The 2018 mid-size Hyundai Sonata sedan has a sportier look, key mechanical changes and greater driving ease.
The front-drive Sonata Limited I tested was one of the top-line Sonata sedans. There are more than half a dozen versions, including plug-in and hybrid models. Sonatas range in price from $22,050 to $32,450. The least costly has 178 turbocharged horsepower, while the top version has a 245-horsepower turbo engine.
My test four-door Sonata was an approximately $27,600 non-turbo model with a 2.4-liter 185-horsepower four-cylinder. It was quick in town and provided decent 65-75 m.p.h. highway passing times. The tachometer only showed a lazy 2,000 r.p.m. at 70 miles per hour.
Estimated fuel economy is 25 miles per gallon in the city and 35 on highways. An 18.5-gallon tank swallows regular-grade fuel.
My test car had a responsive six-speed automatic transmission with a good manual shift feature via a console transmission lever, although the 245-horsepower Sonata has a new eight-speed automatic.
The 2018 Sonata has a new look from the front, side and rear. Its large "cascading" grille, new hood, narrower headlights, more assertive hatch-like profile and new rear with narrower taillights and new trunk may give the impression that this is a sportier model than it really is.
Still, the new Sonata has a refined chassis for surer handling and a more supple ride. Hyundai increased the torsion bar stiffness with the steering system to improve steering response and feel, although steering is a little heavy. An updated suspension has trailing arms that are thicker to better handle heavy suspension loads. New bushings work with new suspension arms to allow more ride compliance and quicker response time to better control wheel motions.
Handling is helped by a vehicle stability management system and traction control. Handling is sure on winding roads, and the ride is supple.
The recalibrated steering and suspension changes to improve handling reportedly came from Albert Biermann, whom Hyundai stole from illustrious BMW M several years ago.
Anti-lock brakes stop the car quickly and surely, assisted by electronic brake force distribution and brake assist.
Still, this is no sports sedan-it isn't supposed to be. Rather, it's a thoroughly pleasant mid-size car with lots of room, especially in the rear-seat area, and a big trunk with a low, wide opening. The split 60/40 rear seat backs fold forward without groping for seat releases and sit flat for a larger cargo area.
The Limited is well-equipped, with such items as leather seating, heated and ventilated front seats, power tilt-and-slide sunroof, push-button start, automatic trunk opening, dual automatic temperature control, manually adjustable steering wheel, AM/FM/CD radio and a 7-inch color touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, besides a 4.2-inch color LCD trip computer. Visor vanity mirrors are lit.
A bunch of well-placed redundant dashboard switches came in handy.
My test car's major safety options included automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist system, smart cruise control with stop/start capability, rear parking sensors, Infinity premium audio system and a heated steering wheel. That wheel and the standard heated seats, made driving more comfortable in zero-degree Chicago weather.
However, the options raised the Sonata Limited's price, including destination, to $31,310.
All doors, which have storage pockets, open wide to the quiet interior, which has an upgraded appearance. The front seats offer adequate side support. The analog gauges can be quickly read, and there's also a digital speedometer. Cupholders are conveniently situated on the front console, while those in the rear are in the fold-down armrest.
The hood glides open on twin struts while the trunk has hinges.
The new Hyundai Sonata has a more solid feel than its predecessor, which seems to be typical of Hyundai models as upgraded ones arrive each new year.