Way back when I was a teenager, I went to prom in a Hyundai. I got a little bit of flack from some of my friends for not joining them in a fancy-pants limo, but my date and I decided to splurge on a nice dinner and share the embarrassment of showing up at the social event of the year in a cheap Korean import.
Oh, how times have changed. The 2018 Hyundai Sonata is something my 17-year-old self would be proud to prom in. It’s been redesigned for its eighth generation, with new technology, sheet metal, suspension components and transmission.
The Sonata, Hyundai’s mid-size sedan, slots in between the budgetand the luxury-focused, although recently dropped in the US, . It’s available in SE, SEL, Sport and Limited trim with a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter engine, but I spent my time in the more powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder engine, which is only available in the Sport and Limited trims.
Every trim level of the new Sonata comes standard with Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Lane Change Assistant. A new lane keep assist technology is standard on the Limited 2.0T trim, and available on the SEL and Limited trims. The system gently steers the car back into the lane if you drift outside the markers without signaling. It’s so gentle it’s tough to feel it working, yet it slides the car back into proper position on the road.
Hyundai’s adaptive cruise control functions well in stop-and-go traffic, bringing the Sonata to a full stop behind a lead car and taking off again after a brief pause. This feature, as well as emergency automatic braking, has the same availability as the lane keep assist technology. If you want driver’s aids standard you should look at sedans from , which makes these features standard on all trims save for the base model. Toyota does one better, offering this technology standard across all trim lines of the new .
Hyundai’s excellent Blue Link infotainment system is displayed on a 7-inch touchscreen standard, although an 8-inch screen is optional. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, but the former was somewhat glitchy for me. At first Apple CarPlay would only read incoming text messages through my phone, not the car’s speakers. However, after plugging and unplugging the phone, the problem fixed itself.
Regardless, Blue Link is pretty slick, with a customizable home screen and an optional navigation system that includes Google local search. One box destination entry lets you easily find addresses or points-of-interest.
There are a few little tech touches that make the Sonata stand out from the crowd. Qi wireless charging is standard on the Limited 2.0T trim and available on Limited. All but the SE trim have a second-row USB charge port standard.
Although the 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder engine is the same as in 2017, making 245 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, the eight-speed automatic transmission is all new. But Hyundai didn’t stop there, revising the rear suspension and steering system to improve responsiveness and handling. I spent my drive time on the twisty roads of Southern California and found the Sonata to be a spry little sedan. In fact, it may even surpass my belovedfor driving enjoyment.
How can that be? Not only is the Mazda6 way down on horsepower, but the Sonata’s responsive automatic transmission is great at gear selection. It’s eager to downshift on corner exits and holds the revs for sometime, even when driving in Comfort mode. Switch to Sport and the transmission holds them for slightly longer and shifts even quicker. There are paddle shifters if you want to get down and dirty, but left to its own devices this new transmission is one of the sportiest I’ve encountered in a while. So much for Zoom Zoom.
Eco mode isn’t an exercise in frustration, either. Sure, it upshifts quicker for better gas mileage, earning 26 miles per gallon combined in the 2.0T, but it’s far from annoying. It will downshift easily for passing and when accelerating from a dead stop, so that it’s tough to tell the difference between Comfort and Eco mode. The naturally aspirated 2.4-liter engine takes a huge hit in power, down to 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque and mated to the six-speed automatic transmission from 2017. I didn’t get to sample this combination, but presumably the smaller power output and older transmission would put quite a damper on the fun.
The recalibrated steering offers quick inputs and a good on-center feel. There is no torque steer, even upon heavy acceleration from a dead stop and I didn’t notice any understeer while flinging the sedan through the twisties. Very impressive, Hyundai.
For 2018, the Sonata gets a new aggressive front end, with what the Korean automaker is calling a “cascading grille.” LED daytime running lights are now standard on the 2.0T trims and the available LED headlights with dynamic bending light are larger than last year, bringing even more emphasis to the new grille.
In the rear, the available LED taillights are trimmer for 2018 and the license plate has been moved lower, bringing an uninterrupted, smooth line from the top of the trunk lid to the bumper. A soft-touch button in the center Hyundai logo opens the trunk. It’s pretty cool.
The 2018 Hyundai Sonata starts at $22,050 for the base SE, but my top of the line Limited 2.0T moves that entry point up to $32,450. Although the driver’s aids aren’t available on all trim lines, it’s a fun and affordable sedan that I really want to spend some more time in. The 2018 Hyundai Sonata will be available this summer.
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