Road test: Hyundai Sonata Turbo

I chose the Sonata as my “top pick” in the mid-sized class for my newly released buying guide called Motormouth; in addition, at Driving Television we chose the Sonata as one of out top-10 vehicles from our last season, garnering a top-five placing.

The ultimate reward for Hyundai is sales success and on that front they are very happy. With a direct injection four-cylinder pumping out 194 horsepower, the base Sonata is a very fun and efficient, there is no wonder it sells so well.

Hyundai has taken a bit of a chance with the Sonata by not including a V6 option; instead they have introduced a turbo-charged engine to satisfy power-hungry drivers. Many American buyers will only consider a V6 mid-sized sedan so this might be a tougher sell south of the border but I predict Canadians will see the true appeal of this stylish rocket.

The Skin
With recent introductions from Hyundai, including the Tucson compact crossover and compact Elantra sedan, there is a stylish family personality starting to emerge. Hyundai calls this a “Fluidic Sculpture” design that is meant to replicate nature’s effect on objects. The Sonata is described as a stone being shaped by water over thousands of years, polished and formed into smooth, organic shape that is pleasing to the eye. It could be said that Hyundai also borrowed this design philosophy from other brands but buyers might be pleased to know that their thrifty Sonata has a resemblance to the high-priced Mercedes CLS sedan. A non-turbo Sonata starts at $22,649 and a turbo model starts at $28,999 but includes larger 17-inch wheels, fog lights, power sunroof, chrome door handles and heated front windshield wipers. My test unit was the top Limited model with navigation for $33,499.

The Cockpit
Having just returned from the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, I had a chance to climb in and out of all the Hyundai products and with every new vehicle they continue to refine their interior design and quality.

Look for Hyundai’s upcoming Veloster coupe as another example of interior refinement. The Sonata impresses me; not only with the simple, yet elegant centre console but the way each panel and piece fits and matches each other.

The whole auto industry has upped their game in this regard but Hyundai, to my eye, has done an exceptional job. Once again they might be accused of borrowing design elements from Infiniti for radio and navigation controls and Volvo for heating controls but these two companies are leaders in this regard so Hyundai is wise to emulate them. Turbo features include standard leather steering wheel and shifter knob, power driver’s seat and heated seats.

The Ride
Turning to a turbo-charged four-cylinder instead of a V6 in the Sonata makes for a powerful and exciting car to drive but also provides solid fuel consumption. With stricter fuel targets set for 2016, each automaker will be turning to smaller engines with advanced technology to enable drivers to get the power they are used to with the efficiency the government demands; Hyundai is just slightly ahead of this curve. Not only is the 2.0L engine turbo-charged it also features direct injection technology for instant throttle response and undetectable turbo-lag.

For comparison, this 2.0L turbo produces 274hp compared to VW’s 200hp from their 2.0L Passat CC and 220hp from the 2.0L Buick Regal. This is even more impressive considering the Sonata runs on regular-grade gasoline. The Sonata turbo receives a sport suspension, steering wheel paddle shifters and a 6-speed automatic.

The Good, The Bad
Good: Hit the throttle and the Sonata turbo takes off down the road with no turbo lag and passing on the highway is spectacular.

Bad: The steering is a bit too heavy for city driving and some might find the suspension choppy.

Zack’s verdict
Hyundai has executed a perfect marketing plan with their entire line of vehicles. Produce a stylish, well-designed and made car and sell it for less than the competition. This plan had garnered Hyundai massive sales increases year after year as Canadians have embraced this once maligned Korean brand. For example, a fully loaded Sonata turbo is not only more powerful than the top V6 Camry, Accord and Ford Fusion but it is less expensive by several thousand dollars. There are a few things I would like to see improved. The steering is firm to the point of being heavy in city traffic and the front seats are a bit short on thigh support. As a package the base Sonata is very compelling with almost 200 horsepower but for power hungry drivers the new turbo offers all the thrills one could want without having to drain your wallet.

The Lowdown
Power: 274hp 2.0L turbo 4-cylinder
Fill-up: 9.3L/6.0L/100km (city/highway)
Backup: 5-year/100,000km
Sticker price: $28,999-$33,499

Photograph by: Zack Soencer, For PNG