2013 Hyundai Sonata Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
August 4, 2013

With a standout design; perky performance; great gas mileage; and exceptional value for the money, the 2013 Hyundai Sonata is one of the best buys among mid-size sedans.

The 2013 Hyundai Sonata still turns heads, even in its third year on the market since a 2011 redesign traded in bland, upright mid-size sedan lines for totally new and remarkably swoopy exterior styling. With much-improved reliability, the current Sonata is at last what Hyundai's been aiming for: a genuinely competitive entry in the important mid-size sedan category. Hyundai wants to make it nothing less than the best family sedan on the market, and while they're not there yet--and the competition is hardly standing still--the current car gets them much closer to the goal.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the 2013 Sonata has a lot going for it. We see elements of Hyundai's trend-setting 'fluidic design' in several rival models as well as other, more recent Hyundai vehicles. The Sonata's dramatic shapes continue into the cabin, almost to finer effect--its functionality isn't tripped up by the swoopy lines that Hyundai has formed into its center stack or door panels.

From dark horse to tough competitor, the 2013 Sonata is let down only by its mediocre handling and refinement that's below the best in the class. Even in the base model, a 2013 Sonata is a solid choice if you prize fuel economy and features received for money spent. It competes with the two best-selling mid-size sedans--the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord--as well as Ford's all-new, elegant, and very well-received 2013 Fusion sedan. Other contenders include the Nissan Maxima, Chevy Malibu, Kia Optima (related under the skin to the Hyundai), and perhaps the Mazda 6, Subaru Legacy, and Volkswagen Passat.

Review continues below

With its new design in 2011 came a major upgrade in engineering refinement. A new lineup of direct-injection four-cylinder engines—no six is offered--combines with a lighter body structure to give the Sonata V-6 performance and up to 35 mpg in base form. Even the upscale 2.0T turbo model gets up to 33 mpg highway. Most Sonatas come with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, making up to 200 horsepower, with a six-speed automatic transmission. The automatic is perfectly appropriate for the class, and is a responsive, seamless gearchanger.

Step up to the 2.0T model and you get a somewhat smaller 2.0-liter engine with a twin-scroll turbocharger, providing 274 horsepower. Its 269 lb-ft arrives low in the power band, which thankfully helps this engine work very well with the automatic transmission (the only way to get it). And it mostly skips the turbo lag completely, and succeeds as the more economical parallel to upscale V-6 models.

The most economical powertrain option, however, comes in the 2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. A single electric motor is sandwiched between the 2.4-liter engine and a modified six-speed automatic transmission, with a lithium-polymer battery pack storing energy from engine overrun and regenerative braking and returning it as needed to power the car on electricity alone or to assist the engine with more torque. Hyundai has tuned the hybrid system to let  the Sonata Hybrid run on battery power alone at highway speeds--reasoning that U.S. drivers spend more than half their miles at speeds above 45 mph. After driving the 2013 Sonata Hybrid, we can say it's a definite improvement on the first two years of Sonata Hybrid. It's better insulated, the blending of the engine, electric power, and regenerative braking is smoother, and the car is considerably less lurchy under quick power transitions. Hyundai says this version will hit 60 mph in 9.2 seconds, and the EPA rates its gas mileage at 36 mpg city, 40 mpg highway.

The 2013 Hyundai Sonata is a roomy car, almost "large" by EPA standards; there's soaring headroom and leg room in front, and an unusually long front-seat track so driver and passenger can have as much space as they need. The back seat sits at a good angle of recline, and only the tallest passengers will touch heads against the fabric headliner and the hard-plastic front seatbacks. Security-minded family shoppers will likely find what they want in the Sonata, as in addition to all the usual safety equipment, a rearview camera system is offered in top trims, and the Sonata has been named a repeat Top Safety Pick according to the IIHS and achieved a five-star rating from the federal government.

Overall, ride and handling in the 2013 Sonata are adequate for most family needs. Driving enthusiasts are bound to be a little let down by the steering response, which could use some more feedback and tends to wander and need frequent adjustments on some highway surfaces. The ride can feel very stiff when compared with an Accord or Camry, but Passat and Fusion drivers will find it roughly equal to their cars.

