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2015 Hyundai Sonata: A Refined Entry In A Crowded Segment

Three Motor Options

When Hyundai debuted the last-gen Sonata, it was the first company to swap the optional V6 for a turbocharged four-cylinder in a U.S. market mid-sized sedan. Hyundai continues to offer a trio of four-cylinder engines this time around, with better tuning for improved drivability.

The 2.4-liter Theta II remains the Sonata's standard motor, but power delivery changes. While the last generation made 190hp at 6300RPM and 179lb-ft of torque at 4250 RPM, the new Sonata achieves 185hp at a lower 6000RPM and 178lb-ft at 4000 RPM. Going by the numbers, Hyundai's latest is down five horses. However, the tuning effort improves the power band for more low-end grunt, which I believe makes it better for daily driving.

Optional is the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 245hp at 6000 RPM and 260lb-ft at 1350 RPM. This is down quite a bit from the previous generation’s 274hp at 6000 RPM. But peak numbers can be deceiving, since maximum torque on the new Sonata hits 300RPM sooner and remains flat between 1350 to 4000RPM. Hyundai manages this by swapping out a single-scroll turbo in favor of a twin-scroll unit to minimize lag. The turbocharged motor is only available in the Sport 2.0t trim level.

Both motors are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The Sport 2.0t trim level gets steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters for more enthusiastic driving.

The last motor option is the 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that comes on the Eco model. This motor made its debut in the more performance-minded Veloster Turbo, but is tuned for better fuel economy in the Sonata. Early estimates from Hyundai put that engine's power around 177hp at 5500RPM and 195lb-ft at 1500 to 4000RPM. It's mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, which Hyundai likes to point out is a first in the mid-size segment.

Fuel economy for the standard 2.4-liter is 25/37/29 MPG for city/highway/combined on the SE trim level and 24/35/28 MPG on heavier trim levels. Opting for the performance-minded turbo brings fuel economy down to 23/32/26 MPG, while the fuel-sipping Eco is estimated around 28/38/32MPG. The fuel economy numbers are quite respectable among its competition, albeit not top-of-the-class.

Personally, I think the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine is the best of the three. While the 2.4-liter option delivers adequate motivation for daily driving and highway cruising, the 1.6-liter motor has much more low-end torque to make the car really scoot. The most powerful powerplant is very smooth, but it doesn’t feel like it offers enough of an improvement over the base 2.4-liter in normal driving to justify the additional cost.