By on March 7, 2016

2016 Hyundai Sonata, Image: Hyundai Motor America

A year and a half ago, I drove the new-for-2015 Hyundai Sonata in the “Limited” trim. I thought it was a solid, if not particularly exciting, choice in the increasingly unimportant family-sedan market. During that same press trip, Hyundai gave me a chance to drive the “Sport” and “Eco” trims of the Sonata, but there was no base-model inventory on hand. That wasn’t by accident, and it’s also not unusual. Offering up a no-options car to journosaurs who are continually spoiled by first-class flights and metallic-looking chocolates in the form of the “Ruf” logo is a great way to wind up as the target of a Burgess wobble.

Imagine my joy, then, when I stepped off my (coach-class) flight in Portland last month and found a Sonata SE waiting for me. My itinerary, which was centered around The 1 Show but which would also include a 140-mile freeway jaunt to Salem, OR and back, promised to be just the ticket for a truly independent evaluation, TTAC-rental style. After all, some cars are pretty decent in all of their various and varied variants, while others can’t cut the mustard without the big motor and upscale options. Where does the Sonata SE fall on this spectrum?

2016 Sonata

Well … let’s get the usual excuses out of the way. This 2016-model-year car had 33,700 miles on it. Rental miles are hard miles. We all know this. My sainted Accord V6 coupe, which I’m sure none of you ever get even the slightest bit tired of me mentioning, continues to look and feel pretty fresh at the 33,000-mile mark, but I treat it with care and I condition the leather and only rarely run it to 125 miles-per-hour on a racetrack. I should also mention that, in Hyundai-land, “SE” means “base model, beneath which there is nothing but despair and Elantras”. It starts at an eminently reasonable $21,750, and for that money you get everything from aluminum wheels to a 7-inch color touchscreen display. There’s real value here.

Alright, excuse time is over. For about $5,500 more, you can get the Limited. There’s probably less of a difference than that in actual transaction prices. Let’s say four grand, give or take. A couple of bucks a day if you’re buying over sixty months. My friend, as Hamlet said, look to ‘t. Better to spend a little more and get a truly complete car.

2016 Hyundai Sonata

In SE trim, the Sonata is just plain loud inside. Much of Oregon uses a remarkably noisy aggregate motorway surface, which turns the Sonata’s admittedly capacious interior into a cacophonous bell jar in which one must scream to be heard. Even on quieter roads, however, there is still too much ambient junk bouncing around the cockpit to hold any kind of conversation with rear seat passengers.

That vaunted solidity I remember from my press-trip drive? It’s gone. Squeak, bump, and thump are the order of the day. Remember, dear reader, that this car had received over thirty thousand miles’ worth of abuse on rough roads. Still, I don’t want a car to be this loose after under a year, no matter what the conditions might be. There was visible wear on all of the touch surfaces, and the door cards in particular were worn shiny by the elbows and fingers of two hundred indifferent renters.

2016 Sonata

Upscale Sonatas get a pretty decent sound system, but the SE gives you the bare minimum. True, you get six speakers instead of the retro four-speaker layout in the Accord Sport, but it doesn’t sound good and it doesn’t get loud. The Bluetooth integration on this particular car wasn’t happy with my Galaxy S5 or my companion’s iPhone S-something. Speaking of my companion; at one point, after the hilariously annoying turn-blinker noise had been repeating for about 30 seconds, she started holding her hands over her ears and wordlessly screaming. I don’t blame her. “The turn signal alone,” she said, “would be enough to make sure I never bought this piece of crap.”

When I drove the Limited 2.4, I said that the powertrain “really disappoints,” and that disappointment was magnified in the SE. The engine always feels tired, the transmission is always one shift behind where it should be, and the NVH is unforgivably coarse. To make matters worse, the tires fitted to the SE make it an indifferent steer and somewhat skittish in wet braking. It simply doesn’t inspire confidence and it feels a solid generation behind my Accord in virtually all of the dynamic qualities.

2016 Sonata

Some good points: The trunk is huge. There’s plenty of room for oversized adults both front and rear. By the standards of the class, the greenhouse is adequately airy. Nothing fell off during my drive. The various buttons and levers remained pretty solidly attached despite the rental abuse. It’s a relatively easy car to operate. It has a very long warranty.

The Sonata SE has to exist, because some people shop on price and Hyundai does shift a reasonable volume of cars to rental companies. But it’s less than the sum of its parts. It’s not much cheaper than the Accord LX or the base Camry and it’s significantly less pleasant to operate than either of those well-known alternatives. I’m also concerned that Hyundai has yet to really crack the long-term durability problem, based on the look of the various surfaces and materials in this less-than-one-year-old car.

Honestly, if you’re willing to take a few risks with durability, why not get the Ford Fusion “S” instead? It’s amazingly stylish, it incorporates all the latest European design trends, and at night its standard LED tail lamps blaze through the night with sleek, sexy authority … okay, I’m just trying to upset a couple of our more vocal commenters here. Speaking seriously, however, this Sonata occupies an uncomfortable middle ground between the undeniably solid Camcords and the undeniably handsome Fusion. Think of it as a USA-built Korean take on the Altima. It’s big, and it’s roomy, but it’s not refined and it doesn’t feel like it’s milled from solid anything.

If you’re truly interested in the Sonata, take a look at one of the up-spec variants. If all you want is a good $22,000 family sedan, I don’t think this is your first choice.

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183 Comments on “Rental Review: 2016 Hyundai Sonata SE 2.4...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “I’m also concerned that Hyundai has yet to really crack the long-term durability problem…”

    This! I’ve been saying this a while. Shiny when new, goes downhill quickly. Just like a 300 or a Durango.

    The rental Sonata I was in about a month ago was absolute crap in build quality, materials, general refinement, and ride quality.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      This is true. Mom has a 2012 Sonata Limited with around 78K miles on it (purchased used in 2013 with 35,000 miles), and it does not seem like the fit-and-finish has held up as well as it would have on a Honda or Toyota. The leather looks somewhat worn, the suspension is kind of tired (it was always crashy, IMO) and the shiny piano-black trim has yielded to all kinds of light but nevertheless visible scratches. When we took it in for a recall, the Hyundai dealer quietly replaced the rubberized lower button surrounds on the steering wheel, because the rubber surface had been scratched away in places. The car is still good value for the money and has very low operating costs…but I’m seeing evidence of the missing 2/10ths that we’d have gotten with a slightly pricier Asian brand.

      That said, I don’t like the way Ford’s leather or trim looks after about 50K miles, especially if it’s black…so it’s not just Hyundai and Kia, either. And FCA and GM definitely suffer from it, even on the latest stuff.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Every time I see a used car with black leather, I think “It’s always best to choose a different color.” Because really on any model, the black just shows those awful and inevitable creases that much more.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          Fortunately, we don’t have a car with black leather. The Sonata has grey leather (and a grey exterior), but it’s just as bad. My Golf SportWagen also has a grey exterior and black leatherette, but V-tex wears much better than real leather—and for what it’s worth, you can’t even *get* real leather on a Golf SportWagen. And the X5 was brown and had beige leather.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            So far, my cars have only ranged in color from stone grey to a light tan or medium tan. No complaints on the aging process, though of those two the grey options (M and GS) held up better than the A8’s tan, but that was softer stuff obviously. Medium tan stuff in my Cadillac has really held up well and is still soft.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            Lexus probably makes the best leather, especially in terms of smell (although the company is taking after the Germans and putting cheap-feeling leatherette in its lesser-equipped units, which I don’t appreciate). When I stepped into a new Bentley Mulsanne in the showroom, I took a whiff of the interior and said, “This smells like a Lexus.” I’m sure the sales attendant didn’t take it as a compliment, but it was.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            You have to say it in a British accent, then they like it.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Confirmed. Eight years and 47,000 miles on my LS460, and it still surrounds you with a deep dark leather smell every time you get inside.

            The leather in my Forester feels like vinyl, and has no smell at all. The old leather in my Legend feels nice, but has no smell.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            A family friend of ours has a 2004 Lexus GX470 that he bought new, but that now has, like, 150,000 miles on it. It still gives off that nice, new smell when you step inside.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            My M is 7 now, still smells like fresh leather when you get in. But it’s always been garaged, and I’m just now over 60k, so that might be part of it.