For 2013, there are only a few feature changes, all adding to the Sonata's already strong value versus comparable rival models. Bluetooth, a USB port, power accessories, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, and cruise control all remain included at the base level, for $21,670. Heated seats have been added this year as a standard feature to the sportier SE model, while SE and Limited editions add parking sensors and pushbutton start. The Sonata Limited also gets standard heated front and rear seats; a sunroof; a backup camera; automatic climate control; and an automatic dimming rearview mirror. And a BlueLink suite of operator-assisted concierge and data services, at different pricing tiers, remains available.

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2013 Hyundai Sonata

Styling

The 2013 Hyundai Sonata has a handsome and smooth but adventurous look, and remains a standout among staid mid-size sedans.

In the not-so-distant past, the idea of a flamboyantly styled, charismatically designed Hyundai was a nonstarter, and the Sonata was a stodgy also-ran from a design standpoint. But with the introduction of an all-new Sonata and its 'fluidic design' theme for the 2011 model year, that all abruptly changed. And even two model years later, the 2013 Hyundai Sonata remains radically different than most other mid-size sedans, with an intriguing blend of crests and curves that set it far apart from the rather bland look of the Passat and Camry.

While fluidic sculpture is used throughout Hyundai's model line, it's at its best in Hyundai's sedans, where there's lots of movement implied in the side view and the upkick of the prominent side crease. In the grille we can see some of the “wave” look of the latest Infinitis, while at the rear of the roofline and across the tail, it's clearly an homage to the Audi A6. The point at the side mirrors where five different panels join up is a noticeable wart—Hyundai did better here in applying its design ethic to the smaller Elantra—and to some people there will be a few too many pieces of glimmering chrome brightwork.

Inside, the design is either cutting-edge or a little out there, depending on how you see it. There's dramatic sculpturing across the dash and even on the steering wheel, and just as in pretty much every other new Hyundai there are angled vents that flank a big LCD screen atop the dash. But it's functional; you'll find an iconographic representation of a person for the climate controls and door trim that flows in well-coordinated fashion into the dash—all aspects we appreciate. We prefer the metallic trim to the woodgrain on beige-interior cars, which looks out of place in the swoopy Sonata.

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2013 Hyundai Sonata

Performance

The Sonata has strong, refined, and economical powertrains, but driving enthusiasts won't love the steering.

The 2013 Hyundai Sonata offers a full roster of direct-injection four-cylinder powertrains that altogether are powerful yet fuel-efficient. There's no V-6 option, but odds are you won't miss it.

On base-model Sonatas—and on most of the model line, really—is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, making up to 200 horsepower. That's mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The manual-gearbox version has been dropped for 2013; luckily, the automatic is perfectly appropriate for the class, and is a responsive, seamless gearchanger. The front-wheel-drive Sonata feels very perky with this engine, and stronger than most other mid-size sedans in base guise. It's a few hundred pounds lighter than several of its rival models, which adds to that impression, and its 35-mpg EPA highway rating stands to sweeten the impression.

Step up to the 2.0T model and you get a somewhat smaller 2.0-liter engine with a twin-scroll turbocharger, providing 274 horsepower. Its 269 lb-ft arrives low in the power band, which thankfully helps this engine work very well with the automatic transmission (the only way to get it) and largely skips the turbo lag completely; although it doesn't feel as instantly responsive as a V-6, it beats some V-6 models in flat-out acceleration. This model comes with shift paddles, too, and is intended as the more economical parallel to upscale V-6 models.

The third powertrain option comes in the 2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. With it you get a 2.4-liter four with electric motors and a lithium-polymer battery pack, plus a high threshold that lets the Sonata Hybrid run on battery power alone at highway speeds. Hyundai says this version will hit 60 mph in 9.2 seconds, well within the acceptable range for a family sedan, while delivering gas mileage of 36/40 mpg. Unlike most full hybrids, like the Ford Fusion Hybrid or Toyota Camry Hybrid, the Sonata Hybrid uses a conventional automatic transmission to change gears. Over a few driving experiences now we've found the pre-2013 Sonata Hybrid's powertrain to lack the smooth transitions of these rivals, though, with some lumpy transitions between gas-electric and electric-only modes. We'll update this review once we've been able to obtain a 2013 Sonata Hybrid and to evaluate its updated drivetrain.

