Plus a few Sonata features we would love to see changed.
Among midsize sedan models, the Hyundai Sonata offers one of the roomiest interiors of all. It sports a premium visage, lovely patinas, and in top-trim models, it brings out various luxury elements. Although crossovers are easily outselling sedans, the Sonata reminds us that the best value in the family segment is right in front of us.
The 2021 Hyundai Sonata is priced from $23,700 to $33,950, plus a $995 destination charge. The Sonata comes in SE, SEL, SEL Plus, Limited, and N-Line trims. Also available is the Sonata Hybrid, which is marketed separately, and priced from $27,750, plus destination. This one is available in Blue, SEL, and Limited trims.
The following are the things we love the best about the 2021 Sonata along with a few we believe require a change or an improvement:
1. Cutting-edge design.
With customers making haste to crossovers, the sedan market is in a free-fall. We don’t believe sedans are going away, but for the remaining players, changing the game is the best way to maintain a niche in the segment.
Instead of resting on its laurels, Hyundai continues to invest in its car models. The Sonata has gained ground significantly over the past few generations to become a strong contender in the segment. Hyundai has done this by paying attention to design, right down to fine details to distinguish its cars from the rest. In the Sonata, they’ve largely succeeded through several dramatic touches, including the brand’s own take on a gaping grille, pretty signature lines, outstanding lighting elements, and handsome wheel choices. It is an evocative design that isn’t overwrought with vagarious lines.
The look is upscale across the board. Indeed, we’re especially impressed with the rear fascia which features an unusual lighting pattern that seems borrowed from far more expensive models. Consequently, the Sonata says nothing about being budget as it wears its fine suit well.
The list of exterior features is impressive, although there are some significant differences between trims. LED lighting is standard across all five trims and includes headlights, daytime running lights, and taillamps. An automatic lighting system with high-beam assist is standard.
Dual-powered side mirrors are standard and include heating elements and blind-spot detection from the SEL trim upward. Other available features include a panoramic sunroof, sports rear diffuser, and a rear spoiler.
2. Capacious and upscale interior.
The Sonata seats five adults and does so with little compromise. Sure, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder on the rear seat is hardly a desirable thing, but it is workable in the Sonata. We can’t say that about every model in this segment.
Of course, the best seats in the house are in the front row. Specifically, these seats are nicely padded, supportive, and comfortable. The fit and finish meet our expectations, although some of the materials used on base trims include more plastic and solid surfaces than we like.
Move up the trim range and the Sonata loses its cloth duds and gains richer materials, including available real hides. It is a more cultured look that avoids the ostentatious.
Our Limited trim model pulled out all the stops with its quilted leather seats, 8-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support, a 6-way power front passenger seat, a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, piano-key switches, and a dramatically flowing dashboard. A pair of digital displays seem borrowed from Genesis with graphics that change with a flourish with each new drive mode. We like this look especially in a model that costs far less than a luxury car.
Speaking of interior space, the cargo compartment or trunk measures 16 cubic feet. That’s near the top of the size pack for this segment. Fill the trunk with a long weekend’s worth of gear for five or a week’s worth of vacation items for two.
3. Tech items we like.
You don’t find a bare trim on any Sonata model, including tech items. A standard 8-inch touch-screen display, a 6-speaker audio system, HD Radio, and smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto kick things off. A pair of USB ports and a 12-volt outlet come standard.
Beginning with the SEL trim is where the features improve. At this trim level, satellite radio and Blue Link connectivity come in. Optionally, a rear USB charge port and wireless device charging are available or are standard beginning with the SEL Plus model.
Move up to the Limited and N Line additions and the Sonata gains a 10.25-inch touch-screen display, navigation, and a 12-speaker Bose audio system. Navigation and the Bose system are also optional down to the SEL trim and bundled within a $2,200 Convenience Package.
The only thing not included and something we’d like to see is a 110/120-volt power outlet. But this is a sedan and not a utility vehicle or a truck, so the omission isn’t unexpected. What we are glad to find is a color head’s up display, but it is only available with the Limited trim.
4. Top safety features and crash-test scores.
Making the “safety grade” these days means fetching top scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The 2021 Sonata succeeds with both endeavors.
Across all trims, the 2021 Sonata comes with automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and adaptive cruise control. These are elements safety-savvy consumers expect and Hyundai delivers. Move up to the Limited trim and blind-spot monitoring and a surround-view camera system become standard.
5. Stellar fuel economy.
The Sonata with top efficiency that isn’t a hybrid earns an EPA-estimated 28 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway for a combined 32 mpg. These are impressive numbers for a vehicle that the EPA rates as a large car, at least by volume. Even its least efficient and powerful N-Line model with a 2.5-liter turbocharged engine delivers decent numbers, achieving 23/33/27 mpg city/highway/combined. As always, your mileage will vary depending on your driving habits and ambient temperatures.
6. Efficient hybrid models.
Besides performing well with its standard models, the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid puts up some incredible fuel efficiency numbers. In its standard guise, this one achieves 45/51/47 mpg city/highway/combined. These numbers alone are quite impressive. If you shop for the standard Hybrid Blue model, this one delivers the best efficiency of all – 50/54/52 mpg city/highway/combined. It is difficult to imagine such efficiency in a sizable vehicle, but there it is.
7. It’s time for all-wheel drive.
Seriously, let’s add an all-wheel-drive option to the Sonata. The Kia K5 has it and these two models share a common platform and powertrain options. Just as the Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, Mazda6 have in recent years added all-wheel-drive variants, Hyundai should too. It’s something customers would consider – Subaru, by the way, is so bullish on AWD that it is standard on the Legacy.
Competitive Set to the Sonata
There is a lot to consider when purchasing a new car, but the SEL Plus edition makes a compelling case for shoppers. For under $30,000, including the destination charge, this trim includes 19-inch alloy wheels, the smaller of the two turbo engines, a Hyundai Digital Key, wireless device charging, and the awesome 12.3-inch digital display cluster. This one is big on value in a segment where similar-equipped models cost thousands of dollars more.
2021 Hyundai Sonata Specifications
|Price Range||$23,600 to $33,850|
|Engine No. 1||2.5-liter, I4|
|Horsepower||191 @ 6,100 rpm|
|Torque (lb.-ft.)||181 @ 4,000 rpm|
|Engine No.2||1.6-liter, turbo I4|
|Horsepower||180 @ 5,500 rpm|
|Torque (lb.-ft.)||195 lb.ft. @ 1,500-4,500 rpm|
|Engine No.3||2.5-liter, turbo I4|
|Horsepower||290 @ 5,800 rpm|
|Torque (lb.-ft.)||311 lb.ft. @ 1,650-4,000 rpm|
|Curb Weight (pounds)||3,120 to 3,336|
|Headroom (f,r…inches)||40.0, 38.4|
|Legroom (f,r…inches)||46.1, 34.8|
|Shoulder room (f,r…inches)||57.9, 56.1|
|Hip room (f,r…inches)||54.6, 54.4|
|Storage (cubic feet)||16.0|
|Gross vehicle weight (pounds)||4,354|
|Fuel Tank (gallons)||15.9|
|EPA Fuel MPG (city/highway/combined)||28/38/32 (2.5); 27/36/31 (1.6T)|
|Manufacturing Plant||Montgomery, Alabama|
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