            Deville is 23 and still smells like leather also, lol.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Now I have to start smelling Lexi, I hope you’re happy.

          • 0 avatar
            Whatnext

            Really? I must have got a bad batch of V-Tex because mine cracked on the driver’s seat after 4 years!

        • 0 avatar
          TrailerTrash

          CoreyDL
          not sure if the color can help. My 10 MKS top of the line bridge of weir leather is tan and the driver side is showing a ridiculous amount of creasing. And I have used some expensive leather treatment and cleaners through the years.

          Is the worn/aged high end leather supposed to give this classic wrinkled look????

          However, nothing is as bad as my 09 Mazda6 S leather! I had to replace an entire of driver section that rotted away under the front knee.
          And the leather itself is uncomfortable. Hard as wood.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I think part of the modern problem with leather aging is the tightness required for all seats now, which must look “sporty.” There was so much extra leather and ruching on old cars (with and without button tufting) that it was less likely to crease, it just moved around but was never really tight.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        automotive leather is barely leather. it’s sealed with so many polymers and stabilizers it might as well be one of the “leather-like” materials instead. And typical leather care and conditioning products are more intended for traditionally-tanned hide, which automotive leather is not.

        all the more reason I’d just rather have a nice cloth seat option on a higher end car. I would have loved to have my Mustang GT in its premium trim to get the features like the upgraded sound and other stuff, but be able to choose cloth seats which aren’t covered in burlap.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          I really like the cloth in my grandmother’s 2014 Soul Plus. It feels very nice, and stays cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Plus, I know the dealer didn’t add any scotchguard or other products to the upholstery because we had to wait for the guy to unload and unwrap the car from the truck, but I spilled a whole cup of root beer in the seat once, and watched it pool up and dry (at which point it could be scraped away) instead of soaking into the fabric.

          I also like the V-tex leatherette in my Golf SportWagen. It doesn’t wear like regular automotive leather. Mercedes-Benz’ MB-Tex leatherette is also excellent.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Quit freaking out and drinking root beer in your grandma’s ride! How did it dry up quickly, or something, to be scraped away?

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            Haha. I’m off soda now, like, totally. It dried up because I got out of the car and promptly forgot it was there, until the next day. I scraped it off with a spoon…lol

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Wow, your life was a mess that day! I’d be having a small panic issue watching root beer slosh around the seat. I think I’d stop somewhere and get napkins or paper towels immediately.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            I was pulling into the neighborhood when it happened, or I’d certainly have stopped somewhere. She spills drinks in it far more often, though.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Oh I know about old ladies and drink spills. Whenever we go anywhere with my grandma (before the car starts moving) there is a visual confirmation of where her (inevitable) giant glass of tea is sitting.

            She usually likes to put it on the floor next to her purse, and forget it’s there.

          • 0 avatar
            TrailerTrash

            I love cloth seats.
            I wonder if leather is forced with the heated/cooled seating?
            Not sure why it would make a difference…but perhaps.
            In Florida and Texas…we prefer the cloth seats. Bad enough getting into a car that is 120 without the seats being even hotter.

          • 0 avatar
            Toad

            Re Kia Soul Cloth interior: when I test drove the Soul I remember thinking that I was not sure what that upholstery material was but it seemed both comfortable and indestructible. I’m not a big fan of cloth seats but was impressed by the Soul.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          You’re so right about cheap automotive leather. It seems like they spray a single layer of bovine skin cells on a piece of vinyl and call it a day. I’ve always suspected that I might be better off using vinyl conditioning products on it.

          • 0 avatar

            I work with leather in my day job, embroidery and I’ve said it in my reviews, there’s leather and then there’s leather. The leather in a Jaguar is better than in a Chrysler which is better than the leather in a Kia, which is hard to tell from the vinyl they use on the same seats.

            That being said, and I’ve been toying around with the idea of selling guitar straps and wallets made of leather salvaged from junkyard Cadillacs (embroidered with the VIN of the car from which that leather came). Late 1990s DeVilles are great for my purposes because they have a huge back seat and the industry hadn’t yet gone to perforated leather. Based on the late ’90s Cadillacs that I have skinned, GM used very good leather then. Considering that those skins have been exposed to the elements while sitting in the yard, the leather is still in great condition. I’ve pulled seat covers out of maybe 15 cars now, and so far only one small panel ripped. After cleaning and conditioning with Lexol leather care products, it still has some patina but it works just as well as new leather.

          • 0 avatar
            TrailerTrash

            Ronnie

            Isn’t the Bridge od Wier from Scotland in the Lincolns supposedly some of the higher quality?
            I tested a lotta cars back then…and the Lexus and Lincolns had the best I could see.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I’m glad to hear a leather person uses Lexol. That’s what I have been using since maybe 2011, based upon some light reading on conditioners.

        • 0 avatar
          rpn453

          “automotive leather is barely leather.”

          True in most cases, though Audi’s nappa leather feels like it could be made into a good baseball glove.

          In my limited experience, that’s the only automotive “leather” I’ve touched that felt like real leather to me.

    • 0 avatar
      EX35

      I’m interested in a Durango so I’m curious to hear why you think it ages any worse than other 3 row crossovers. It certainly has a more robust suspension given its MB roots than say a FWD crossover. Is it the interior quality?

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        It’s not the suspension/drive train which gives me concerns. It’s the exterior trim and paint quality, and interior materials. We discussed this the other day when there was a Durango review. They just get ratty looking after a couple of years, both the Durango and the 300. I don’t feel like Chrysler puts much effort into quality materials or building their cars with care.

        • 0 avatar
          EX35

          That’s a shame and concerns me. I just can’t find another 3 row suv that drives anywhere close to a hemi Durango without spending another 15-20k.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Hmm. The Durango is almost a one-off in the 3-row class. I think the closest thing with price, space and V6 might be a Pilot.

            I think the Durango is just what happens when a company is cash strapped, financially stripped, and then hobbles along looking for cash savings and a buyout partner.

          • 0 avatar
            EX35

            I test drove the new Pilot. I felt it had no where near the solidity that the Durango did. Perhaps it’s the added weight, but the Durango’s chassis just felt superior and better screwed together. But I don’t want to spent 40k+ on something that will look terrible in a few years.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Used MDX? There are enough differences between it and the Pilot to view them separately. Such limits when you want a 3-row non truck vehicle as far as options are concerned. I don’t like the GM Lambda options, I think they’re too heavy for their (lets face it) minivan-like underpinnings.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            The Durango is a typical Chrysler product: innovative concept with real advantages over the competition, paired with iffy material and build quality. If you like it, buy it and baby the interior, but don’t expect it to be a ten-year/200k mile car without a few repairs.

          • 0 avatar
            EX35

            The new Armada (Patrol) looks very nice but I imagine a decently equipped one will run $60k. Can anyone comment on a possible starting price?

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            If anything, the move on the Armada from the old Titan platform onto the Patrol will see it -increase- in base price. I wouldn’t look for it to be cheaper than whatever they start at now.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            2014 Charger RT owner here. My car is a hot, poorly built, creaky mess.

            Do yourself a favor and buy a GX460 or Flex.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            You must just be a jerk, saying that about poor reliable Dodge & Co! Jerk!


            While the GX sounds out of EX35’s budget, considering a used one (hopefully pre-predator) is a decent idea, as well as the Flex which I’d not considered.

            Also, Mazda CX-9 is an oft forgot option.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        Anecdote, but my sister-in-law’s Durango (2014) has aged perfectly and she hasn’t experienced a single issue with it in 35k miles (she drives 16k-17k miles per year).

        Jack’s review just adds credence to my personal experience with and opinion of Hyundais I’ve rented and those people I know who’ve leased/bought them; they feel a tight as the average decent vehicle when new, yet fall apart and loosen up at a precipitously faster rate with each passing mile than that decent competition.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Does her Durango achieve 70mpg in mixed highway driving?

