By on April 12, 2017

2018 Hyundai Sonata range – Image: Hyundai

Whether you loved it or hated it, the sixth-generation Hyundai Sonata that debuted at 2009’s Los Angeles auto show captured your attention.

In fact, that 2010-2014 Hyundai Sonata changed the way many automakers approached the midsize sedan segment, and it changed the way many buyers perceived the midsize sedan segment.

The 2015 Hyundai Sonata did not capture your attention. Sure, Hyundai built a better car with the seventh-generation Sonata, but Hyundai played it safe.

Now, at the 2017 New York International Auto Show, Hyundai reveals a refreshed seventh-generation Sonata. On a mission to capture the attention of midsize car buyers before they flee sedans in search of more flexible Tucsons and Santa Fe Sports, the 2018 Hyundai Sonata adopts the conservatively handsome Hyundai Elantra’s face.

Sonata sales tumbled to a six-year U.S. sales low in calendar year 2016. Through the first-quarter of 2017, Sonata volume is off last year’s disappointing pace by 38 percent.

Don’t blame the segment’s decline alone. Midsize car sales aren’t fading nearly that fast.

2018 Hyundai Sonata - Image: Hyundai

For 2018, Hyundai promises a better car. This is more than just a cascading grille slapped on to the face of a 2017 Sonata. Hyundai says ride and handling will be improved because “talented engineers increased the torsion bar stiffness within the steering system by 12 percent.”

Thank goodness Hyundai used the talented engineers. Untalented engineers would only have produced an 11-percent difference.

Overall, the steering is recalibrated for superior responsiveness and on-center feel.

2018 Hyundai Sonata rear - Image: Hyundai

The rear suspension is altered, too, with thicker trailing arms and new bushings for more nimble handling, Hyundai says.

Underhood, Hyundai increased the power in the optional 2.0-liter turbocharged engine. Horsepower rises to 245, and the 2.0T is now linked to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

2018 Hyundai Sonata interior - Image: Hyundai

In the safety department, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert will be standard across the 2018 Sonata range.

Entering its fourth model year, the updated Sonata will have a real fight on its hands. The best-selling Toyota Camry is all-new for 2018. We also expect to soon see new versions of the Camry’s top-selling rivals, the Nissan Altima and Honda Accord.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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42 Comments on “2017 NYIAS: 2018 Hyundai Sonata Borrows the New Elantra’s Face As Buyers Flee...”


  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Hyundai’s biggest problem with the Sonata is that it has to appeal to American buyers who like stylish, flashy cars, and the Korean home market which likes stately, sedate rides. Can’t really do both in the same car, so the Sonata tends to flip back and forth on generation updates.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    FWIW the fish-faced Sonata had it’s first model year in 2011, not 2010.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    That 2011 Sonata is when I really remember seeing Hyundai take off in the area I’m living in. Suddenly they were everywhere being driven by people who had never had Hyundais before. The current generation mostly seemed to be driven by people who “I loved my first Sonata, I should by another one.”

    • 0 avatar
      quaquaqua

      This is partially true, but I think a lot of those people have just downsized to Elantras. I mean, the Elantra similarly got a bland redesign recently, and sales have shot up by nearly the same margin Sonata sales have fallen. Even though most reviews say the Elantra is actually not a step up from the previous model. So why is the Elantra reaping the benefits of a bland redesign, but the Sonata isn’t? That’s what’s confusing me.

      • 0 avatar
        Raevox

        Most reviews I have read, do call it a step up from the previous model. -And the more reviews (C&D being the most recent) there are about the Elantra Sport, the more attention it seems to be getting, and the more it’s regarded as a pretty decent contender.

        I’ve had a 2015 Elantra rental, and I purchased a 2017 Elantra V.E., and it is much better.

        I’ve gotten many compliments on my “Korean crapbox”. Inside and out. Handsome car. Especially for the price I paid for it.

        Most comparisons put it somewhere around mid-pack, or slightly above, because they ding it for technicalities such as the NA engine, beam axle out back, and suspension tuning more on the “comfort” side.

  • avatar
    highdesertcat

    They were off to a good start some time ago and were a viable alternative buy to Toyota, Honda and Nissan.

    But no more.

