By on July 18, 2017

2018 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T, Image: Steph Willems/The Truth About Cars

As Tim Cain put it so succinctly earlier this afternoon, the seventh-generation Hyundai Sonata’s exterior design, coming on the heels of the quite edgy 2011-2014 model, didn’t set American’s hearts aflame.

Even as standard content increased and the model’s value proposition burned just as brightly as before, its distinctively watered-down design turned off buyers. Well, Hyundai wants its apology heard loud and clear. For 2018, the Sonata atones for the previous generation’s sins by showing up with something to look at.

Namely, a brand new face. Oh, and how about that rear end, now with less ovals? While fore-and-aft facelifts are the hallmark of a mid-cycle design refresh, the 2018 Sonata’s changes aren’t just skin deep.

2018 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T, Image: Steph Willems/The Truth About Cars

Of course, the first thing you’ll notice is the Sonata’s adoption of the corporate “cascading grille” seen on the Elantra and its variants, including the fully redesigned 2018 Elantra GT. Flanked by wide air curtain vents containing tell-tale stacked LED running lights, the new grille endows the Sonata with not-before-seen levels of visual aggression.

The genetic traits continue out back, as the Sonata’s once-yawn-inducing taillights now mimic the slanted rear lamps of the Elantra sedan. In Sport guise, chrome tailpipes and a rear diffuser join the remolded bumper, bolstering the backside looks. Altogether, the exterior improvements contain a touch of menace and meld nicely with the sedan’s strong, preexisting character line. Operation Banish the Boredom seems a success.

Inside, a redesigned center stack, with its efficiently segmented infotainment, stereo, and climate functions, should please those enamored with neatness and order. A 7-inch touchscreen comes standard, as does Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, with the range-topping model gaining an 8-inch unit. If you’re opting for a turbocharged Sport model, the Sonata’s three-spoke steering wheel gains a flat bottom for that go-fast appeal. Just try to avoid forgetting it’s a five-passenger family sedan, please.

2018 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T, Image: Steph Willems/The Truth About Cars

During a brief encounter at last month’s Elantra GT first drive, the top-flight Sonata Limited 2.0T flexed its muscles on twisty Quebec roads, revealing a sedan with two distinct sides. For 2018, last year’s six-speed automatic transmission disappears from the Sport variant, replaced by a new eight-speed unit. Smooth, with a tendency to upshift a little too quickly (except when in the “sport” setting), the tranny avoids the irritating gear hunting sometimes found in other units with high cog counts. Regardless of drive setting, a right-foot-stomp brings all 245 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque quickly to bear.

One thing not new for 2018 is power. The turbocharged 2.0-liter’s specs remain the same as before, as does the 184-hp, 178 lb-ft 2.4-liter four-cylinder found in lesser trims. The efficiency-minded Eco model, with its 1.6-liter turbo four, also stays put. Redesigned hybrid models are still under development.

Now, back to the Sport, as it’s the only variant we’ve tested. During an all-too-brief drive, there wasn’t much time to properly get the feel of the transmission’s new Smart mode, which cycles through Sport, Eco and Comfort modes as needed, depending on the occupant’s manner of driving. It sounds like a useful tool for drivers possessing Jekyll and Hyde personalities.

2018 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T, Image: Steph Willems/The Truth About Cars

Unseen beneath the Sonata is a beefed-up rear suspension that admirably tamed the wildly irregular pavement of backwoods Quebec. New bushings, 21-percent thicker trailing arms in the rear, and a 12-percent stiffer torsion bar in the steering system round out the handling improvements. While being tossed about, the Sonata felt stable and predictable, with little body lean and a stiff, on-point steering feel.

Hyundai lists safety as a top bragging point. All 2018 Sonatas carry blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert — the most sought-after safety aids, Hyundai claims — as standard equipment. Lane keep assist now becomes available on lower-run SEL models, in addition to Limited trims. (It’s standard on the Limited 2.0T.)

Also available for 2018 is the automaker’s BlueLink telematics system which, as in the Elantra GT, is offered with a five-year, no-cost trial period in Canada, three years in the United States.

As new Sonatas arrive at dealers, buyers won’t shell out all that much more. Some, in fact, stand to pay less. A base SE now lists at $22,935 after delivery, up from last year’s $22,435 sticker. An Eco goes for $23,535, less than 2017’s after-delivery price of $23,970. If having the most available power isn’t negotiable, a Sport 2.0T now costs $28,485, or about a grand more than last year. The ultimate Sonata, the Limited 2.0T, tops the range at $33,335. That’s less than Hyundai’s 2017 MSRP listing.

