2018 Hyundai Sonata Limited Review

Refreshed when others have redesigned might just be enough


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Better steering and handling than the previous car, masterful interior ergonomics and quality, exterior goes upscale with small changes, serious feature set.
Negatives: Base engine feels underpowered, interior striped trim looks like it's trying too hard, new hidden trunk button is odd.
Bottom Line: This refresh is a good one in our books. It makes the Sonata look less anonymous while improving the car just about everywhere. It's a very good car to drive, but some better steering feel would make it excellent. Hyundai packs in the features, but it needs to find a way back to the visual drama of the last gen-car, especially in light of the new Camry.
Hyundai decided to merely refresh their current Sonata when other automakers like Honda (Accord) and Toyota (Camry) did a major redesign in this lagging segment (sedans). The big question is, will that be enough? The Camry and Accord sell far better than the Sonata already, while the Sonata's sales volume is behind the Nissan Altima and the Ford Fusion (unchanged for 2018). But don't underestimate the changes in the Sonata. They've upped the exterior drama, driving dynamics, ergonomics, tech, and safety features. We drove the 2018 Sonata in Limited trim for a week. Read on for the full review.
 

Driving Experience

8.4

 

Aside from the exterior design and the interior tech, this is the most pronounced difference in the Sonata. What was once an okay car to drive is now quite good.

Ride Quality: Excellent ride quality. Very comfortable with good shock-absorbing and compliant suspension.

Acceleration: It's the one big demerit in the Sonata's driving dynamics. The 2.4-liter non-turbo engine needs more power to be convincing. We wouldn't call it slow, but it's not exactly spirited.

Braking: Great progressive brakes and good pedal feel. Stopping firmly and smoothly were no problem.

Steering: The steering feels better in this car thanks to recalibration that make it more responsive on turn-in. The difference is palpable.

Handling: Very good body control thanks to improved anti-roll bar stiffness and upgraded rear suspension and bushings.

Technology

9.4

 

We really enjoyed the tech in the last Sonata, and this one's even better. Hyundai did their homework, added some features, and even made the already excellent controls even better. Qi wireless charging, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard.

Infotainment System: A great screen that responds even better to inputs than before. Blue Link now works with Amazon Echo and Google Home.

Controls: The new infotainment and audio buttons are larger with metal-like finishes and a nice groove, all making them easier to operate.

Bluetooth Pairing: Pairing was easy and fast. Our phones never lost pairing during the entire week, not something we can say about all Bluetooth systems we encounter.

Voice Call Quality: Good volume and clarity with no transmission issues.

Styling

8.8

 

Looks like Hyundai wanted a bit more drama, along the lines of what made the last-gen car so successful. Rather than just drama, though, they made it much classier. The changes are small, but the results are huge.

Front: The front end gets the "cascading grille" design that's meant to evoke steel being poured, as Hyundai makes its own steel. The lower fascial boasts stacked lights in a somewhat complex L-shape. The hood gets two more creases, and the overall effect of the changes are very good.

Rear: The new trunklid and taillights are much better. The license plate cutout is moved lower to the bumper, and the trunk release button is hidden within the "H" badge. What used to be boring is now quite sporty.

Profile: It's essentially unchanged with the same sleek shape as the previous year. Conservative but well-executed.

Cabin: The cabin is a nice place to be thanks to its airy feel and great ergonomics.

Comfort

8.5

 

Hyundai pays a lot of attention to their interiors and is quickly becoming the Audi of the Asian car market. Roominess, seating quality and overall comfort are excellent.

Front Seats: Good support and cushioning, ideal for long commutes and road trips. We'd like to see more thigh length in the seat cushion.

Rear Seats: Ample room for rear passengers in spite of the angled roofline.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The Sonata is quiet and vibration-free. Road noise is kept to a minimum.

Visibility: Great visibility with good pillar width that doesn't obscure.

Climate: Hyundai's climate system works very well, as do the heated/ventilated seats in our Limited trim tester.

Safety

9

 

The Sonata is one of the safest vehicles in its class with excellent crash test scores.

IIHS Rating: Top Safety Pick+.

NHTSA Rating: 5-Star crash safety rating.

Standard Tech: In addition to the requisite airbags, ABS, traction control and stability control, our tester came with blind spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert.

Optional Tech: The Ultimate Package comes with key features like automatic emergency braking w/ pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, smart cruise control, automatic high beam assist, and rear parking sensors. It's a robust package and worth the extra cost. The IIHS gives the Sonata a grade of "superior" in the accident avoidance category, as a result.

Storage/Cargo

8.7

 

The Sonata has great storage options in the cabin and very good cargo space that's truly usable and easy to access.

Storage Space: The large rubber tray with the Qi charger in front of the shifter is big and practical, as is the deep cubby next to the shifter. The armrest is also ideal for hideaway storage of daily items.

Cargo Room: 16.3 cubic feet is very good, just under the new Accord's 16.7 cu. ft. and above the new Camry's 15.1 cu. ft. The load floor is flat and the opening is nice and wide.

Fuel Economy

7.9

 

Fuel economy in Hyundais isn't as good as we typically hope for. Our base engine didn't get great mpgs, but it was still respectable for this segment.

Observed: 26.3 mpg

Distance Driven: 252 miles

Driving Factors: We drove in Sport mode for most of the time to extract more oomph from the naturally-aspirated 4-cylinder. We drove a mix of highway and local roads.

Audio

8.6

 

The Infinity premium audio system is very good in the Ultimate Package and worth the upgrade. The sound was crisp and full, but we would've liked a bit more bass.



Final Thoughts

The Sonata sells well, but now it makes an even stronger case to be considered over the likes of the Nissan Altima and the Ford Fusion. The Mazda6 still drives better, and we've yet to test the 2018 Accord and Camry, which are totally new. What the Sonata does just about better than everyone is combine space, looks, comfort, safety, features, and driving dynamics in a jack-of-all-trades package. We'd recommend the Eco 1.6 with its spritely engine and good feature set, or if you want to spend, go for the Sonata Sport with the potent 2.0T engine. Just bypass the 2.4-liter base engine because it lacks punch and responsiveness.

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