    Our local Hyundai/Ford dealer doesn’t keep much Hyundai in stock because they don’t move many. Instead of a Sonata they’ll now try to upsell you to a Fusion.

    I thought their old HyundaiV6 models were pretty decent, but then they decided to get fancy with those overrated and overhyped, hyperventilating squirrel 4s.

    Add to that the home-unions sabotaging production with strikes, fights and no QC, and there you have it!

    Buyers fleeing.

    No doubt we’ll be seeing lay-offs in Montgomery next.

    • 0 avatar
      quaquaqua

      Wait, so it’s fine when the Fusion sells its cars with overrated turbo 4s, but it’s not when the Sonata does? Or is this just another old man tirade of yours? Cuz the two lowest engines in the Fusion (the ancient 2.5L and the explodes-into-fire 1.6L turbo) are FAR slower than anything in the Sonata.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Dude, I’m not a fan of squirrel engines. Currently own two 5.7L Toyota V8s and a Camry V6.

        The only thing Ford I would buy would be an SD or HD, if I needed anything huskier than the half-ton Tundra.

        I just hate to see Hyundai go down the tubes because they employ a lot of Americans, in a clean, modern and safe American plant.

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      I bought a 2015 Sonata. I think it has the best engine of any Daily Driver I’ve ever had.

      Peak torque at 1400 RPM? Thats pretty much idling speed. Drives beautifully, WAY BETTER than the domestic 2.0ts.

      In fact I know multiple BMW drivers that have stated to me that its tuned like a BMW, and I agree.

      I have a Ferrari, a Porsche, a Ford, and a Jeep. I love the Sonata. I can’t believe I bought a “Hyundai”, but after test driving a whole bunch of cars, I traded in my cadillac CTS for a Hyundai Sonata.

      No Question the Engine/Trans combo is better in the sonata than even the G80. In fact I went to test drive the G80, but the engine/trans combo was so bad I mocked it an the salesperson told me to get in the sonata.

      I love the sonata, but I guess no one else does. That might be why I love it. Its freaking huge, with more rear leg room behind the driver than a Ford Taurus, a Hyundai Azera, or a Mazda 6, and matching a Cadillac XTS. I cross Shopped an XTS V-Sport with the Sonata and decided the Sonata drove better… how crazy is that?

      Not trying to make anyone else “Believe” in the sonata, but to call the engine an overrated, overhyped, hyperventilating squirrel is a bit unfair. The 2.0t is a damn good motor with strong torque through the entire Daily-driving range. its not going to win you a race, but for daily driving, I could not ask for a better motor.

      And it gets over 30 MPG. Seriously better responsiveness and a better motor than my cadillac CTS, AND better fuel economy, and frankly all the same bells and whistles.

      Try one out before you bash it too much.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        ” I guess no one else does.”

        That was the conclusion of this article. I’m not bashing Hyundai. They were one hell of a competitor for Toyota, Honda and Nissan. Worried the execs at Toyota.

        I even bought a 2011 Elantra from them.

        But things have changed. Times have changed.

        Buyers have voted with their feet, and their wallets.

      • 0 avatar
        ShoogyBee

        This is good to know. A nearby dealer is selling the base Sport 2.0T for around $20K after the $6000 cash back. That’s a helluva deal for a Sonata that stickers for almost $28K. I might have to check it out.

      • 0 avatar
        Zero Cool

        Wait wait, what, you cross shopped a Sonata with a freaking XTS let alone a damn V-Sport XTS? Um, who does this? That is quite ridiculous, sir.

        In before cross-shopping a damn Toyota Camry with an S-Class or CT6. SMH

        Surely you’re not purchasing your cars new?

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      “No doubt we’ll be seeing lay-offs in Montgomery next.”

      Based on what? Do you know what else HMMA makes? Elantra’s and Santa Fe’s.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      You seem to forget that Hyundai CUT production of the Sonata at its Alabama plant to add production of the Santa Fe Sport.

      Combined sales of the Sonata/Optima are pretty much where they have been (instead of 2nd as in some years, now 3rd behind the Camry and the Accord).

      After the over-wrought design of the previous Sonata, going to the extreme the other way with the overly safe design of the current Sonata was a bad move.