Will the new styling improve Hyundai’s flagging car sales? Probably not, as the market’s headed in the opposite direction — towards crossovers Hyundai can’t develop quick enough. Could it stimulate interest in the Sonata itself, allowing the trusted nameplate to hold its own in the face of new-for-2018 competition from Toyota and Honda? Hyundai’s betting on it.

2018 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T

[Images: © Steph Willems/The Truth About Cars]

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41 Comments on “2018 Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.0T First Drive – More Content, More Face, Same Power...”


  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    Overall its what it should have been. Good job. DO you guys think that you will ever be able to do a comparo when the Accord and Camry come about?

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      The sheetmetal (esp. the higher trim with the mesh grille) is an improvement over the overly staid pre-refresh design.

      And seems to have made needed improvements in the steering and suspension.

      The interior needed a more drastic over-haul, but suppose can’t have everything when a new generation model is just 2 years away.

      Still, will be a tough road going up against the new Accord and Camry, as well as the aggressively priced Altima.

    • 0 avatar
      tekdemon

      Do you really need a comparo to tell you that this car is about to get it’s ass kicked in every possible way by the competition? It’s slower, less fuel efficient, and less well sorted than the competition and has a more obviously cost cut interior. Even selling for $15,000 brand new the existing Sonata Limited isn’t moving off of lots and the competition just got a whole lot stronger while the Sonata barely improved for 2018.

      Last year the underpowered 2.0T was up against an old V6 in the Camry and a CVT equipped V6 in the Accord and it wasn’t even close, and this year it’s up against a beefed up direct injection V6 and 8-speed in the Camry and the friggin’ Type R motor and 10 speed in the Accord. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if the new 4-Cylinder base Camry is faster than the 2.0T Sonata.

      • 0 avatar
        quaquaqua

        $15k for a Sonata Limited, TROLL please. And of course the V6 Camry is gonna be faster (the de-tuned Accord, we’ll see). But considering you have to get a top of the line Camry to even have the option to get that V6 means that hardly anyone buys them. The Sonata turbo is actually available in several, much more affordable trims. Which is why you see much more of them on the road.

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          Less than 10% of Camry buyers opted for the V6 and Toyota is expecting that figure to drop to around 5% for the new V6 Camry.

          In contrast, 30-to-40% of Sonata buyers opt for the turbo 4.

          • 0 avatar
            ponchoman49

            We must have checked out 20 new 2018 Camry’s at several Toyota dealers. Not one was a V6. Conversely we looked at every in stock 2017 and not a V6 was to be found. Most were basic LE and SE 2.5’s and a couple of hybrids.

      • 0 avatar
        Rod Panhard

        I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that you haven’t really driven a Sonata. And I’m going to go out on another limb and guess that you haven’t noticed that 97 percent of car buyers never take their cars to 8/10ths of the car’s performance capabilities.

        That 8/10ths is where some of us would notice the dynamic difference between a “sporty” Accord and an average Sonata. The others wouldn’t notice because they’d be filling their pants.

        That’s really what this is about. Can the car comfortably and safely take four passengers from Point A to Point B and get about 30 mpg?

        If it can, then consumers will buy the most affordably priced car. But right now, the issue is Americans are too fat anymore to fit in “Cars.” They need to get in and out of them, and “getting out of them” is a battle against gravity. So that means SUVs and trucks sell. Buyers will sacrifice MPG since gas is cheap.

        Right now, it’s gravity that’s expensive.

      • 0 avatar
        Peter Voyd

        2013-2017 US Accords with V6 engines had a 6-speed transmissions, not CVTs.

      • 0 avatar
        SubieSVX

        tekdemon Do you know of any dealers selling a brand new 2017 Hyundai Sonata Limited for $15.000?

        If so, where?

        I have seen money on the hood, but not near the amount needed to bring the price down that much.

      • 0 avatar
        SubieSVX

        Hello tekdemon. Could you tell me where I can get a brand new 2017 Hyundai Sonanta Limited for $15,000? not a great car, but good enough at that price for commuters who just eat up the miles.

        Thanks for your help.

  • avatar
    Prove Your Humanity 2+9=?

