Not all that long ago, Hyundai was an afterthought in the competitive midsize sedan market, largely focusing on bargain hunting buyers. But all that changed, a few years back, when it introduced a stylish new remake of the Sonata sedan, the first model to showcase its distinctive “Fluidic Sculpture” design language.
For 2015, the Korean carmaker is rolling out an all-new version of the Sonata, and while it is toning down the previous model’s sometimes over-the-top angles and curves, Hyundai is growing more confident it can take on even some of the midsize segment’s most formidable players, notably including the Toyota Camry.
“The Sonata has been playing a key role in Hyundai Motor’s rapid growth in the global market, as well as leading the development of the Korean auto industry. We are confident that the all-new Sonata will change the landscape of the global midsize sedan market,” said Choong Ho Kim, the maker’s president and CEO, said when the all-new version was unveiled in South Korea last month. Now, U.S. buyers will have a chance to decide as the all-new Sonata makes its American debut at the New York Auto Show.
The 2015 Hyundai Sonata grows 1.4 inches longer and 1.2 inches wider than the outgoing model, and that helps deliver a more roomy cabin – falling into the EPA’s “Large”, rather than “Midsize” category. The cabin itself incorporates some significant updates, such as a new panoramic sunroof, a revised steering wheel and instrument panel updates, and even a heated rear seat.
There are also new LED headlights on the SE model, shining out of a new, more distinctive grille that picks up on the cues of the Hyundai Genesis also being updated for 2015. Both cars share the revised design language Hyundai has dubbed Fluidic Sculpture 2.0. For the bigger and more luxurious Genesis, that means a look that’s less derivative than before. The Sonata, meanwhile, adopts a more mature, if subdued, shape than the flashy model it is replacing.
For those who want a bit more flash, there’s the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport, which gets a more aggressive front grille and bumper, side rocker extensions and side chrome molding. Models using the new 2.0-liter turbo engine also get a unique rear fascia, quad exhaust tips and 18-inch wheels.
There are plenty of high-tech features, including an updated infotainment system, as well as safety systems that now include Blind Spot Detection, Lane Departure Warning System and Advanced Smart Cruise Control. A driver’s side knee airbag is new. And the Sonata will be offered with a hands-free “Smart Trunk.”
Some of the biggest changes, however, are expected to be out of sight, but not out of mind. Reviewers routinely fault Hyundai for suspension and steering issues. Before wrapping up his contract in December, former Hyundai Motor America CEO John Krafcik told TheDetroitBureau.com that getting ride and handling right this time has been one of the most critical steps in the three-year development process behind the 2015 Sonata.
To that effect, the maker says the new steering column is stiffer, and the 2015 Sonata adopts a new Motor Driven Power Steering System that Hyundai claims is more responsive to road conditions and driver input.
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But bringing down NVH has been another target, Hyundai claiming to have significantly reduced interior noise levels with the new Sonata sedan.
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As for powertrain, the Sonata Sport can be ordered, meanwhile, with either a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine or a 2.0-liter turbo-four. The naturally aspirated engine turns out 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque. The Sport 2.0 turbo bumps that to 245 hp and 260 lb-ft. Both engines share a six-speed automatic.
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Hyundai points out that it offers more passenger and cargo space than its midsize competitors – notably including the Camry. The Koreans have, in fact, been chipping away at the Toyota model’s traditional dominance, but there’s some big news about Camry at the NY Auto Show, as well. Indeed, Toyota opened up the two days of media previews by offering a revised sedan for 2015 that undergoes far more changes than the typical mid-cycle refresh.
“The previous Sonata put us on a trajectory of unprecedented growth,” said Mike O’Brien, Hyundai Motor America’s product planning chief, so, expect to see an even tougher battle for dominance in the midsize segment in the coming year.
And, incidentally, expect more news from Hyundai in June, when the maker confirms it will have “more” to say about the 2015 Sonata, likely also including the updated version of the hybrid version.