connectivity, a 12-volt outlet, and a Qi wireless charging pad.
Navigation had traffic and incident data – subscription-free. HERE HD Live Map is a cloud-based service for better location information such as street closures, traffic accidents, construction/lane changes, and more (flooding, protests?).
Navigation functions were simple and intuitive, using a single-box entry system. Directions were precise and easy to follow. Navigation also included Google local search for services and conveniences. The system also supported Infinity Premium Audio and SiriusXM radio. A CD player is no longer available.
Safety was covered by the usual air bags, including driver’s knee and side curtain, and crumple zones front and rear.
Smart Cruise Control with Stop/Start capability maintained a safe distance between vehicles, stopping the car automatically if needed to avoid rear-ending the vehicle ahead. Automatic Emergency Braking added another layer of safety, bringing the vehicle to a complete stop even if the driver doesn’t react quickly enough to avoid a collision.
Lane Keep Assist gently nudged my Sonata back into the appropriate lane if the center line was crossed without the turn signal being activated. The rearview camera and parking sensors helped avoid rear collisions when backing out of parking spaces, along with Cross-Traffic Alert.
My very attractive Sonata Limited 2.0T was roomy, easy to enter and exit, and comfortable – with large side bolsters in the front.
There was good visibility all around thanks to thin pillars and large, wide windows front and rear.
Limited 2.0T has everything that is standard on all other models, and more, with only a few accessories available to add. My Sonata added carpeted floor mats for $125.
The ride was quiet and smooth, and my fuel economy averaged 29.5 mpg (EPA rated for 23 city/32 highway/26 combined).
Sonata Limited earned a five-star overall safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Total sticker price of my 2018 Sonata Limited 2.0T, including $885 destination charge, was $33,460.
The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 2007. Contact her at email@example.com.