- Sleek, fashionable design
- Good value for the money
- Safety ratings
- Firm, flat seats
- Ride harshness (SE)
- Steering (Is it any better?)
The 2014 Hyundai Sonata remains one of the best buys among mid-size sedans--although with so many much-improved rival models, it's no longer such a standout.
Before the current Hyundai Sonata went on sale in 2011, it was mired in anonymity. Even though it had excellent reliability and a tidy, clean design inside and out, it wasn't even on the shopping lists of hundreds of thousands of family-sedan buyers. That all changed with the 2011 redesign, which brought in "fluidic sculpture" design that dramatically changed the Sonata's fortunes.
Now for 2014, those rivals have all caught up, with their own radical redesigns (just look at the Ford Fusion or Mazda 6), upgraded feature lists, and more fuel-efficient powertrains everywhere. Does the refreshed 2014 Hyundai Sonata still stand out from the crowd?
Hyundai hasn't made revolutionary changes to the 2014 Sonata, but it's freshened the look, which is now an evolved version of the graceful, swoopy Fluidic Sculpture that originally worked wonders. On the outside, a retouched grille is the biggest news—it's a little softer, and more 'flowing,' while a resculpted air intake helps emphasize the car's width a bit more, perhaps. In back there are some even more subtle changes, while the entire lineup gets new wheels, while optional HID headlamps and taillights help sharpen the look of it all. Inside, SE and Limited models get a new full-leather steering wheel, and trims have been upgraded. And if you're looking at the sporty SE model, that's changed most of all, with its new body-colored spoiler on the outside, carbon-fiber interior trim, and sport-tuned exhaust (2.0T).
Looks aside, what's under the hood of the Hyundai Sonata is what has allowed it to race toward the front of the class. A V-6 option is nowhere to be seen here; instead there's a lineup of direct-injection four-cylinder engines, and up to 35 mpg in base form. Most Sonatas still have a 190-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, with a six-speed automatic transmission, and we've found this combination to be quite smooth and responsive enough for the task. Step up to the 2.0T model and you get a somewhat smaller 274-hp, 2.0-liter engine with a twin-scroll turbocharger. This engine also works well with the automatic--especially since its turbo skips the lag and churns out V-6-like torque without needing to rev high.
The only letdown in the past has been that the Sonata's steering and handling isn't quite up to the best class rivals. And Hyundai has made moves to fix that for 2014--with three modes for the electric power steering, a retuned suspension, and more sound insulation underneath to help keep road noise out.
The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid will essentially carry over to 2014; it uses a single electric motor, sandwiched between a 2.4-liter engine and modified six-speed automatic transmission, with a lithium-polymer battery pack storing excess energy, to power the car on electricity alone or to assist the engine with more torque. This is a full hybrid--meaning that it can run easily at low speeds on electric power alone--and since Hyundai reengineered and retuned this system for 2013 (for a rated 36 mpg city) we can vouch for its smoother operation and better transitions.
The cabin of the Sonata is quite spacious and comfortable, and there's soaring headroom and abundant legroom; although as in other swoopy sedan designs we've found getting in and out to be a little compromised (it requires a 'duck' of the head for adults). With ride quality slated to improve (we'll update you soon with extensive observations), look for an improved ambiance and better highway comfort.
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.
The Sonata has been one of the best-equipped mid-size sedans in model years past, but the rivals have mostly caught up in this respect. That said, 2014 Sonata SE and Limited models get a new full-leather steering wheel, a touch-screen system with rearview camera, HD Radio, an LED dome light, and a Supervision gauge cluster, and top Limited models include standard Blind Spot Detection (optional on the SE), full automatic climate control, and a ventilated driver's seat.
Upscale versions with the available navigation system now get a big eight-inch touch screen; but the rearview camera system and driver's blind-spot mirror are now both included in the SE and Limited, and as part of the Popular Equipment Package that's available on the Sonata GLS. Additionally, Blind Spot Detection is now part of the Premium Package on the SE.
All the changes to the 2014 Sonata should add up to a car that will look just a bit different but could drive considerably better than the outgoing model. Check back soon, as we'll update this with driving impressions and up-close observations on this refreshed Sonata.