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Hers sits at a 19.4 lifetime average (I specifically asked my brother when I saw him on Saturday).

            She has the 3.6 liter with the ZF-clone 8 speed.

            When I told him I can catch around 30 mpg at 75 on highway runs, he wasn’t shocked, but said that she has a lead foot and also does 70% city driving.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Only with a Trifecta tune and DeadWeight behind the wheel, with Norm sitting in the front seat coaching him.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          DW, with respect – saying something from 2014 has “aged perfectly” doesn’t hold much weight.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Ordinarily, I’d agree, but she already has 35,000 miles on it in 26 months, and my brother said she’s hard on vehicles.

            I’m not holding it out as a benchmark of long-term reliability, but I’m a big fan of the architecture, ride, powertrain & transmission of the 2014 and later Durango based on repeated rentals of/experiences with them.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I’ll be interested to hear her experience with it over time.

          • 0 avatar
            EX35

            Agreed. If it can stay solid at 60k, it will have my experiences with a corolla, accord beat.

        • 0 avatar
          Roberto Esponja

          CoreyDL is just Chrysler’s DeadWeight (no offense). He apparently can’t comment on a topic without throwing a jab at Chrysler. My father is one who beats on cars HARD, and yet his 2010 Chrysler 300 still looks and drives great. I also have three friends who own Durangos, one in sales and two of them contractors, and their vehicles are holding up very well, and all of them are happy with their trucks. But hey, mention oranges and CoreyDL will go, “Oooh, reminds me of Chrysler’s paint finishes!”

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            -Shrug-

            Think what you want. I don’t go out of my way to bring up Chrysler. I made a comparison here because I find it valid. Any remaining questions I had on FCA reliability might be taken care of by the multitude of reliability surveys, where FCA across the board is generally at the bottom.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Spot on, Corey.

      I drove a lightly used Elantra and I was pretty amazed how worn it felt compared to a new one.

    • 0 avatar
      Coopdeville

      DD is an ’09 GLS, 115k, 5-speed. I can echo what’s said here – trim is failing here and there, paint is cheap, rattles are increasing. Suspension has crashed so loudly since 50k such that I’m no longer certain if it’s actually worn out or not. Bushings all look good and no wiggle, so?

      Best points – it was $4-5k less than a Camcord at used purchase. According to my log, it has cost me less than $1k TOTAL in maintenance/repairs in 5 years/90k miles.

      It drives up and down the highway everyday with minimal fuss. Bonus, during the heavy construction years I cared not one lick that it received at least one new rock chip per week. Sits outside all spring/summer/fall when the fun rides take back over the garage, so does not get babied – ever. In short, it’s the perfect “I don’t care about it” commuter. If you want more, look elsewhere.

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      “Shiny when new, goes downhill quickly.”

      I’ll see your anecdote and raise it.

      My daughter’s 2011 Elantra still looks and feels new in 2016. Ditto my wife’s 2012 Veracruz, and the five-year-old Santa Fe it replaced. By comparison my last Honda was full of squeaks and rattles at half that age, and the interior of my last Nissan was literally falling apart.

      That’s an apples-to-apples comparison, but what about the oranges? My Volvo S80 shows its age despite using excellent materials, because it is a former rental car. It just isn’t a rational comparison.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      BINGO: I’m also concerned that Hyundai has yet to really crack the long-term durability problem

  • avatar
    SomeGuy

    Good review. I enjoyed reading it!

  • avatar
    Ltd1983

    I know several co-workers with 2011-2015 Sonata’s, from 20k to well over 100k miles with none of the wear issues Baruth speaks of.

    Rather than only use his personal (read: biased) car as a comparison, how about you compare it to another rental with similar miles?

    In fact, almost every one of his complaints (noise, ride, braking) could be caused by something as simple as overly worn tires. No word on their mileage or condition. That would really be the only thing to explain the difference in interior noise versus the Limited too. I doubt Hyundai has sound deadening specific to trim levels.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Anyone who travels frequently will get lots of rentals with ~30,000 miles. There is a real difference between cars in how they hold up over that period of time to abusive use. In my experience, right now it seems like GM and Toyota are doing a better job on that metric than Ford, Nissan, or Hyundai.

      There definitely are sound deadening differences between trim levels in at least some lines. Drive a Honda Accord Sport back-to-back with an Accord Touring and you’ll see a good example. I haven’t ever driven a loaded Sonata, but the base one is loud. Leaving out sound-deadening mats/sheets/foam from rental trims isn’t a bad way for the manufacturer to save a few pennies.

      • 0 avatar
        Ltd1983

        “There definitely are sound deadening differences between trim levels in at least some lines. Drive a Honda Accord Sport back-to-back with an Accord Touring and you’ll see a good example. ”

        You’re going to have to cite that. I’ve looked over Honda’s website, and nothing is listed about this.

        “Leaving out sound-deadening mats/sheets/foam from rental trims isn’t a bad way for the manufacturer to save a few pennies.”

        But it really is. This is mass production. There’s a reason you can’t get cloth and a nav system, or whatever combination you want. Differentiation slows down production, adds stops, and costs money.

        In fact, the only trims that I know for sure cut sound deadening (GT3 RS, et al), are performance oriented, and charge MORE for that privilege, because it costs the manufacturer money.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          I’m not so sure that is really true anymore with highly automated production and just-in-time supply. It was very interesting watching wildly different 3-series go down the line in Munich last summer. Stripper 318i followed by full house 335i. With hardly a human to be seen until very far along in the production process.

          Everywhere but the US, options are primarily individual with a few bundles. I suspect the difference is one of streamlining ordering and dealer inventory vs. any savings of actual cost in 2016. If you don’t tell the robot to insert the sound deadening pads in the SE’s that are going to Hertz, no big thing. PHC101 will probably chime in that this is part of why cars are so cheap here, and I don’t disagree entirely, but I doubt there is much in it from a manufacturing cost standpoint. But when you multiply all those nickles and dimes by a few hundred thousand cars a year it adds up to real money. And the target market doesn’t care.

        • 0 avatar
          Zoom

          “Differentiation slows down production, adds stops, and costs money.”

          How would leaving out sound deadening materials slow down production, add stops, and cost money?

        • 0 avatar
          Featherston

          @ Ltd1983 – I don’t see it now, but I was playing with Hyundai’s configurator a year-plus ago, and insulated glass actually was spec’d as part of a trim-level upgrade. I was mildly surprised by that.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        I’ve driven both. The NVH picture is quite different. I don’t know if the V6 gets more sound deadening than the four, or if the big package of upgrades that comes with leather upholstery includes more, or what — I haven’t driven every trim level.

        Not every subtle difference between trim levels is listed in the spec sheets. For another example, the Comfort+ package on my LS460 adds very pretty leather armrests and door panels that aren’t listed anywhere.

      • 0 avatar
        akatsuki

        Except that when I drive a shit car as a rental, I pretty much rule it out from purchase.

        Rentals are unfairly discounted by a lot of the manufacturers, but they are honestly a huge opportunity to impress.

        • 0 avatar
          cbrworm

          This is true. I frequently put more miles on rental cars in a year than I do my own.

          I bought my G35 after renting one in TX for a month and loving every mile of it. I bought my ’97 Maxima after putting 2,400 miles on a rental in a week. I have enjoyed renting the Ford Edge and Flex, vehicles I would not have given a second look otherwise.

          I have also rented cars that immediately turned me off to that car/brand.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        Odd considering we just test drove both a base SE 2016 Sonata and an upper Sport trim level and the Sport was noisier with it’s larger performance oriented tires. My friend has 2 2015 Limited Sonata’s with the base 2.4. Neither is noisy at all but the tires are louder now that they have miles on them which is what I suspected happened with this reviewers base SE. I also bet they seldom if ever rotated the tires.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    “Honestly, if you’re willing to take a few risks with durability, why not get the Ford Fusion “S” instead? ”

    I don’t know why that would be risky; the Duratec 2.5 in the S has been around forever. Certainly no more risk than a Sonata which evidently sounds like it’s falling apart in 30,000 miles.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      The old Duratec 2.5 is an awesome engine as far as durability goes. I see them with upwards of 200K and still going strong. Also haven’t heard of any major issues with the current 6 speed as used in the Fusion other than shift issues that required a re-program update on 2013 editions.