Overall, ride and handling in the 2013 Sonata are unremarkable—and adequate for most family needs. Driving enthusiasts are bound to be a little let down by the steering response, which could use some more feedback and tends to wander and need frequent adjustments on some highway surfaces. Most of the model line is damped rather firmly but sprung softly—for crisp response in the parking lot, but not at the ragged edge, on a mountain road. Also, beware that the Sonata SE gets monotube shocks and 19-inch wheels that don't enhance handling all that much but can contribute to ride harshness. .

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2013 Hyundai Sonata

Comfort & Quality

With comfortable seating and plenty of storage spaces, along with impressive materials, it's hard to find fault with the cabin appointments.

With 120 cubic feet of interior and trunk space and dimensions that place it as one of the larger mid-size sedans, the 2013 Hyundai Sonata promises—and delivers—plenty of seating comfort and family usability.

Considering the Sonata's exterior size, it's probably no surprise that there's plenty of space for adults in back as well as in front. The back seat sits at a good angle of recline, with enough headroom for all but the tallest passengers, and there's decent legroom. The only exception is brought about by the smoothly arcing roofline—getting in and out for some of the tallest passengers will require that to duck their head when getting in or out. Front-seat lower cushions are a bit on the firm-and-flat side—they tend to look better-bolstered than they are.

Both of the upholstery options are pleasing, but we like the textured fabric, and its soft-but-rugged sportswear feel, a bit better than the heavily processed leather--and it serves to help hold you in place.

Trunk space is abundant; with 16.4 cubic feet, the trunk is as large as that of any rivals, practically speaking, and you can tap into more space by flipping the rear seatbacks forward. A deep center console and glovebox hide valuable goods, and there's a nook near the audio controls for cellphones, a flat open bin in front of it for clutter, and a bin hidden behind a flip-down lid to conceal other goods, like a radar detector. Details like coat hooks, dual power points, and eight cupholders cover the rest of the bases, whether doing the daily commute or taking the family to Wally World.

Compared to other mid-size sedans, the Sonata's ride quality tends to be quite firm; but road noise is well isolated. Those who live around a lot of potholes will probably want to steer clear of the SE model, as its monotube shocks and 19-inch wheels do add some harshness.

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2013 Hyundai Sonata

Safety

This is about as good as it gets; the Sonata has earned excellent safety and crash-test ratings.

The 2013 Hyundai Sonata has solid safety credentials, and should offer peace of mind to busy parents or those who want to assure the safety of themselves and their loved ones.

In previous model years, the Sonata was named a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)--meaning it's earned top 'good' scores in all test categories, including (rollover-related) roof strength. The only down side is that in the new IIHS small overlap frontal test the Sonata achieves a rating of just 'marginal.' But the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) has already extended its results to 2013—impressive, with five stars in all categories but side impact.

Standard safety equipment on the Sonata is extensive, as it is for pretty much every mid-size sedan today, and includes dual front, side, curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control; and active headrests. In top trim levels of the Sonata, a rearview camera is available.

We appreciate how Hyundai has placed smaller side windows at the back of the cabin; while they don't really aid rear passengers' view out, they do aid outward visibility for the driver in some cases.

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2013 Hyundai Sonata

Features

Hyundai adds even more standard-feature content to the Sonata for 2013.

Among mid-size sedan, the 2013 Hyundai Sonata is one of the lower-priced models, at a base price of just $21,670. Yet the feature list is impressive; Bluetooth, a USB port, power accessories, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, and cruise control are all included.

Paddle shifters, a sport-tuned suspension, and some slight trim differences differentiate the Sonata SE—and for 2013, heated seats have been added as standard on the SE. Both the Sonata SE and Sonata Limited have parking sensors and push-button start. The Limited also gets standard heated front and rear seats; a sunroof; a backup camera; automatic climate control; and an automatic dimming rearview mirror. A standard-sized sunroof is now included in Limited models, too, while a larger panoramic sunroof (moonroof) is offered as an option, part of a Premium Package.

As with most Hyundai vehicles, there are a limited number of ways that you can equip a Sonata, and that helps in a number of ways—making it simpler at the factory, simpler for dealers, and helping to lower costs. So there are only a few package upgrades for each model. The base GLS can be upgraded with a Popular Equipment Package to include a power driver seat and alloy wheels, and for 2013 this package now also includes fog lamps and heated seats. As such, Hyundai points out that the Sonata includes many more features than a comparably priced Toyota Camry LE or Honda Accord LX Premium—at a somewhat lower price.

