Hyundai has refreshed the seventh-generation Sonata for 2018 with a more-stylish look from front to rear, with new features, technology and hardware throughout.
Trims and equipment have also been reconfigured for more value, which is what midsize sedan buyers are looking for.
Sonata helped put Hyundai on the map in the U.S. when midsize sedans were the mainstay of car sales. In recent years, pickup trucks and compact SUVs have taken over, and along with compact sedans, pushed midsize sedans to fourth place.
Hyundai hopes to improve that standing with the bold and beautiful new Sonata. Interior and chassis tweaks also help make the car more appealing and satisfying.
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New features include now-standard blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert, and lane departure warning with lane keep assist; an eight-speed automatic transmission; enhanced steering calibration; and 18-inch Michelin tires now on 2.0T models. Also standard are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (with optional Qi wireless device charging); second-row USB charging port; Hyundai Blue Link integration with Amazon Echo and Google Home; and Blue Link Connected Care, remote and guidance packages (free for three years).
Available is a new AVN 5.0 multimedia system with improved responsiveness, with bird’s eye view for navigation maps, traffic flow and incident data without a subscription via HD radio.
There is also a new high-value SEL trim.
The Sport 2.4-liter trim comes with sunroof, leather-bolstered sport combi seats, dual exhaust, and D-cut steering wheel with paddle shifters.
Two new exterior colors are offered – machine gray and electric blue.
Exterior updates include a “cascading grille”, a new front fascia (an angled, more-aggressive look Hyundai calls a “catamaran” design), new vertical LED daytime running lights, a more-assertive profile, and chrome accents around the windows (extending all the way under the reshaped headlight pods, which stretch up and away).
There’s also a new rear end with redesigned taillights, and fresh wheel designs. The rocker panel and hood are also more aggressive-looking, with sharper creases. Multiple hood creases and chrome trim along the hood, around the grille and across the lower front fascia emphasize the new dramatic grille. The new sculpted hood appears longer and sleeker, thanks to the low, wide grille.
Sonata’s new grille takes inspiration from molten steel being poured, with a cascading effect across the bars. The new front fascia has deep air vents housed in glossy black, along with the vertically stacked horizontal LED daytime running lights, which accentuate the more-vertical grille.
The new taillights are a slim wraparound teardrop shape with three distinctive red LED reflectors and a line of white LED backup lights, which extend the strong line running the length of the car. The lower rear bumper repeats the catamaran look, with a single trapezoidal chrome exhaust tip.
Due to the license plate being 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.
Interior redesigning includes a reshaped dash with new air vents on the driver’s side, a larger touch screen, and new steering wheel, shifter and instrument cluster.
Seven models are now available, with the middle-of-the-line well-equipped SEL added for 2018, priced at $23,700. 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.
Sonata’s base engine, a 185-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder with a six-speed automatic, carries over from 2017, and is EPA rated at 25/35/28 mpg city/highway/combined for most models.
The Eco model comes with a 178-horsepower 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder/seven-speed EcoShift transmission. Sport and Limited are available with a 245-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo, in addition to the standard 2.4-liter with six-speed automatic.
A refined, stiffer chassis improves ride and handling through improved steering response and feel. Updated rear suspension is also stiffer, better able to handle heavy loads. New bushings help improve ride and quicken response time, all resulting in a nimble, comfortable sedan.
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.
My Sonata Limited ($27,400) was eye-catching scarlet red, with gray leather seating, riding on silver-painted 17-inch alloy wheels with five sculpted split spokes.
A hands-free smart trunk sported a larger Hyundai badge with soft-touch manual release button cleverly hidden in the “H” – so clever I couldn’t find it; I had to research how to open the trunk without the key.
The headlights featured dynamic bending light technology, especially nice for my neighborhood’s winding roads where deer cross in the evening.
Seven exterior colors are available, including symphony silver, phantom black, and lakeside blue, with black, beige, or gray interiors, depending on the model chosen.
Gray pinstripe-look wood-grain plastic trimmed the doors, front and rear, and across the dash. Most of the metallic-look plastic trim was pewter/gray.
The new center stack and controls were better positioned, with the eight-inch touch screen higher, and the piano-key buttons for audio, HVAC, and navigation had a premium look and feel.
Seating was comfortable, front (heated and cooled) and rear, with plenty of legroom, even for the middle seat in the rear.
Rear passengers had manual side sunshades (part of the ultimate package, $2,900), center console air vents, door bottle pockets, and a USB charging port. The rear seat folded 60/40, using levers on the seatbacks or handles under the trunk lid. The panoramic moon roof of 2017 was replaced with a conventional tilt and slide rectangle.
Apple CarPlay and Android integration are standard, with a device bin under the center stack with USB connectivity and a 12-volt outlet. My Sonata had the Qi wireless charging pad, part of the ultimate package.
The ultimate package brought lots of safety, connectivity, and assist technology, including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, smart cruise with stop/start capability, electronic parking brake with automatic vehicle hold, automatic high beam assist, rear parking sensors, eight-inch touch-screen navigation, Blue Link Multimedia/Map Updates (for three years), Infinity Premium Audio, HERE HD Traffic (real-time traffic service), SiriusXM Travel Link (trial), heated steering wheel, and the rear side window sunshades.
Navigation came with a bird’s-eye view as well as 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.
Blue Link Connected Services and Blue Link Remote Start (starting, locking, cabin conditioning via smartphone) are standard for three years – up from three months free for 2017. Blue Link now communicates with smart home speakers, such as Amazon Echo, allowing control of the vehicle from wherever the device is located.
My Sonata Limited was impressively quiet and smooth riding, nimble, and eye-catching with its more-aggressive looks.
Fuel economy was fair, considering I did most of my driving in short neighborhood trips, at 23.5 mpg average.
Sonata Limited earned a five-star overall safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In addition to the Ultimate Package, my Sonata had Carpeted Floor Mats for $125. Destination charges added $885, for a total delivered price of $31,310.
The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 2007. Contact her at email@example.com.