  • avatar

    I currently have a 2013 Azera on lease. Car was fully loaded: pano roof, Nav, heated/cooled seats, rear sunshade, etc.

    The new SONATA 2.0T is so much more spacious than the Azera, and comfortable for me to drive, that I now have 3 options:

    a) keep the Azera and change the lease to a finance (we love it)
    b) take back the Azera and get a new Sonata 2.0t fully loaded (which would be more comfortable – and more money on a new lease)
    c) upgrade to a Genesis.

    I’m not sure if they’ll keep the Azera around, but if they want to axe it in favor of the Sonata – they might as well.

    Hyundai has an AWESOME lineup.

    Awesome customer service as well.

  • avatar
    GS 455

    “too much ambient junk bouncing around the cockpit” Athletic supporter. Don’t leave home without it.

  • avatar
    nickoo

    Always avoid a cheap car with doodads tacked on, which is where H/K fail. Rather, buy a car built to german or lexus philosophy: excellent ride, taughtness, paint, nvh, doodads second. In other words buy a Passat over a Sonata.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      Is this the same Germans that leave you out in the cold when your DEF heater dies with less than 40K on the car?

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        As the owner of an 11 year old Audi A6, I will say this. Although reliability is nowhere close to Japanese standards, the interior remains pristine. This car has less wear-and-tear than a year-old Accord. If the dashboard design weren’t so dated, you would think the car was new. And the firm seats remain as comfortable as the day it left the factory.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          That’s not always the case with VW Group products, though. The Mk.III and IV-based cars were horrid, and fell apart cosmetically as well as mechanically.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            And yet I know people who drive MKIIIs and IVs with pristine interiors. I think it is a matter of some people can destroy anything, and it is easier to destroy something that was nicer to start with.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            This is true.

        • 0 avatar
          cbrworm

          I had the other end of the experience. We bought a 2004 (B6) A4 new, while the car was still under warranty Audi replaced most of the interior trim panels, HVAC and radio controls due to the rubber coating peeling off. By 45K miles pieces were being replaced for the second time. Add in all the mechanical problems we had in the four years of ownership, we will never buy an Audi/VW again. Prior to that we had two Lexus LS400’s and an Audi A8 4.2 Quattro that were all perfect from new until we got rid of them. The little Audi turned us off forever.

          For comparison, we traded the ’04 Audi for an ’08 BMW 5 series. The BMW now has 90K on it and has required minimal work, and only a valve cover gasket and a single coil pack that weren’t covered under warranty. Not great, but not too bad. The interior and exterior still look like new.

        • 0 avatar
          manny_c44

          Yeah when I tell people my Audi is 8 years old they are always shocked.

    • 0 avatar
      Chan

      I don’t know how VW’s durability has improved (or not) since 2001, but aside from the awful mechanical failures and fluid leaks, my B5-vintage Passat also had a very delicate interior that did NOT stand the test of time.

      The armrest storage lid caught a coin in its hinge and broke at the hinge (poor design).

      The glove box handle broke off because its plastic mount snapped (inferior materials).

      The rear cupholders snapped off after getting stuck closed (poor design).

      The front cupholders became sticky, but still work (poor design).

      I still recoil whenever anyone recommends a VW of any sort.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        I think they’ve made improvements since then. My Sportwagen is 6 years old and has 73K on it and the interior has very little wear. No infamous peeling rubberized coating or discoloration of the dash and door panels or broken lids and hinges. The glovebox handle feels a bit fragile but is intact. It’s been a solid car mechanically as well, but I went boat anchor 5 cylinder instead of TDI, so my stress levels are lower.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        Previous broken glove box handle B5 Passat owner here too. When that part broke it put me over the edge: honestly I touch the glove box TWICE a year to swap out insurance paper work and yet somehow it broke? How is that even possible? I never had that part fail on any car… like ever! Basically that VeeDub had the WORST interior of any vehicle I’ve owned! The plastic had this rubberized texture that literally flaked off after year 3. The door card fabric and headliner material became unglued on year 4. The sunroof knob came off in my hand in year 5. Plus all the window regulators, headlamp, side marker, antenna and even a spring from under the seat, plus one of the seat adjustment levels – all FELL off the vehicle at some point before the 80K mile mark. Total garbage. Compare this with my ’02 Dodge Dakota, which other then a small section of the driver’s seat cloth that bunched up (from my much shorter wife sliding over to get in) still looks and functions like the day I bought it. Its my fishing truck and thus takes lots of abuse, yet keeps holding together. I credit that infamous “cheap” rock hard Dodge plastic, you can’t scratch that stuff with a razor. But the soft touch VW stuff scratches as clouds pass overhead.

        My wife’s ’08 Volvo C30 has that M-Tex or whatever fake leather stuff and its no good either. There are several tears and multiple stains (from plain water?!?) that are always visible. My ’03 Nissan 350Z’s black leather has some cracks in the side bolsters, but nothing terrible yet and its much older. The Z’s plastic bits look fine, but they rattle like loose coins a dryer. I once had a Mitsubishi Eclipse (1996) with the cheapest leather ever, it was well worn after only 2 years (leased). It was tan and you could see where the bottom was turning blue from denim jeans even after multiple leather condition attempts. It wasn’t soft or smooth, thus not worth the money at all. Living in south FL I generally prefer plain cloth since it doesn’t burn your rear end in the summer.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    I see your visiting my home state. I grew up in Portland. I have made that drive south on I-5 more times than I can count. I always thought that stretch of freeway was in great condition. No idea why in the world you would want to drive to Salem though.

    Far, far better than where I live now (Chicago). Come spend some freeway time in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, etc. One simple word….horrible.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      I lived in the Willamette Valley for several years and the issue with the pavement on I-5 is the coarse surface texture, especially in the right lane where it has been beat upon by semi traffic and a curiously high occurrence of cars with studded winter tires for a region that sees snow on the ground about once annually. That road texture really makes a car loud; I had a 93 Civic at the time and would get a dull headache on the way to Portland.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        We have the same issue in places in Washington, particularly visible (audible) on I-5 through north Seattle. I don’t know what it is about this place, which hasn’t had snow in four years, and studded tires. Now that modern winter tires exist studded tires should be banned.

        • 0 avatar
          Ubermensch

          The studded tires are on cars that commute through the mountain passes. They get studded tires to avoid having to stop and chain up. I agree though, the performance of modern winter tires has largely rendered studded tire obsolete.

          • 0 avatar
            Russycle

            Ubermensch, not so much. I live in the Willamette Valley, and the folks I know running studs rarely, or never, venture across the Cascades. They’re just worried they might, someday, run into a patch of ice. I’m all for safety, but the damage they’re doing to our roads is infuriating.

            As for the Hyundai, it’s been about 5 years since I rented one, sounds like not much has changed.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Hey, Williamette Valley was the ultimate destination for Oregon Trail! You’ve got lots of pixel flowers and wagons over there.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Just don’t die of dysentery along the way.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            “Just don’t die of dysentery along the way”

            Well, you’ve got to pass through Pendleton and Hermiston on the way out there now, so no guarantees on that one.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Willamette Valley is home to some of the west bine in the world *hic*

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            So that’s why everyone would brave the Oregon Trail to make it there.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    Is it just me, or is that just a very plain, dated, and uninspired interior?

  • avatar

    I can testify that Hyundais age harder than comperable cars. A Sonata with ~80k miles is going to drive like a Malibu or Fusion with ~120k miles or a Camcord with ~150k miles.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      The used car dealer has spoken! Take heed, discount new car buyers!

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      Is that because Hyundai buyers are harder on their cars or that the cars just don’t age well? Some auto makes and/or models target buyers that are hard on their cars (as well as their homes, children, spouses, bank accounts, etc).

      I’ve known some people who could break an anvil if they owned it for a week.

