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Sonata: The Ultimate family car

Credit: "2015 HYUNDAI SONATA" BY DAVE PINTER (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) / LIGHTENED

Hyundai makes a reasonably-priced family sedan to satisfy the choosiest of reviewers. It's just missing a heated steering wheel.


Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | March 23rd, 2015



There was a time when the Sonata was Hyundai’s flagship model. If you wanted the best car made in South Korea, the Sonata is what you’d have bought.

Things started to change when Hyundai started exploring the luxury car market with bigger, more tech-packed models in the late ‘90s. Currently, in the Canadian market alone, the Genesis and Equus models sit above the Sonata as far as their family cars are concerned, while the Elantra and the Accent sit below it.

The 2015 Sonata is smack dab in the middle of Hyundai’s product portfolio. However, after spending a week with a Sonata 2.0T Ultimate model, it sure didn’t feel that way.

For a car that is not supposed to be a flagship, the 2015 Sonata 2.0T Ultimate sure has a lot of gadgets.

Active cruise control: check. Blind spot detection: check. Rear cross traffic alert: check. Forward collision warning: check. Lane departure warning: check. Heated front and rear seats: check. Panoramic sunroof: check.

All this and more can be found in the Sonata.

One item that was oddly missing from the Ultimate model was a heated steering wheel, especially since some of the lower-trim Sonata models have it. The chunky, sporty steering wheel on the Ultimate does have pedal shifters, but I wish it was heated – a feature that is surely welcomed in the weather we’ve had.

If you want a Sonata with the turbo engine, you have to sacrifice that one feature, but what you get in return is a rather impressive motor. Under the hood lies a 2.0 litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged motor that produces 245 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque.

Keen car enthusiasts will notice that while horsepower has gone down, torque has gone up. That was done to improve its get-up and go from a standstill and to improve its fuel economy. Did they succeed? Not quite. While there is less turbo lag than before, it drank a lot of fuel.

On a cold week with winter tires, the car averaged a best city and highway combined rating of 10.4 litres/100 km, which is not great. Hyundai quotes this model at 9.1 litres/100km in its combined cycle testing, which isn’t great either. While it is a just a four-pot motor, it does seem to have drinking habits of V6s and V8s.

It also has a bit of a traction issue. Even on a mild temperature day on a dry road, the chassis can’t seem to make full use of the power. Plant your foot into the carpet and the front end fights to put the power down. The winter tires could be given some blame here, but from past experience of the older model, the chassis needs more work.

Actually, it would be wrong to look at the Sonata as a sports sedan; it is more of a sedan with some sporting potential.

As a family sedan, the Sonata works well. Not only thanks to the many features it has but also because of the space it offers. The biggest issue with most mid-size sedans these days is that there isn’t a lot of legroom for rear-seat passengers. There are no such issues with the Sonata; a large adult is comfortable sitting in the back seat. If you want a sedan that can actually transport a family of five in comfort – four in great comfort – then the Sonata is for you.

Even apart from the space, this is a comfortable car from a ride and interior noise level point of view – a good car for out of town trips. The trunk is also large, and the rear seats do fold down with a 60/40 split.

Let’s talk pricing. The Sonata range starts from $23,999. The Sonata 2.0T Ultimate starts from $34,799, which is not a lot of money when you take into account all the features it has to offer.

Let’s just say, if only it had that heated steering wheel, it might just take that crown.
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