    Toyotaish rear end, the rest looks just like a Fusion and its copycats, such as Audi and several others.
    Will Kia/Hyundai ever stop emulating and start being original?

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Hyundai was doing the hexagonal-shaped grille and elongated/stretched headlights before Ford.

      And as for the rear, doesn’t look much like Toyota; more like a mash of the rears of the Elantra and Forte.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      It does borrow from Fusion quite a bit. It isn’t bad, its just, as you say, derivative.

      They manage to stand out with the Soul, its refreshingly interesting in its price range. The Stinger is a pleasant surprise, the Optima is better than this

      Of the two, I tend to prefer Kia. This goes back to the pre-Hyundai takeover. I loved me some Sportage in H/S. 4wd and 5 speed please. I’d still like one. I had a Festiva I liked a lot, but a Sephia I hated. Hyundai made nothing I desired, then or now.

    • 0 avatar
      quaquaqua

      Anyone who says Kia isn’t doing original designs should be declared legally blind.

  • avatar
    tallguy130

    I like the look and the 240hp in the Sport looks like the way to go. I would like a 6speed with it but that’s like asking it to come with Kate Upton in the passenger seat….

  • avatar
    volvo

    For me a timely post. I was in a parking lot this afternoon and approached what I think was a 2016 or 17 Sonata. Color was silver. As I walked by I thought it looked very good and wondered whether is was a BMW or MBZ sedan. Surprised me when I saw the H on the grill.

    I would not mistake this new model for an understated European sedan. I might mistake it for a grounded whale shark however

  • avatar
    ajla

    I think they should have dropped the dinner plate logo off the grille and put a small badge below the hood’s cut line.

    Kind of like on the G80:
    icdn-1.motor1.com/images/mgl/gbBKm/s4/2018-genesis-g80-sport-first-drive.jpg

    It looks like the interior is slightly slanted towards the driver as well?

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    The only reason to get one of these over an Elantra Sport is if you need to fit a rear facing child seat.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      One thing I put in the mid-sizer’s favor is the Sonata still uses conventional automatics in every trim except the Eco while the Elantra Sport’s automatic is a dual-clutch setup.

      • 0 avatar
        nels0300

        But the main thing that tips the scales heavily in favor of the Elantra Sport is that you don’t have to get an automatic.

        Just got finished with a rear facing seat and the first thing I did was ditch the midsize automatic.

        Just my humble opinion, the manual transmission option is the best available option there is, especially when you consider that the Elantra Sport is FAR from a stripper model, it is very well equipped.

        *I* have to have a manual transmission, the wife has her own car.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          “*I* have to have a manual transmission”

          Obviously, that makes the decision easy for you then.

          I generally roll with automatics so I’d prefer the Sonata.

    • 0 avatar
      S197GT

      or power seats… and rear hvac vents…

      those are two reasons why we don’t own an elantra sport. wife has to have those.

  • avatar
    Dan

    I realize that driving a Hyundai is no longer something to be ashamed of.

    But it’s not something to be badge-that-you-can-see-from-space proud of either.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Wouldn’t be surprised if that large-ish logo hides the radar sensor (Hyundai really needs to change their emblem).

      Still not has large as the Tri-star Mercedes has been affixing to the front of their sport trim models.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    If General Motors could make an interior this nice in vehicles they charge twice as much for (or more), let alone get the exterior fit/finish and paint as good, it would herald the end of days,

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Nice update to a car that had overly conservative styling. I like the blue paint job. Compliments on the steering and suspension tuning as well? Looks like they’ve figured out cars just in time for them to be irrelevant in the face of the CUV tide.

    The equipment list vs. MSRP is probably the selling point here, otherwise I’m not sure it makes sense against an Accord 2.0T or V6 Camry or perhaps Fusion 2.0T. Curious to see how the 8 speed improves performance, with the old transmission it looked tepid for a top-shelf engine.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Hyundai & Kia had great momentum when they had actual, street transaction prices 18% to 28% lower than similar vehicles from Honda & Toyota, and there was the expectation that there much-hyped 10 Year/100,000 mile warranty would cover issues without dealers and Hyundai/Kia Corporate being d!ckholes and sleazing out.

      Now, with prices at par with Honda & Toyota, if not actually higher in actual ATPs on some models, and a well-deserved distrust by past owners burned by sleazy dealership tactics, that growth once taking place has reversed.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        That’s not accurate at all.

