Skip to main content

2015 Hyundai Sonata: A Refined Entry In A Crowded Segment

The Various Trim Levels

Hyundai offers five different configurations of the new Sonata, with a single drivetrain choice per trim. The beauty of this is that you’re more likely to find the car you want on a dealership lot since you only have the SE, Sport, Eco, Limited and Sport 2.0t to pick between. Sure, there are a couple of option packages. But Hyundai keeps the ordering process simple, unlike other vehicles in the same class that come in a handful of trim levels, each with two or three drivetrain combinations and additional options that make it difficult to find the exact build you desire.

Our focus on this page is the major differences between standard SE, Sport, Eco and Limited, compared to the Sport 2.0t. Visually, the Sport models feature more aggressive styling that includes a lower front bumper insert, dual or quad exhaust (depending on your motor of choice) and added chrome side molding. I’m not sure how adding chrome augments the sporting look, but to each their own. Unfortunately, the standard Sonata Sport with the base 2.4-liter engine only receives exterior enhancements. Hyundai wants buyers to step up to the Sport 2.0t if they really want a performance model.

The major difference between the regular and Sport 2.0t model is the type of power steering system employed. SE, Sport, Eco and Limited trims utilize an improved motor-driven power steering, or MDPS, which is known as electric power steering. On the standard models, the motor is mounted on the steering column shaft. Hyundai improves the previous-gen Sonata by giving the steering system ECU more computing power with a bump from 16-bit processing to 32-bit. We drove a Sonata Limited with the standard steering rack and found it better than a Toyota Camry, but not quite as responsive as the Mazda 6. There’s also a very small delay when you try to move the car back and forth between the lane edges quickly. It’s not something you notice on a normal commute, but definitely perceptible to driving enthusiasts.

Sport 2.0t trim levels get MDPS, but it’s a completely different rack. Unlike the less sporting trims, this model has its power steering motor mounted on the pinion rack instead of the steering column shaft. Hyundai promises a more direct steering feel and greater high-speed stability. I indeed found the Sport 2.0t a lot more responsive. The delay I noticed on the more mainstream trims was absent on the Sport 2.0t. Coupled with the tuned suspension, the Sonata Sport 2.0t responds fairly well to aggression. It’s not as communicative as a Mazda 6, but it's certainly sportier than the Sonata Limited, even as it maintains a comfortable ride.

Hyundai equips the Sport 2.0t with a couple of exclusive interior bits, too. Buyers who opt for the Sonata Sport 2.0t are greeted with comfortable leather seats, exclusive gauges, aluminum pedals and faux carbon fiber interior trim. If you pick Phantom Black, Quartz White Pearl or Urban Sunset as your choice of paint, there’s an option to have a black interior with orange piping and stitching.

The best interior upgrade to the Sport 2.0t is the flat-bottom steering wheel. The Sonata isn’t a race car, even in Sport 2.0t guise, but I love flat-bottom wheels. Kudos to Hyundai for giving the Sonata Sport 2.0t that one extra touch that lets customers believe their mid-size family sedan is a sports car every time they jump into the cockpit.