Only a few weeks separated my week with the Hyundai Sonata Sport – equipped with the company’s turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder – and its sister model, the Kia Optima. Both cars seem hardy enough to do battle in the cutthroat midsize sedan class, but it was interesting to see how Kia and Hyundai have done very different things with a similar toolkit.
- You can have the Sonata with three different engines under the hood – a 1.6T, a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter four, and this 2.0T – but this turbo’d unit is definitely the most engaging. At 245 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, it’s a proper V6-replacement engine (though turbo fours are replacing V6s at a blinding rate). As you’d expect, the torque comes on strong for great initial acceleration and works seamlessly with the six-speed automatic. Here is proof that you don’t need a dual-clutch transmission or lots of gear ratios for a good-to-use transmission.
- Even though the Optima looks a lot sportier than this Sonata (a model redesigned in 2015), I’ll give the Hyundai the nod in terms of driving character. The cabin is quiet and the ride composed, and there’s more feeling from the road and firmness in cornering in the Sonata driving experience.
- The Sport 2.0T trim level (base price of $28,925) leaves little to be desired in the way of creature comforts. Heated front seats and dual-zone climate control make this Sonata a winner for winter (even if it is missing the extra-hot heated steering wheel of the Optima), and the HID headlights and 18-inch wheels give the car a premium appearance from curbside.
- Not for nothing, but the 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty is still responsible for selling a lot of Hyundais, and with good reason. The same case can be made for the Optima, of course.
- I like to think that I’m the kind of car reviewer that can go way deeper than the exterior sheet metal. But there’s an element of eyeball that goes into every gut reaction; and the fact is that the updated Sonata is less good looking than its Kia cousin. From the outside this could easily be the Ford Fusion design that didn’t make it, and inside the plastics and flat surfaces just come off as cheap. The functionality is fine, but there’s a kind of an unintentional ‘retro’ vibe to the decor that I either don’t get, or simply don’t like.
- The Sonata Sport 2.0T is nearly $30,000 as-tested. I understand that, these days, that’s not an unreasonable amount for the segment. But the truth is you can have similar equipment levels, along with all-wheel drive, if you spend the same cash on a Subaru Legacy. Or, you can have a much nicer cabin from Mazda or in the new Chevy Malibu.
- Hyundai’s own smaller displacement turbo engine option is a reason to pause, at least, on the Sport version. Yes, I love the effect of the 2.0T at red lights and while merging, but the little brother 1.6T is plenty capable (at least it doesn’t feel like a penalty engine), and offers killer fuel economy. The Sport’s EPA rated mile-per-gallon numbers are 23 / 32 / 26, city / highway / combined, where the 1.6T-powered Eco trim jumps up to 28 / 38 / 32.
- Chevy Malibu
- Chrysler 200
- Ford Fusion
- Honda Accord
- Kia Optima
- Nissan Altima
- Toyota Camry
- Volkswagen Passat
|Engine||Turbocharged 2.0L I4|
|Output||245 Horsepower / 260 Pound-Feet|
|EPA Fuel Economy||23 City / 32 Highway / 26 Combined|
|Cargo Volume||16.3 Cubic Feet|