        Hyundai (and esp. Kia) still undercut Honda and Toyota; it may seem like they are on price-parity, but that’s not taking into account the level of kit (and even with the added kit, still less expensive).

        The based trim of the new Camry starts at $24.4k; the base trim of the Sonata starts at $22.9k.

        The V6 Camry now starts at $35.3k; that price-hike is in part due to the added level of amenities; the 2.0T Sonata starts at $28.5k with the Limited at $33.3k.

        Regardless, both the Sonata and Optima had a higher ATP than the outgoing Camry, with the Optima being higher of the 2.

  • avatar
    Carrera

    Totally agree with DeadWeight. Unless supported by good amounts of cash back, they are no bargain. On par with Accord and Camry. Also no resale value whatsoever due to the flood of fleet vehicles every few years on the used car market. It is really hard to find a used Sonata that’s not an ex-rental.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Plenty of rental Camrys as well (in fact, about double of what one would find of the Sonata).

      The Camry at times has been the most popular mid-size sedan found in the rental lot (even outpacing domestics like the Fusion and Malibu).

      • 0 avatar
        quaquaqua

        No it hasn’t. The Altima has out-fleeted the Camry for ten years now. Where are you getting your numbers?

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          Maybe it has changed the past few years (as Nissan has really ramped up Altima production), but according to “Automotive Fleet” the Camry was at one point the most popular mid-size in fleet (that’s total #s and not % to fleet).

  • avatar
    Raevox

    Checking on Hyundai’s site, according to the above photos, it does appear that they finally offer the Sonata in Electric Blue just as the Elantra.

    I have an Elantra in that color, and I will say, it looks AMAZING in ANY lighting. Lakeside Blue is a nice color as well, but much darker and doesn’t pop nearly as much.

    The Tucson has a similar color called “Caribbean Blue” and I’ve seen it in person. It’s really close to Electric, if not the same color under a different name.

    That being said, the new design is a marked improvement since my spouse said the Sonata was too “pedestrian looking for you” when I briefly considered it months ago when the cash on the hood put it closer to the Elantra pricing. Which I agreed.

    For a daily driver and family sedan, I would consider this. If anything, because it still has conventional automatics. I would rather have the Elantra GT Sport (or the sedan Sport for that matter), but not with a dual clutch box.

    If I were in a position to have a manual again, then the decision for the GT Sport is a no-brainer.

    The footnote here, however, is that I agree with DW and others… at this point even with the refresh, it’s still even further outclassed by the sedan competition. Especially with a 300HP Camry, and a turbo manual-transmission Accord (never thought I’d see the day again!). So I’d better get a steeper discount.

  • avatar
    threeer

    When will we move away from the styling trend of the “gaping catfish” maw? At some point, the entire front end of cars will be nothing more than one huge grill. Is it that much cheaper/easier to do this regarding material costs (more plastic, less metal)?

    • 0 avatar
      Rod Panhard

      On the front end of the car or truck, it’s all plastic. Even the “chrome” is plastic. The rear bumpers on trucks are steel, but that’s probably because running over pedestrians backwards hasn’t become a “thing,” yet. But there’s still hope.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      Probably the same day pop-up headlights make a comeback. The front ends of cars are too tall because of pedestrian safety regulations. What else will they fill that space with?

    • 0 avatar
      Baskingshark

      “At some point, the entire front end of cars will be nothing more than one huge grill.”

      The 1968-70 Dodge Charger would like to have a word with you…

  • avatar
    thx_zetec

    Another sedan.

    One thing I hate about modern sedans is the fragile, expensive to fix valance panel in front. I don’t want to go bolder hopping, but very easy to scrape and cause $$ damage.

    This is for styling, they coulda put some un-painted black plastic under there.

    Many on this forum (including me) make fun of crossovers and SUV’s, but IU think this is one thing that drives people from sedans. Between CAFE and styling cars like this can be a real pain.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I can clearly see that the front “H” logo contains the radar plate for the adaptive cruse, but couldn’t they have made it a bit smaller.

  • avatar
    AndyYS

    As the happy owner of a 2010 Sonata, I’m glad to see that they’ve returned to the large hexagonal grill. Overall I think the looks of the 2018 are top notch. My main priorities are comfort and quietness. At this point I’m considering all 2018 midsize sedans except the Camry (no Android auto is a deal breaker). My guess is that the Sonata will be among the top four, along with the Optima, Accord and Legacy, but we’ll see.


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