2018 Hyundai Sonata Preview

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The 2018 Hyundai Sonata sees some mild, but noteworthy improvements.

The 2018 Hyundai Sonata is a mid-size sedan that competes against some of the car industry's best and brightest—but with a new look, an upgraded transmission, and additional available technology, the Sonata brings more to the table this year.

The Sonata isn't new for 2018, but it's a pretty thorough update of a model that was most recently redesigned for the 2015 model year. Starting with the base Hyundai Sonata SE model, the range extends all the way up to the Hyundai Sonata Limited—but there are stops in between with the Sonata SEL, a Sonata Sport with a unique appearance and even an Sonata Eco model for fuel efficiency.

Its look is a little cleaner outside, with new LED daytime running lights up front integrated into a more sculpted front bumper. A special grille treatment is included on Sport models to help them stand out a bit, but models such as the mid-grade Sonata SEL miss that treatment. At the new Sonata's rear, the differences are more notable. Its taillights appear almost as though they've been carved into its tailgate and the short rear decklid imparts something of a fastback look. Revised 16-, 17-, and 18-inch alloy wheels are available depending on the trim level. 

As a follow-up to the 2015 Sonata, which wasn't nearly as dramatic as its 2011 predecessor, the latest sedan is starting to get some of its swagger back. 

Inside, you'll have to dig a bit further to spot the differences beyond some new trim bits and a revised steering wheel, but they're there. A standard 7.0-inch touchscreen  takes center stage with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A Qi wireless charging pad has been added to the options list and there's now an additional USB port to offer back seat passengers a charging point. Hyundai even includes Amazon Echo and Google Home integration to keep owners connected to devices back home.

The Sonata's optional navigation system now includes a surround-view camera system and features HD Radio-based traffic data.  

But the Sonata remains as roomy and comfortable as before, even if it's a little light on visual flair compared to some rivals such as the Kia Optima and the Toyota Camry. The Sonata's dashboard features more buttons than some rivals with infotainment screens that absorb many basic functions with icons, a worthwhile convenience feature. There's plenty of stretch-out room for four passengers and a decently large trunk, too.

The Sonata remains available with naturally aspirated and turbocharged 4-cylinder engines. Most models feature a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder that's largely carried over from last year. It's a quick-revving 185-horsepower unit that sends power to the front wheels via a 6-speed automatic.

The optional 2.0-liter turbo-4 boasts 245 hp and is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission instead of last year's 6-speed, while the Sonata Eco is offered only with a 1.6-liter turbo-4 paired to a 7-speed automatic.

Hyundai said it has tweaked the Sonata's suspension to provide better handling and an improved ride and it makes special note of a beefed up steering setup that should deliver improved precision on a curvy road. 

Some versions of the Sonata have already been rated using the EPA's fuel economy test: the entry-level Sonata SE checks in at 25 mpg city, 36 highway, 29 combined, while other 4-cylinder non-turbo models are rated at 25/35/28 mpg. The 2.0-liter turbo is rated at 23/32/26 mpg, but the 1.6-liter's numbers aren't out yet.

Hyundai has announced that the Sonata will start at a hair under $23,000 and top out about $10,000 higher with every option selected.

On the safety front, the Sonata adds for 2018 blind-spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alert to a roster of equipment that includes seven airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability control. It will be available with automatic emergency braking as an option, but a lane departure warning system that can nudge the vehicle back into its lane is a new extra-cost option.

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