Hyundai’s Genesis brand has become a legitimate luxury line, giving heat to the German, Japanese, and American heavyweights. They’re pretty good cars, but come with luxury line prices. A couple of rungs down the Hyundai family tree is the Sonata sedan, which was once the brand’s own flagship. A complete freshening for 2018 gives it the glamour of Genesis.
Stylists at Hyundai’s California Design Studio went to work on the sleek body, bestowing a sporty cascading grille, more expressive side details, and a completely freshened posterior with cleaner styling. Our car lights up with edgy LED taillamps, LED running lamps, and dynamic bending LED headlamps that adjust to the road. Place it all over 17-inch alloy wheels for that upscale athletic aesthetic. The basic shell is unchanged, but all that’s attached to it gives the impression of a totally new car.
Passengers enjoy a space that’s nearly equal Genesis. Our car came with heated/ventilated front leather seats, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, and dual-zone automatic climate control. “Piano keys” below the infotainment screen allow easy access to audio, climate, and navigation. Crisp Infinity speakers and a power moonroof add luxury. Details like the silvery gauges, three-spoke steering wheel, and horizontal gray woodgrain on the dash and doors add decadence.
There’s also a sophisticated electronics suite. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth easily connect devices while a charging pad keeps them going. Safety was paramount. Blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert come standard, but you can also check boxes for smart cruise control with stop/start capability, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, and rearview camera.
Sonata is offered with a 245 horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine that will convince many drivers they’re in a Genesis, but our car came with a 2.4-liter non-turbo four-cylinder that delivers 185 horsepower and 178 lb.-ft. of torque. Put it in Sport mode and the base engine feels more powerful than you would think. The six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode clicks up and down with precision. A benefit of the frugal output is frugal fuel economy of 25/35-MPG city/hwy.
Engineers didn’t stop there. They also stiffened up the body structure and beefed up suspension components for a car that feels more solid and better isolated over rough pavement. In truth, the Sonata handles more like a compact car than the roomy mid-sizer it is. The four-wheel independent suspension just sachets through corners with the quick steering guiding the way.
If you want a real Genesis, come with at least $41,780 for the G80 sedan. Prices rise significantly from there, but you don’t have to pay for full-luxury to get luxury or for full-sport to get sport. Though the 2018 Sonata is not all new, it is the genesis of the brand’s future. You can buy a very affordable and efficient Hyundai Sonata for just $20,050. Loaded with heated steering wheels, navigation, and all of the safety tech, you’ll spend more: $31,310 as-tested.
2018 Hyundai Sonata
- Five-passenger, fwd Sedan
- Powertrain: 185 hp 2.4-liter I4, 6-spd trans
- Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
- Wheels f/r: 17”/17” alloy
- Brakes f/r: disc/disc
- Must-have features: Style, capability
- Fuel economy: 25/35 mpg city/hwy
- Assembly: Montgomery, AL
- Base/as-tested price: $20,050/31,310