Back in December, I attended the Indianapolis Auto Show. I was walking around the floor, wondering where all the good cars went, when I spotted, right in the middle of the Hyundai display, a sedan I hadn’t seen before. That’s not exactly accurate; I had seen the redesigned Sonata in photos, but there under the display lights, it took on new breath. It was sculpture stretched taut over its wheelbase – a nice respite from winter. It turned out just as beautiful basking in sunlight outside of the convention center.
Some have compared the low wide grille to a catfish, but I suspect Hyundai’s designers were aiming for Aston Martin. A coupelike roofline, deeply chiseled body lines, twin-panel glass roof, 18” wheels, and thin taillamps that boomerang into the spoiler give the car a spirited swagger. Look closely at the chrome strips on the hood. Yep, they are extensions of the driving lights – chrome lit – that accompany LED headllights. Nice.
Sliding inside, it feels more Genesis than Hyundai. Beige seats and trim contrast with gray panels for a very stylish look – completely different from the sterile black more commonly used in this segment. A glassy instrument cluster and touchscreen are pretty swanky. Deft use of chrome gives the grippy steering wheel a flat bottom look. Heated/cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, automatic climate control, and push-button gear selector add comfort and convenience. Connect to the Bose audio system through Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Few luxury cars have more safety gear. Adaptive cruise, forward collision mitigation with pedestrian detection, blind spot warning, and rear cross traffic alert keep fenders clean. Our car also had blind spot cameras with images that appear in the gauge cluster when turn signals are enacted. I’m a big fan of the head-up display that projects speed and critical info above the hood. Too lazy to put the car in the garage for the night? No problem – just press a button on the key fob and it tucks itself in.
Snugged under the chic hood is a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine delivering 180 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s clearly not going to win any drag races, but it is plenty for a pretty mid-size sedan that’s more focused on daily commutes and highway driving than carving up racetracks. Mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, the engine helps deliver a very efficient 27/36-MPG city/highway.
Beyond its A-Plus aesthetics, the Sonata’s chassis has been thoroughly tuned up to deliver smiles from behind the wheel. It rides more like a luxury car with precise steering and a sophisticated suspension system that combines firm handling with the ability to soak up rough pavement with barely a shake or shudder. A drive mode selector lets pilots conjure a more sensitive throttle and delayed shift points for a sportier demeanor.
If you’re still not impressed, a hybrid version was introduced during February’s Chicago Auto Show. Its sleek body claims active air flaps in the grille, specific rear spoiler, and aero-tuned wheels to achieve an impressive 0.24 drag coefficient. The hybrid system employs batteries, motors, 2.0-liter gasoline engine, and 6-speed automatic transmission to deliver 52-MPG, 686 miles of driving range, and combined 192 horsepower. Solar panels in the roof extends range a couple of miles after 6 hours of charging.
As I left the auto show, I was most impressed with the C8 Corvette and Hyundai Sonata. I know, surprised me too. Not the Corvette – the Hyundai. Now that I’ve had more time to indulge in its beauty and splendor, I’m even more enamored. It’s also quite a value. With a base price of $23,600, or $34,365 as tested, competitors include the Subaru Legacy, Toyota Camry, Chevy Malibu, Honda Accord, and VW Passat.
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