2015 Hyundai Sonata gets new look

2015 Hyundai Sonata gets new look
Sonata is slightly larger for 2015, but the big changes are in its crisper, more athletic body fronted by a bold hexagonal grille. This is the second vehicle in Hyundai’s lineup to adopt version 2.0 of the company’s Fluidic Sculpture design language.
Neil Moore
By Neil Moore
Posted on July 16th, 2014
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2015 Hyundai Sonata at a glance

BODY STYLE: mid-size sedan
DRIVE METHOD: front-engine, front-wheel-drive
ENGINE: 16-valve DOHC 2.4-litre inline four-cylinder with GDI (185 hp, 178 lb/ft of torque); DOHC 16-valve turbocharged 2.0-litre with GDI (245 hp, 260 lb/ft of torque)
CARGO: 462 litres
FUEL ECONOMY: 2.4-litre 9.8/6.7/8.4 L/100 km (city/hwy/comb); 2.0-litre turbo 10.4/7.4/9.1 L/100km (city/hwy/comb) – all using the new five-cycle testing
PRICE: 2.4 litre models start at $23,999 for the GL and top out at $32,999 for the Limited; 2.0 turbo models start at $30,999 for the 2.0T rising to $34,799 for 2.0T with Ultimate Pkg.

ANN ARBOR, MI- The fashion industry is fickle, and no less so when it pertains to personal transportation.

Last generation’s look is oh so passé by the time the new look rolls around, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing with an auto industry that thrives on change.

There have been some big style makeovers this year, and a lengthy list of recent reveals that have raised the bar on style for some otherwise conservative nameplates.

One, in particular, is Hyundai’s recent debut of Fluidic Sculpture 2.0, a design language no longer quite so “fluidic.”

This first appeared in the 2015 Genesis Sedan, second from top rung in the Hyundai ladder and just below its best-kept luxury secret, the $65K-plus Equus sedan.

But I flew to Ann Arbor, Michigan – home to Hyundai America Technical Centre – for something a little more mainstream: the all-new 2015 Sonata, now the second vehicle to wear the company’s new clothes.

Unlike the current design language, Sonata is now in its seventh generation, with the first one in 1985 being a facelifted Stellar. Fluidic Sculpture hasn’t come quite so far, and was really quite fetching when the 2011 Sonata first launched.

But my eyes soon wandered when its Kia sibling, the third-generation Optima, took the stage with a crisper, more aggressive look than Hyundai’s swoopy and curvaceous sheet metal.

All that has changed with Fluidic Sculpture 2.0.

Sonata is not only longer and wider, but its exterior is now more taut and athletic, fronted by a bold hexagonal grille flanked by sweptback projector headlights and LED running lights.

From the side, a bold character line follows the rising beltline, visually connecting its wing-shaped taillights to the muscular front wheel arches.

Also in back – depending on model – are a choice of single, dual and quad exhausts, and an integrated spoiler.

Sonata rolls on 16-inch alloys when you order the base GL ($23,999) and higher-trim GLS ($26,299); 17-inch on Sport ($28,399), Sport Tech ($30,199) and Limited ($32,999); and 18-inch on turbocharged Sport models: the 2.0T ($30,999) and 2.0T Ultimate ($34,799).

Sport also gets added brightwork and a more in-your-face front end that includes a black bumper insert with honeycomb lower grille. Along the side, a chrome strip blings up the rocker panel extensions, as do quad exhausts on turbo models.

“Overall the exterior execution was designed to be more sophisticated and more mature,” said Chad Heard, public relations manager for Hyundai Auto Canada. He added that greater effort was also spent on the interior for a premium look and feel.

“Trim, buttons and switchgear have been a major focus for the designers. More heft, better quality.”

This was immediately apparent as I settled into the leather buckets of my first tester, a U.S. spec Sport turbo. Canadian cars get additional content, as the intermediate segment up here tends to attract higher expectations than south of the border where mid-size is the norm.

Some of the goodies you can expect in Sonatas priced north of $30K include dual-zone climate control, heated rear seats, front seat cooling, heated steering wheel, smart key with pushbutton start, eight-inch touchscreen navigation, side window shades, and a nine-speaker Infinity audio system.

On the outside, turn signal repeaters in the side mirrors, rear parking assist, hands-free trunk opening and panoramic sunroof are also available in top trim.

And don’t forget about the nannies, which include lane departure warning, forward collision warning and adaptive cruise control. Blind spot detection, however, starts just above base in GLS models.

Sonata delivers a surprising level of content for the price, and I’ve yet to find a tradeoff in terms of interior fit and finish. Switches, knobs and buttons wouldn’t be out of place in the near-luxury segment, and gone are the “wings” (and gawky vertical vents), either side of the centre console.

In its place is a more refined centre stack where controls are logically grouped. For example, buttons for the heated steering wheel and seat heating/cooling are located with other HVAC controls.

I didn’t have the opportunity to drive an entry GL, but it does come well equipped. Standard features include keyless entry, power windows, heated seats, Bluetooth, five-inch touchscreen with rearview camera, blind spot monitor, automatic headlights and more.

Sonata had dropped its V6 engine with the last generation, and has continued under four-cylinder power, albeit giving up a few hp and lb/ft this time around. Not to worry, I’ve been told, as both the 2.4-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder and the 2.0-litre turbo four have been tweaked for improved emissions, fuel economy – and low-end torque.

The 2.4L Theta II with gasoline direct injection makes 185 hp and 178 lb/ft of torque compared to 190 and 179 last year.  Fuel economy is rated at 9.8/6.7/8.4 L/100 km (city/hwy/comb) on the more stringent five-cycle testing that will be implemented across all models in 2015.

Acceleration is adequate for a vehicle that weighs 1,572 kg, and if memory serves correctly, I didn’t notice much change from last generation. Ride is smooth, and the cabin is luxury-class quiet, with few noise intrusions thanks to increased body rigidity and abundant sound deadening materials.

Fifty per cent of the body is now comprised of high-strength steel (compared with 21 per cent for 2014), not to mention that Sonata now benefits from significantly more structural adhesives. Better aerodynamics (cd 0.27) keep wind noise to a minimum.

The turbo gets the biggest drop in horsepower, which seems counter to an industry-wide climb in these numbers. But its twin-scroll turbocharger now spins up more quickly, with peak torque available from a low 1,350 rpm.

So although it is rated at only 245 hp and 260 lb/ft (compared with 274 and 269 in 2014), the new powertrain, which includes a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters, delivers good off-the-line punch and ample passing power when needed.

Ride and handling are also a bit tighter than in 2.4-litre models, with flatter cornering thanks to stiffer dampening and thicker anti-roll bars.

First impressions aside, with recent top marks from J.D. Power, it is clear that Hyundai no longer plays second fiddle to any of its competitors.

Which is further emphasis that the 2015 Sonata should be on the shortlist for any mid-size buyer.

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