The Hyundai Sonata has emerged from mild cosmetic surgery and chiropractic work on its suspension and steering feeling quite refreshed for the 2018 model year.
The "refresh" is autospeak for a midcycle tweaking of the vehicle's body and mechanicals intended to spur interest for the rest of the model run. As was the case with Hyundai's popular — and popularly priced — midsize sedan, it typically includes restyling the front end, reworking the interior, and revising the suspension and steering.
In the case of the 2018 Sonata, however, the changes in the model landscape have been much more profound. In addition to the usual tweakadoos, a number of new models are being added to the menu. A fresh Eco model has come aboard, and a hybrid and plug-in will join the crew early this year.
There's also a new, eight-speed automatic gearbox, available only on the turbo model. (The test car, fitted with the base, normally aspirated engine, uses the carryover six-speed automatic, which is a nice transmission.)
The new front-end design is a bit less conservative than its predecessor and is certainly attractive enough. But it didn't do as good a job of purloining the signature Aston Martin grille as Ford did.
The rest of this sedan's exterior is right on the money, with a sloping roof line that evokes the stylishness of a coupe without making tall people have to crouch in the backseat. (I've been in enough head-bumping, coupe-like sedans to appreciate that.)
The reworked interior of the Sonata is attractive, but perhaps a bit more staid than the exterior. There's a significant amount of hard plastic on the interior surfaces, but soft-touch material covers most the places where contact occurs.
From a driver's standpoint, there was little to dislike in the tester's cabin. The seats, trimmed with solid and perforated gray leather, were comfortable and supportive. The instruments and controls were quite accessible, and the infotainment system was about as easy to use as they get. It was quite ready to respond to touch and voice commands, and the standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration let your mobile phone act as an infotainment system.
Thanks to a big windshield and generous side windows, the visibility in this car is superb.
The cabin's roominess is a boon to all who enter. The rear seat's headroom is matched by the copious leg room. Also, the Sonata boasts quietude and ride comfort.
And then there's the cavernous, 16.3-cubic-foot trunk, which you could rent out to a small family for extra money.
The car's performance is certainly decent for a family sedan. The handling is quite competent. The base engine I found in the tester, a 2.4-liter, 185-horsepower four, was adequate, if not pulse-raising. But then again, you are getting EPA mileage ratings of 25 city and 35 highway in a roomy family sedan.
From a performance standpoint, I'm sure I would have preferred the torque-rich, 245-horse turbo. But would I have preferred the elevated price tag? The upmarket Limited model with the base engine that I drove stickered at $27,400. The Limited turbo, with its increased manufacturing complexity and additional standard equipment weighed in at over $5,000 more.
Clearly, the Sonata is a pretty good value story. The base SE model, which starts at $22,050, has a standard equipment list that includes Bluetooth connectivity, a rear camera, 16-inch alloy wheels, a seven-inch touch screen, blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic alert.
The Sonata also managed a top overall government safety rating of five stars.