The SE’s options include a nicely executed navigation system packaged with a sunroof. A “Dimension” speaker package is available as an upgrade. The Sonata Limited adds on a CD changer and HD Radio, and can be equipped with an Infinity 400-watt audio system, bundled with the touchscreen-driven navigation system and the rearview camera.

The Sonata's navigation system is particularly easy to use, with one of the more pleasant displays and interfaces. XM NavTraffic and Bluetooth streaming audio are included, as well as 8GB of flash memory for music storage. In prior model years we've noticed a few glitches with the sound system, dealing mostly with how it plays media from phones or iPods.

Last year marked the debut of Hyundai's Blue Link telematics system in the Sonata. Just as with GM's OnStar setup, Blue Link uses live operators to field information and provide directions and answers, while also connecting the car via streaming data to the Web, which allows it to find destinations newer than the ones provided on its hard-drive-based GPS maps. There are a few different Blue Link packages, with tiered pricing.

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2013 Hyundai Sonata

Fuel Economy

The 2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is a fuel-efficiency standout—and that's on top of the base Sonata's 35-mpg highway rating.

With new models for 2013 like the Ford Fusion EcoBoost and the Chevrolet Malibu Eco, higher mileage ratings are no longer the exclusive domain of the Sonata, but in its most popular form, it remains a standout with 35 mpg highway.

The EPA gives the entry-level Sonata 24/35 mpg with the six-speed automatic. Add on a turbocharger to the automatic-equipped car, and the resulting Sonata 2.0T gets a rating of 22/33 mpg.

The Sonata Hybrid, meanwhile, has been significantly revamped to improve driving feel and fuel economy. It's now rated slightly higher for EPA mileage, at 36/40 mpg or 38 mpg combined. It also has better packaging for its batteries, freeing up another cubic foot of space in the trunk. We'll report back when we've had a chance to drive the latest Sonata Hybrid, and to judge whether its hybrid integration has smoothed out enough for us to recommend it.

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January 21, 2016
2013 Hyundai Sonata 4-Door Sedan 2.0T Automatic Limited

Very good power, excellent handling yet mileage on the highway @75mph is always @ 30mpg or higher. Would get better mileage in town except I have a heavy foot with the turbo engine.

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Great warranty, great styling. Wife likes the glass roof. Comfortable road car too. Just finished a 2600 mile trip, heated and cooled seats along with XM radio helped make the trip very pleasant! Stock 18"... + More »
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October 23, 2015
2013 Hyundai Sonata 4-Door Sedan 2.4L Automatic SE

Love the ride but frustrate with technical issues

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Im frustrate with the sensory features. Always on low tire pressure, even after factory teach work on it. Brakes keep clutching when you step to stop. inside light can't stay on automatic.
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May 9, 2015
2013 Hyundai Sonata 4-Door Sedan 2.0T Automatic Limited

Very Good car 4 the money but needs improvements all over !

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Fantastic performance but needs much better handling,front suspension & tires to over come its very powerful engine a little too powerful. Maybe that's why the 2015 use a smaller engine that is less powerful... + More »
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April 28, 2015
2013 Hyundai Sonata 4-Door Sedan 2.4L Automatic Limited PZEV

Good for the money

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Good car for the money spent,but you get what you pay for.Engine Noise,some interior buzz and rattles. Good highway gas mileage avg 35 mpg.Very stylish, handsome interior design.
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April 28, 2015
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Hyundai Sonata

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The gas mileage was not what they advertised--not really good in city, better on highway.
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April 20, 2015
For 2013 Hyundai Sonata

Great car!!

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Great looking and handling car. Has the performance you would expect from a 6 cylinder, but does it with a 4 cylinder. Hard to keep to a reasonable speed on the highway, as performance and handling are so... + More »
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April 10, 2015
For 2013 Hyundai Sonata

Good value. No issues. Only irritant is that the interior is noisier that I would like. Great styling. Drives well. Visibility limited due to the styling other than that we are satisfied

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Good car for the money. Good value. Have not had any problems. Now have 55000k
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January 19, 2015
For 2013 Hyundai Sonata

great car well worth the money

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Haven't had any problems. Great on gas when on Eco . comfortable to drive
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