      • 0 avatar

        I think its a combination of both. Look at Daewoo for a representation of what happens to an acceptable car put in the unwashed hands of the lowest common denominator. Timing belt? No, its Dickies, bro! I think I did an oil change three semesters ago. Ka-Boom! Man, this Dagwood is a piece of s**t. At least I got $500 for it towards this sweet new Lancer ES!

        I’ve had multiple Santa Fes – which have always been surprisingly more demographically upmarket than you’d think – pretty much eat front ends around 80-100k miles no matter who drives them.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    So let’s say you want a new sedan in the midsize family class (warranty etc), you want to rack up the miles till it is time to throw it away, and don’t give a damn about resale value. (You plan on driving it from mile 0 to mile 200,000 plus.) And you want the transaction price to be as low as possible to have your payment be as low as possible (leaving budget for all those things a responsible family man should.) It must be reasonably quiet inside for those business trips that take you to neighboring cities 3 to 5 hour one way drives.

    What’s the right answer, B&B?

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Steeply discounted Camry LE or SE. Proven (i.e., old) powertrains, excellent build quality, great deals out there, not the quietest in the class but pretty quiet. (Pick your trim-level poison: LE for greatest quiet, SE for considerably more suspension competence.)

      • 0 avatar
        Buffalo88

        I was seriously unimpressed with a Camry LE rental I had for 10 days. I picked it because the internet’s prevailing opinion is that although it is cheap the Camry is quiet, comfortable and smooth riding. The one I had could have not been further from that. It had one of the harshest rides I’ve encountered in a midsizer in a really long time. It was extremely jarring over even the slightest road imperfections. It handled poorly as well.

        Otherwise it was an adequate car, especially for the money, but the ride would be a dealbreaker if I was ever in the market for one.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          I think you’re the first person to say this about a Camry, perhaps ever. The SE is definitely decently taut, but even that isn’t what I’d call harsh or punishing. I save that criticism for the ’13-’15 Rav4s. The LE should be even cushier. Perhaps you drove one with severely overinflated tires?

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          I’ve found my LE/XLE rentals to be uncommunicative and a bit floppy, but very soft. The SE is quite a bit firmer and I could imagine someone used to old American iron calling it harsh and jarring. Hard to imagine that about the LE, though.

        • 0 avatar
          ponchoman49

          I have had several Camry rentals and was shocked at how poor they were inside. One was a 2014.5 in SE trim with the base 2.5 and the other was a 2013 LE with the same engine. Both showed much interior wear, especially on the door panel cloth trim, the gear indicators on the floor console and misc buttons with fading trim. The SE also had one of the worst interior’s I have seen to date done up in all black with cloth seat material that felt as harsh as sand paper and irritated both me and my friend’s back sides of our legs after a few hours behind the wheel! Worse the center dash vents on the SE literally popped out going over a harsh set of double railroad tracks. They fell right in my lap in fact exposing cheap plastic clips that looked like they were slightly warped. The head liner material was very cheap and thin and flexed easily when you pushed up on it and was obviously from the lowest supply bidder. The LE had nicer seat material but the right side plastic A-pillar interior cover kept popping off it’s plastic clips on the upper side. I kept pushing it back in place but after a few hours it seemed to make it’s way loose. The LE also had very cheap flimsy plastic wheel covers that resonated over course roads with the windows down. Road noise was higher on the SE and the ride was harder as well. Both had terribly numb steering and the LE didn’t handle very well when pushed. The 2.5 is adequate but uninspiring getting a decent jump off the line but running out of steam on the highway. Strangely the LE got much better mileage than the SE but the LE had 30K miles and the SE had 12K so that may have been part of it. The difference was 3 MPG combined with the SE only seeing 25 combined and the LE 28.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Camry LE, if internet wisdom is to be believed. They simultaneously last forever, hold resale value, and are sold with cash on hood.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        But again if you don’t give two figs about resale why pay a premium for the Toyota “T” on the grille? IMHO once the loan is paid off it is all gravy from there I don’t expect to get good trade in value for a car that has 200,000 miles on it regardless of the manufacturer.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          You’re not paying a premium for the Toyota T anymore. Camrys are very cheap.

          In 4-cyl. form, they’re also far more likely to make it to 200,000 miles without major issues than most of the competition, Accord possibly being the exception depending on how the Honda CVT ages.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      A beige Camry LE for $18k out the door. No seriously, that sounds like exactly what they’re made for. An Altima 2.5S would be my runner up but the Camry with it’s regular 6 speed automatic gets the nod for 200k lifespan without any second guesses.

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        An Altima? They are slightly less dependable than Fiat:

        http://www.jdpower.com/press-releases/2016-us-vehicle-dependability-study-vds

        PrincipalDan,

        If you’re just going to pile-on the miles and don’t care about how the interior holds-up, Camry and Accord are your best bets. Make sure the seats agree with you, 200,000 miles is a long time to sit in something that hurts your back.

        For long intercity runs, I would go Charger, Passat, or Jetta. They’re more connected to the road and more satisfying to drive.

        If you are looking for the best bang for your buck (at any cost), you can get a new Dart Aero or Cruze Eco for next to nothing. Smaller cars, but still plenty comfortable for 4 people.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Well shoot, the more you know! I only based my recommendation from seeing the Nissan 2.5L/CVT combination standing the test of time in my sister-in-law’s ’07 Rogue. She’s probably got close to 150k on that car by now, nothing to note reliability wise.

          • 0 avatar
            Ltd1983

            That link says nothing about the Altima, and in fact, is really only a gauge on how often the infotainment system freezes up by brand. It’s ludicrous to analogize Fiat dropping transmissions and not starting to a Rogue’s nav freezing.

            Truth be told, the Altima is consistently in the top 10 best seller for a reason, it’s rock solid. Our shop is only changing brakes and oil in Altima’s made in the last 10 years. They hold up to 200k miles fine.

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            The dependability spread is only 2:1 from best to worse, so there are no real lemon brands. Anything withing 25 points of the study average is probably too close to call, and the rest aren’t really outliers.

            I think that study is interesting because it contradicts some Internet truths. Also, it’s a 3rd year study, which is more relevant to me than a 90-day study.

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            Ltd1983,

            If you look at the detailed results, Fiat and Nissan both scored below average in Body and Interior Dependability. They were both average in Powertrain and in Feature/Accessory. It’s hardly just a study about radios.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            Heavy handle,
            I’d look at Consumer Reports and True Delta for the powertrain metrics as well, since both sites also break down their rankings by category. Those websites will also allow you to look at 2007/2008 Altimas, which are now 8-9 years old rather than the JD Power 3 years, to get a better idea of engine and CVT longevity for the car.

          • 0 avatar
            Ltd1983

            It’s still just by brands, and self reporting from customers.

            And engine failure is -1 the same as if the customer doesn’t like the sound of the engine in normal operation. It’s nonsense. And we’re not finding anything serious out in the first 3 years anyway.

            Like others have said, use a real metric like CR or Truedelta.

            And like I said, our shop has seen literally hundreds of the 2013+ Altimas come through, with 0 issues.

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            re: “our shop has seen literally hundreds of the 2013+ Altimas come through, with 0 issues”

            That’s exactly my point, and it does not contradict the fact that Nissan is rated around the same as Fiat, which is near the average of all new cars.

            The average owner will experience between one and two issues in the first three years of ownership, and these are mostly what any reasonable person would describe as minor issues.

            A lot of people here will claim that some brands are “junk” and others are “bulletproof,” but it’s not the case. There’s a very tight grouping around “average.” The great news is that what’s average today would have been outstandingly good twenty years ago.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      How much cash is Chrysler putting on the 200 with Pentastar? That would make a great highway cruiser. Whether the tranny will last 200K miles….may be iffy.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I drove a rental ’15 SE with 27k miles 4.5 hours to JFK from Central NY last summer, and share only some of Jack’s impressions.

    1) At 27k miles, the factory tires still had tread but were howling away. Aside from that, I thought it was a quiet car.

    2) Front seat comfort is fantastic for taller people, I found the seats roomier and more supportive than in my fiancé’s ’12 Camry SE. Rear seat room is excellent aside from slightly constrained head room vs Camry, it beats the Camry’s already good legroom. Trunk is really big, feels bigger than the Toyota’s.