      This rather significant overhaul of the sheetmetal is an improvement, but probably will have to wait for the next gen model (which will sit on a new platform) to see it (and the Optima) claw back some marketshare.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    I’m struggling to see anything dramatic that changed.

    I rented a loaded Sonata on a recent work trip and came away very underwhelmed.

    If they can change ONE thing. Just ONE…please get rid of those horrible chimes. It’s a car, not a Korean home appliance. Oh…

    • 0 avatar
      quaquaqua

      1) You can turn off the welcome chime. 2) It’s much nicer than the incessant DING. DING. DING. I hear in my Mazda6 any time I try to open a door or adjust a seat belt and I’m not in park.

      • 0 avatar
        whynot

        Be glad it is polite but incessant Dinging. My Golf starts buzzing like it on the verge of exploding if you dare open the door with the key in or car not in park.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    I don’t know what is wrong with Sonata but there is nothing wrong if you can buy $27K car for $20K. This is the current deal on it. there is simply a mountain of cash on its hood.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      And the Warranty is the best in the business.

      We had a 2011 Elantra for our grand daughter’s college years and besides wearing out tires real fast, it was totally problem-free. Until…., Pirelli. Those stopped the premature Kumho tire wear.

      It continues to do daily driver duties for the friend she sold it to after graduating.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        Pirellis! yes! I only use Pirelli tires in the last 3-4 years. Motorcycle too. while I can’t say my Brigestones wore fast, they were much more laud and harsh.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          I first started using Pirellis on my daughter’s ’96 Saturn, which came new with Firestones.

          To me it felt as if the Pirellis were “rounder” and they rolled so well on that little car.

          I suppose maybe the Pirelli sidewall and carcass were stiffer and that gave me such an illusion.

          Naturally, that excellent experience caused me to put Pirellis on my grand daughter’s Elantra.

          • 0 avatar
            slavuta

            I have 4 vehicles and I had all sorts of tires, Dunlop being the worst (when Toyota sell you a car, bargain additional $$ for upcoming tire replacement). I needed something inexpensive on my old Protege and Pirelli P4 at $45 on 14″ was a good deal. Moreover, I liked them so much I tried on other cars and they are excellent. The bad news, Chinese company purchased Pirelli – “… in 2015 by ChemChina. The company is one of the largest tyre manufacturers behind Bridgestone, Michelin, Continental and Goodyear.”

            I hope they will not lessen their quality because Michelin, for example, is not the same as used to be. Even the tire dealer I go to told me that he doesn’t like their products. He is their dealer and it is not easy to change to different sponsor, it will mean some losses to him. But he gladly orders whatever you wish from warehouse. Only he makes more when he sells Michelin. They also decorate his shop.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Thanks, I didn’t know about Pirelli having been bought by ChemChina, or about Michelin not being as good as they used to be. Sad.

            I use big fat Michelins on the Sequoia and the Tundra — they came with them from the factory. I preferred Michelins in the past for my other vehicles as well.

            For the ’89 Camry V6 I use Made-in-Japan Yokohamas. Wonderful tires for a daily driver.

            I won’t be needing new tires for a while since the Sequoia is a 2015 and the Tundra a 2016.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      One presumes they’re not going to put seven grand on the hood of the ’18s like they have on the ’17s at the moment. The lease on my ’15 is almost up, and the ’18 doesn’t have enough going for it to justify missing the deal on the ’17s, assuming its trim levels stay similar.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        No, they wouldn’t place 7 but I expect 2.5-3.5 from the start. I think, there really no reason to go for ’18 unless it really improves driveability. I didn’t drive it but my perception based on reading some materials that Sonata drives similar to Camry/Altima. No steering feel, too soft, etc. But as far looks goes, I like the way current model looks. They just had a huge engine-related recall. But guess what, Honda and Toyota also had engine recalls last year. I mean, 20G for fully loaded Sonata would sound amazing if it drove at least near Accord. But it seem doesn’t

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      I was going to be in the market in a year or 2, but this is almost too good of a deal to pass up.

  • avatar
    86er

    Those gaping maw grilles look unfinished.

  • avatar
    sckid213

    Oh dear. That back end. Anytime an automaker decides to change the trunklid to a huge expanse of sheetmetal, you know it was out of desperation and change for the sake of change.

