Compared to the bold last-generation Sonata, the 2016 model is arguably classier and more sophisticated but more conservative. Many have criticized the new design for being too bland, but we feel it might age more gracefully than the innovative 2011-2014 Sonata. It's less busy overall, with fewer surfaces crashing up against each other, and no more awkward cutlines.
The look is derived from Hyundai's latest design theme, which was first seen on the 2015 Genesis. It lacks a bit of the exuberance that the last Sonata had and the Genesis manages to achieve as well. The "sabre" line still gives the Sonata wide shoulders, but it doesn't dive for the front wheels anymore. Instead, it's a straight shot down the body. Horizontal lines everywhere calm down the shape, from the rear lip spoiler and its chrome surround, to the dual exhaust and its bright tips, to the bend at the bottom of the decklid that takes some heft out of the rear end. It's closer to the invisible ideal of the modern family sedan.
The Sonata Sport is the visual standout of the lineup, with its distinctive front-end appearance, side rocker extensions, and added chrome body-side molding. Sport 2.0T models get an additional rear bumper fascia and quad exhaust tips, with showy 18-inch alloy wheels.
Inside, the cabin is mostly trimmed in a good grade of plastic and leather. The printed wood-grain pieces aren't convincing, but the textured looks meant to mimic carbon fiber and aluminum do a fine job of dressing up a somewhat sober den.
The Sonata features horizontal lines on the dashboard, with controls grouped in distinct zones. The center screen's framed off inside a trapezoid that looks utterly German, and the stack is rich with knobs and buttons. It's a formal appearance, and a bit like the design used in the closely related Kia Optima. The steering wheel has a sporty look, and the 2.0T models get an even sportier flat-bottom steering wheel.