    3) Transmission is more dimwitted than a Camry unit, DI engine has significantly more NVH under acceleration than the Camry’s 2.5. But power feels good once it picks the right gear.

    4)Excellent mpg when driven sanely, I got 36.7mpg according to the computer with mostly cruise control driven 72-73mph driving, and driving out to JFK with some mixed traffic.

    5) Very plush ride, you get the sensation of piloting a bigger vehicle, like you’re in a big S-class or something, compared to the lighter and nimbler feeling Camry. Depending on preference, this is a good or a bad thing.

    6) A few interior things made it feel a bit cheap to me: Ignition cylinder felt really loose. Start up chime sounds super cheesy. Silver center dash trim looks a bit lame. The ’12 Camry is no winner in interior quality either, but feels put together just a bit better. Refreshed 2015 Camry improves this significantly IMO, widening the gap.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I hated the ride quality of the Sonata. It thumped and banged over every bump, and wasn’t comfortable at all. The suspension could absolutely not handle having four people in the car.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        It definitely was pretty soft, I only had 2 people in the car (including myself) and a bit of luggage, I can see how loading it up fully might bring about some issues. As it was, I really liked how it swallowed up and isolated road imperfections.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I don’t recall the base Sonata having an electronic parking brake for 2015. That must be new for 2016.

    I know it’s stupid, but an electronic parking brake is one of those features I consider upscale, especially if it also has auto-hold. The Fusion has had an electronic parking brake since its 2013 redesign. The Malibu also had one for 2013, but it was removed in the emergency 2014 refresh. It appears to be back on the new 2016 Malibu. I think the 200 has one as well, as does the Legacy.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    My ’15 Sonata Sport is, in theory, one rung above the SE, and my car with the tech package (bigger sound system, 8″ touch screen, nav, and a bunch of other stuff) was 21k when all was said and done. It’s a year old with 27k on the clock and I have none of the issues Jack mentioned. Road noise can be an issue *with loud winter tires on bad roads* but it’s nowhere near as bad as he describes. And the interior might as well be new, and is incredibly solid.

    Either there is an enormous difference between the SE and the Sport’s construction, or Jack’s car had been horribly abused (or a bit of both).

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      The Sport is a trim level primarily intended for retail buyers. The SE as equipped for Jack’s drive was primarily intended for rental fleets. It wouldn’t be the first or last time a manufacturer has built “special” cost-cutting measures into rental-fleet cars.

      • 0 avatar
        PeriSoft

        This seems like a dangerous game for manufacturers: A brief drive in a rental version of the previous-generation Sonata nearly took it off my shopping list entirely; I decided to test drive the car I ended up buying only because it was a new generation. Ensuring that hundreds or thousands of people get a terrible impression of your car with each rental vehicle you sell seems like a really bad way to gain a few hundred dollars’ margin. But I guess that’s what happens when the guy in charge of maximizing fleet profit doesn’t have the same incentives as the guy in charge of making sure the brand is successful as a whole…

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      My friend’s 2015 Limited Sonata has also held up very well with 60K miles. In fact it’s interior is substantially better than both rental Camry’s we had and nothing has worn or come loose. The headliner material is much more substantial feeling, the dash vents do not pull out easily, the seats are more comfortable, it handles better and rides better than either LE or SE Camry trim level and the 2.4 is peppier and more economical than the Toyota 2.5. I would for sure pick the Sport or Limited trim level over any Camry variant prior to the revamped 2015 of which we do not have any driving experience yet with.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I found the same shopworn feel in a lightly used Elantra I drove. Granted, a rental that’s been used more than a working girl in Bangkok is going to feel a little beaten up, but I’ve never been impressed but the durability in used Hyundais. They feel like upscale goods when they’re brand new, though.

    My mom just leased a Kia Forte, which also feels very upscale. It’ll be interesting to see how it holds up.

  • avatar
    JCraig

    The SE truly is a terrible car in many ways, and this is coming from a loyal Hyundai owner. I have a ’15 Genesis 3.8 that is approaching 2 years old (bought in spring of ’14). It still looks and drives like it’s brand new. It was dropped off for recall work a few months ago and I was given a new Sonata SE loaner car. It was loud and unrefined and the dash material was on par with walmart brand boomboxes. It was especially shocking compared to the previous generation. I know several people with the last body style Sonata and they look and feel like a far nicer car compared to the new one. It’s hard to imagine what Hyundai was thinking with the new one unless they just had to strip out everything to meet that low starting price.

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    In my city, Montreal, where the winters are harsh and the roads far harsher, I notice that the Sonata is very well represented as a choice for taxis, possibly running second only to the Camry. I have no experience with the car myself, but to me this suggests that it must be fairly competitive in the price-durability metric.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      YF Sonatas have been used as taxis in Moscow quite a bit, and the experience has been rather positive as a whole. Early on, front wheel bearings were crapping out by 30-40k KM, but the revised factory part seemed to fix that. The only other pattern failure seems to be alternators at 250k KM, and exhaust flex pipes at 300k KM. Aside from that, nothing. Engine and transmissions hold up great, struts live up to 100-120k KM (keep in mind, this is taxi service in Russia so that’s a good number).

      linkhttp://www.zr.ru/content/articles/792391-hyundai-sonata-provereno-v-taksi/

  • avatar
    Brumus

    A couple of years ago I spent some time in a friend’s Sonata and co-worker’s Elantra. Both cars were of a similar vintage (’09 and ’10, I believe), and both were disturbingly beat up and decrepit — both inside and out — for five-year-old vehicles.

    To echo what others have noted, Hyundai’s do not age well.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      I get a kick out of the fact that someone uses Harold Snepsts as an online avatar :)

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      Your comment means what?

      Many moons ago when I had my 1g Intrepid every other one on the road was awful looking—faded paint, C pillar trim with faded paint, and usually a headlight that was held by tape. Mine did not because it was taken care of.

      Fact is that people could care less about their vehicles—case in point a neighbor of mine has side swiped the poles in our parking garage on numerous occasions with her Accord 2 door. The only nice vehicles in the garage is the guy with the Q5, the other with the Saab 9-3 and my two sitting there. Everyone else hits objects and won’t wash them for months at a time.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I finally sat in a new 2015 Accord V6 Coupe. Overall it felt nice, but when I went to pull the door closed I audibly said “Ew!” The plastic on the door pull area felt incredibly cheap.

    The one I sat in is still listed for sale on cars.com for its original $33k MSRP.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Just a small anecdote – rode in a rental Hyundai Sonata during a business trip to Ft. Worth. Sitting in the back I was really impressed by the amount of legroom. I’m 6’2″ and normally hate sitting in the back but not here.

    The car did seem underpowered, especially with the driver who liked to pull out in front of walls of oncoming traffic. That led to some white knuckle moments! But compared to the Hyundai Excels of yore, a serious step-up in Korean car manufacturing.

  • avatar
    nels0300

    30K miles on crappy OEM tires has to have a lot to do with how noisy the car is.

    Jack’s midsize sedan reviews always make me feel good about choosing a Camry.

    I have 27K on my SE V6, still feels brand new, no rattles, and the interior still looks just as cheesy as it did when it was new!

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Another data point, my fiancé’s ’12 SE is closing in on 60k miles and has needed a set of tires at about 40k miles, and a new battery this fall. It has a minor/intermittent upper dash rattle in the winter. But hey we live on the pothole’d East side of Indianapolis so things get shaken up quiet a bit. Let’s just say I see a lot of badly bent ’24 inch rims around here.

  • avatar
    bikegoesbaa

    I have two siblings. We all bought brand new cars within a few months of each other about 4 years ago – 1 Toyota, 1 Subaru, 1 Hyundai.

    4 years and ~90k miles later with similar usage and maintenance the Toyota and Subaru both still ride and drive well, have minimal interior wear, and no evident reliability concerns.

    The Hyundai feels loose as a goose, the insides are worn-looking, and there is a disconcerting (lifter?) tap from the engine room that is apparently not covered by their “wonderful” ten year warranty.

    Despite the purchase prices of all 3 vehicles being about the same, the current street value of the Toyota and Subaru are significantly higher than the Hyundai.