    See: 2010 Focus; 2006 Caddy DTS

    As for sales dipping, the 2011 styling captured buyers who were used to Toyota and Honda, whose styling at the time was quite boring, and from a random sampling of friends who fit this category, they just weren’t impressed enough with the Sonata to buy another Hyundai. They went back to Toyota / Honda, or moved over to Ford or Subaru.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    The Sonata’s 2.0T already makes 245 HP from 2015 onward so there is no power increase.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    The current Sonata has always looked better in person than in pictures. I had a new Elantra rental a few weeks ago, and it was pleasant enough. Similar design on the inside as the Sonata, and I expect better materials are used in the Sonata. Not sure what else one can expect from this car at the price it sells for. It’s a good people mover.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Within the last month and a half I’ve had 3 Korean rentals: a really fresh (less than 1k miles) Optima, and more recently an Elantra and finally a Sonata. All impressed, the Hyundais in particular. Elantra cracked 43 indicated MPG on an hour long drive up to the work site, going 77mph most of the way, no real effort as far as hypermiling goes. GDI engine was a bit gruff sounding when first started up, but engine/trans were perfectly decent and refined otherwise with good power and response for the class (and especially considering the MPG). Sonata SE was more of the same, in a larger, more comfortable package. Welcome chime is laughably horrible, almost to an endearing degree. But I think we can finally say that the Koreans have figured out suspension tuning. The Sonata was fantastic on the highway. Never felt harsh over some really bad pavement, but never sloppy either. Great car to take with 4 grown men up on a 3 hour drive to Chicago and back in a day, with plenty of gas left in the tank. Best in class? No probably not, but highly competent and I would not hold it against anyone for buying one.

    • 0 avatar
      Rod Panhard

      I’ve driven a lot of Hyundais in the last year, and I agree with you 100 percent. If you want a car that is comfortable and gets the job done, they’re hard to beat, especially at the price.

      This leaves you with money to spend on a fun car, motorcycle, or whatever trips your trigger.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      For the Elantra, the one to get is the Sport model as the ride and handling is much better due to the IRS (instead of a rear-beam set-up).

  • avatar
    pmirp1

    This is even worse. What a disaster. the new Camry will crush it like always. Disaster of a design.

  • avatar
    S197GT

    $6750 off a ’17 Sonata Sport 2.0 Turbo through May in my area…

    That’s a 245 hp sedan with a 5yr/60k mile bumper to bumper warranty and a 100k-mile powertrain warranty… for under $20k!!

    Pickings are slim even a 100 miles out but man… that is a deal. My credit union is offering special low financing through this month, too..

    • 0 avatar
      ShoogyBee

      Bear in mind that the cash back for the Sport 2.0T is $6000 but you get the additional $750 only if you finance through Hyundai. Even so, $6000 is nothing to sneeze at. One nearby dealer has two base Sport 2.0T’s going for only $19,500 after the $6750 incentives and additional discounts. Unreal.

  • avatar
    jfbar167

    Man, my OCD is going CRAZY with those HVAC vents. They are ALL different shapes. Nice front grill design though compared to the current one. Not a fan of the “new” taillights though

  • avatar
    Raevox

    I considered “stepping up” to a Sonata Sport (2.4) when I was shopping my Elantra. But at the time, they hadn’t started discounting the cars that much, and i was sticking to a sub-20k budget (a condo isn’t going to buy itself!)

    More to the point, I wasn’t totally sold on the design. Even my husband commented that it didn’t look interesting enough, and didn’t seem like the car “fit” me. I especially didn’t care for the back end. Taillight design was better on the previous generation.

    So overall, I think the Sonata is handsome enough, but I consider the Optima to have the far better sheetmetal of the two. Too bad I don’t really like Kia interior design, and that’s why I ruled the Forte/Forte5 out in the early stages of my car hunting. The UVO infotainment gets an honorable mention, though.

    I like the look of this refreshed Sonata, and at first I didn’t really like the 2018 Elantra GT but the front design language has since grown on me.

    As a side note, I’m going to give my Elantra some Avante treatment this summer by swapping out the front LEDs to the KDM DRL/foglamp combo. Unless I can convince the local Hyundai service bay to reprogram the ECU so that they don’t dim when the headlights turn on.


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