    I’m not sold on the value proposition of Hyundai/Kia vehicles quite yet.

  • avatar
    qfrog

    The dash vents/cluster/steering wheel on this Hyundai looks more than a little bit like those in the 5F Seat Leon.

  • avatar
    laserwizard

    My 1997 Ford cost half of what a Saintly Honduh Accord does and it still does not squeek or rattle. It has delivered nearly 170,000 miles on one set of replacement brakes, a new timing belt, and a clutch slave cylinder (still has original clutch) and a replacement water pump done so as preventive maintenance while the timing belt was replaced.

    I marvel how Honduh owners think they have something special when Fords can do what Honduhs do and have done so for decades.

    • 0 avatar
      FromaBuick6

      A 1997 Ford with a clutch? Congratulations on owning the world’s last Contour.

      I’m currently on my 4th Honda and 2nd Ford. Both brand have their merits. The worst part about owning a Ford is being associated with the sort of people that complain about “Honduhs” on the internet…

    • 0 avatar
      wmba

      I bet the roads around your way are just teeming with half-price 1997 Frauds.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    Jack, how about seat comfort, or lack of?

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      that’s such an individual attribute that it’s not really worth mentioning. what makes a comfortable seat for you might not be for me. I’ve driven a few cars with supposedly the most awesome seats in existence and my tailbone was screaming a half hour into the drive.

    • 0 avatar
      qfrog

      Jack does his own stunt double work whenever possible which is why I’m not sure if he is the best person to ask about discomfort.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Blegh. I rented a few previous gen Hyundais in NYC. They worked really well there as their complete isolation from the road was a welcomed feature on NYC’s frost heaves and pock marked hellscape. Incidentally I have a Kia Soul rental today and it is so bad I am going to take it back and just ride my motorcycle for as long as I can while my Civic is in the shop. Here in NC I like to feel the road and be engaged and the Soul is awful in that regard.

    STILL waiting on that “tale of 2 200s” review you were supposed to drop with Derek Kriendler!!!!

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Well at this point I could only give you one of the two 200s — the other is Derek’s to review!

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        With the 200’s demise the absence of those reviews is conspicuous AF. We spend a lot of time talking about the car’s sales woes but I think TTAC staff’s experiences with the 200s, from the bottom to the top of the range, are probably more appropriate and relevant than ever.

        Bummer is I don’t think they have too many top spec versions in rental fleets… you should get your hands on a 200 S AWD for a track day lol.

  • avatar
    andarn83

    This was an interesting read. I leased a 2015 Sonata Sport almost a year ago, and my experience has been much better; this really makes me want to drive a rental-spec Sonata SE for a comparison. True, I’ve got 1/3 of the miles on mine, but aside from the coarse engine and dipsh*t transmission, I feel like it’s a pretty solid vehicle. As a matter of fact, the solidity, low wind/tire noise, and smooth ride are my favorite features. Makes me wonder how deeply they de-content the base Sonatas, or how much of the general awfulness of Jack’s rental could be attributed to bad/worn tires? Trust me, I’m not here to blindly defend my car; I’m well aware of how terribly Hyundais tend to age. A friend has a 2013 Elantra and I’m amazed by how loose and rubbery the structure is every time I ride in it. I just felt like the 2015 Sonata was a major step up all the way around. If this is what I have to look forward to at 30,000 miles, I’m going to be even happier that I leased it!

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      I’ve got the same car you do, and mine’s pushing 30k without issue. There’s a tiny, almost imperceptible buzz from somewhere around the driver’s door that may be the car or may be some item inside it; aside from that the thing might as well be new. Reach anywhere inside and squeeze two interior bits and it feels like they were milled out of a solid block. Leather on the steering wheel looks new. And this is after 30k with a gravel road and horribly rutted driveway, along with dozens and dozens of hours of progressive house at maximum volume. Whatever Jack drove, it’s not like mine!

      • 0 avatar
        andarn83

        Yeah, I’ve been really impressed so far. My mom has a 2014.5 Camry with maybe a few thousand more miles and the interior feels and sounds like a Playskool rattle trap. It’s not holding up anywhere near as well, either… the A/C compressor moans like a dying cow, the HVAC fan is chirping, and the clearcoat is worn through in a few places. While I have no doubt the Camry’s mechanicals will run longer than the Sonata’s, the perceived quality and wind/road noise levels are way worse in the Camry (the 2015 update is supposed to be much better). Nearly everybody that rides in my car is impressed with how quiet and smooth it is, as long as I don’t step too hard on the gas. :) That engine is just no match for the Accord’s or Camry’s.

        • 0 avatar
          PeriSoft

          Yep. The 2.4 is by far the weak link in the Sonata chain, though in my experience the 6-speed auto has been exemplary. The base-engine Fusion/6at I drove rubber banded constantly; the Sonata’s 2.4, while underpowered, is matched far better to its gearbox (or vice versa).

          • 0 avatar
            andarn83

            Yeah, not a fan of the Fusion 2.5/auto combo. Mom’s previous car was a 2011 Fusion and the transmission was just constantly confused and slurring shifts. The Sonata’s transmission is much better overall.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          “and the clearcoat is worn through in a few places”

          The other stuff I suppose I could see happening on some freak-unfortunate case, although like I said our ’12 SE with the stiffer suspension has close to 60k over crappy midwestern roads only has a minor dash rattle in the cold, but clear coat failure?! I call BS. What does she do, polish it with sandpaper?

          • 0 avatar
            andarn83

            I really don’t know what’s going on with it, gtemnykh. We’re just as surprised. Also, let me clarify, the clearcoat isn’t worn all the way through, there are just several spots (smaller than an inch each) where the clearcoat is really rough, pitted, and scaly… nothing we’ve done can bring it out.

            It’s kept under a carport at home and it’s not parked under any trees at work. We don’t know if some tree sap got on it, or some kind of chemical dripped on it, or what. The dealer has looked at it twice, agrees it’s a problem, says they’ll contact the folks above them to get a fix okayed, and then they never follow through. I’m afraid we’ll end up having to contact Toyota customer service.

            I personally clay bar and wax all of our cars at least twice a year, so it’s not due to lack of care. They’ve lived and worked at the same places for ages and none of their previous cars had these issues, so I’m not sure what set of circumstances have caused it. We’re just disappointed that they’re dealing with these issues on a 2-year-old car.

        • 0 avatar
          ponchoman49

          Odd considering my friend’s 2015 new style Sonata Limited with the base 2.4 not only out accelerated both 2013 and 2014.5 Camry 2.5 rentals but also sounds more refined at idle and makes about the same noise when the “go” pedal is pressed all the way down. Mileage was also better in combined driving which is not surprising considering it’s rated at 29 combined on the window sticker. perhaps the Limited has more sound deadening than the LE and SE Camary trim levels. Ditto the SE base Sonata.

  • avatar

    Jack, when do you think the first car company will advertise that they use Horween leather, like Jaguar does with Bridge of Weir?

  • avatar
    ajla

    The best thing I can say about the Sonata is that when I’ve rented them I always managed Norm levels of high fuel economy.

  • avatar
    cgjeep

    So my wife has a 13 GLS with 60k miles on it. I really can’t believe how bad it has aged in the last 10k miles. Engine sounds like a diesel, suspension crashes over everything, feels very loose when driving. 10k miles ago I would have told you what a good value it is and how well it has held up. Now we want to get rid of it. Weird, first 50k miles were great. Also had to have water pump replaced and the oil pan was leaking. Both were replaced under warranty. Interior though has held up nicely and we have twin 6 year old boys.

    One thing I noticed is that it drives much nicer on the highway when you load it up with a lot of stuff like a family and luggage. Reminds me of a pickup with weight in the bed. I think it was a much better value in 2011-2013 when it came with Bluetooth, satellite radio, ect and the camcords didn’t.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Nice review.
    Very car informative and focused.
    And another reason I hate CR reviews. They like the Kias and Hyundais.
    And just like they steered me wrong with my Goodyear triple treds and LG refrigerator…both supposedly the TOP rated.
    I had to take off the Goodyears at 20K from uneven and noise.
    The fridge Ice cooler failed a month past warranty.

    And they LOVE this car.

  • avatar

    Oregon resident here: ODOT’s poor choice in asphalt surfaces is compounded by the fact that state allows any Tom, Dick or Harry to run around on studded tires from November to March…and they do! Even though there’s almost never any snow and even less ice in the valley and the ones who choose to stud up are those who do it ‘just in case’ they get caught in a freak ice storm. Never mind those same people don’t drive at all if there’s the slightest chance of snow or ice in the forecast so they just drive around for half the year, ruining the roads for the rest of us. Satan’s tires take what would normally be an average to acceptable road surface and turn it into a torturous sound generator within two winters. I’m sure you noticed the channels they carve into the freeway lanes, channels that fill with water when it rains and create a very deep and dangerous slot in which one can place their car for instant hydroplaning action. Several times the state has tried to ban them to no avail.

    • 0 avatar
      360joules

      Nothing beats studded snow tires on packed snow and ice at low speeds. I have tire chains for our 4Runner when heading up to Mt Adams or Mt Hood in the winter to handle inches of fresh snow but packed snow & ice plus hills is most easily conquered by studs. However, studs reduce your traction above 25 mph & I agree that studded tires certainly chew up the roads of Western Oregon & Washington. My last studded snow tires lasted 10 years before I replaced them secondary to age & risk of sidewall rot. The tread was still good because I only mount my studded tires in winter before driving east of the Cascade Mountains or when snow threatened. But many people do not 1) buy snow wheels 2) have a garage or the equipment to easily swap mounted tires 3) the civic-mindedness/thrift to conserve tires and roads.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    As for the comments and Jack’s review.
    I can confirm as the owner of a previous generation Sonata that the tires make an enormous difference regarding both noise and traction. The original tires were both noisy and slippery.

    Since I drive a 3 pedal Sonata, the transmission issues Jack noted do not impact me. It always shifts when I want.

    My complaints are that they have been subject to a large number of recalls.

    Also the little symbol on the door lock button has worn off and the dealer’s ‘technician’ did scratch/chip the rubber inserts on the steering wheel and then took no responsibility for it when I brought it back a few days later to complain.

    As for those recommending a Camry instead, based on cost per mile. I will not argue, however the prices that you list are mere pipe dreams in Canada. Up here forget getting a discounted Camry and yes there is still a hefty Toyota premium on used ones.

  • avatar
    50fordbob

    Back in 13 I was about to lease a Fusion or Accord when I decided to take a look at a Sonata. We liked the Sonata better, much better equipt than the base level of the other two and performed better than the Ford. We leased it and loved it. It has held up just fine and the MPG has been better than I expected. The dealer sales and service has been the best I have ever had. When the lease was up in 16, We didn’t even look at anything else. We have a new 16 Sport, it is better in every way than the 13. It is very quiet and rides better, the re-design of the interior and the seats is outstanding. It does seem the transmition shifts sooner and feel a little less peppy than the 13. This is all the car anyone really needs. You can pay a lot more but you do not get that much more with a higher priced car than this.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    2 years ago my older uncle was very happy with his rental Sonata (2014 hybrid) in FL, until he got a ride in my rental 2014 Camry SE and realized I was seeing within 2MPG of his ride in mixed use. Then he checked prices and it got worse.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Having read the review and replies, I have no idea at all whether the latest Sonata is decent or not. Some say they’re great, some say they’re not. I guess if I was a taxi driver in Moscow, probably with a diesel and stick, it’s OK.

    My friends’s 2011 Sonata has howling tire syndrome, and trundles around with a buzzy engine and zero soul. The transmission shifts with a solid thunk that would have me back at my dealer if my car did that. The arm rests have the kind of ingrained grime I used to see on GM cars 35 years ago. He keeps it in top shape because he works for the dealer group and gets a real deal on service. I’ve only driven it once and felt I had entered the land of no hope. Not only was the engine loud when mildly goosed, the car had less than zero sporting intent, and for me would be like living in some sort of automotive hell. A car for a driver who pays no attention to mechanical niceties. It works, if that’s all you want and regard someone like me as an effete car snob, what are you doing on this site, anyway?

    I mean to say there’s more spark of life in a sloth.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      I detested that generation of Sonata so much that it nearly prevented me from trying the new generation – as you say, it seemed to suck the life out of the experience of piloting a vehicle (though not as badly as a Prius). The ’15 redesign, while not exactly an E30 M3, is far better on that front; it varies from ‘pleasant’ to ‘almost-engaging on the right roads’ rather than being stuck solidly on ‘stultifying’.

  • avatar
    PentastarPride

    This is such a refresher from the pug-ugly 2011-era Sonata. Hyundai has done a very good job. Clean lines, simple dash, no controversial swoopy exterior design elements.

    It kind of looks like a Subaru Legacy sedan (which is conservatively styled too, relatively speaking), but it’s a good start.

  • avatar
    vvk

    I have been trying to buy a commuter car to replace my totaled E46 M Sport. Test drove a 2015 Sonata SE. It was very loud, much louder than I expected. Otherwise, the steering was bad (little feel, too low effort) and the engine was buzzy and unrefined.

    I also test drove a Genesis 3.8, which I liked, and an Equus, which had way more wind noise around the mirrors than a car in its class should. It was extremely windy that day. I drove my 550i to the dealership and it was completely quiet other than the glorious sound of the V-8. The Equus seemed much louder in comparison and felt surprisingly inadequate to be an S-class competitor. I was impressed with its active cruise control, though.

  • avatar
    cityscapex5

    There’s no Hyundai’s on my shopping list as we replace our 7 year old Honda but i rented an Elantra in Hawaii a few years ago and with 40K (i imagine) hard miles on it I was very impressed with the solidity of the engine, drivetrain and suspension. I can’t recall how well the interior looked relative to what i would expect from a 2 year old car but it seemed to have had a hard life overall

  • avatar
    strafer

    So in conclusion, don’t by SE trim.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I owned one Hyundai product and I don’t think I’d ever do it again. Not that the car was bad, it was a base 2001 Elantra, with a stick and no options. I put 20k on it in a year and it was only in the shop once for some odd failure involving a relay, for which there was a TSB.

    But it was not a “drivers” car. And every Hyundai(or Kia) I’ve been in has always fallen short in that regard. Perfectly capable transportation, but lacking a certain refinement in the steering, ride and handling. And usually a fair amount of road noise. I’ve never been in a Equus or Genesis, so I’d be interested to see how they do.

    I had a Focus as a rental in 2001, right after Sept 11th. Base SE, but I loved how it drove. I went and looked at a 5 spd ZX3 with the Performance and Premium packages, took my negative “equity” into a 0% loan and drove the Focus home. Dumb financially, but that Focus is one of my favorite cars I’ve had. I nearly leased an ’11 Elantra when the new styling came out. But when I drove it, it drove like the 2001 still, with some more refinement of course.

    It’s the value equation that keeps people buying Hyun/Kia. You certainly can get a lot more equipment in their vehicles for a better deal. But the lack of finesse in their cars annoys me.

    • 0 avatar
      EX35

      Did your 2001 have the dreaded highway shimmy? My 2004 had one that I could never get rid of and Hyundai service back then was abysmal. The only positive thing I can say was that it was reliable and cheap. I’ll never set foot in a H/K dealer after that experience.

  • avatar
    Rallyz

    I need advice on buying a mid size sedan. I have a 2004 Honda Accord ex with 178000 miles. I’m looking to replace it with another car. I’m looking at the following models: 2013 Honda Accord exl, 2013 Camry xle, 2016 Hyundai sonata limited. I want it to last at least 178000 miles or more. I was looking at power seats, but not sure now. I live in southeast us, so Subaru is not worth it. Also, I put little maintenance on my accord, but newer Accord have horrible quality issues. Not a fan of cvts. 2013 Camry because of Edmunds consumer review score. I don’t like the brake issues with Camry. Sonata seems fine as my cousins have it, but not aging well is a concern. Any advice is strongly appreciated. My other car is an mdx, so no suv.

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