By on December 12, 2018

Over the years, the Hyundai Sonata has gone through more changes than the White House duty roster. Technically, there have been seven generations of the sedan, six of which have been sold on our shores. Even during those generations, frequent and extensive styling tweaks have been the norm. Hyundai takes the mid-cycle refresh very seriously. Click through to see what I mean.

For 2019, a year in which most shoppers rush past sedans to look at tall crossovers, the Sonata remains on the High Value list. They’re probably getting ready to introduce fresh styling as we speak.

As for previous efforts, take a look at these three machines spanning just five model years (1998 to 2002). It might not be an exaggeration to say the last time a car’s appearance changed so dramatically was back when Detroit used to roll out a new model every year.

But back to present day. The base Sonata is called the SE and, in typical Hyundai form, there are no option packages to be added at this level. Bundles appear further up the food chain. Here in the cheap seats, drivers will find themselves in command of a 2.4-liter four-banger making 185 horsepower. The EPA estimates a heady 35 mpg on the highway cycle.

Plenty of standard equipment crops up for the $22,300 price of admission. Air conditioning is present, as one might expect, as is a tilt/telescope steering wheel peppered with audio and cruise control buttons. Blind spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert systems are a surprise at this price point.

The Sonata’s infotainment system offers plenty of tech goodies, including a raft of USB ports to go along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on its 7-inch touchscreen. Hyundai talks up a “metalgrain” appearance to the interior accents, a styling decision which at least avoids a funereal atmosphere that infects some other base cars.

No fewer than seven different paint shades are available on the base model, ranging from utilitarian Machine Gray to snazzy Lakeside Blue. No el-cheapo steel wheels here; 16-inch alloys are wrapped up in 205-sectioned, 65-series rubber.

While we generally don’t mention rebates in the Ace of Base series, it is worth noting that some markets qualify for $2,000 worth of retail bonus cash, effectively reducing the sticker price by 10 percent. It’s a rare occasion these days to find a car with stretch-em-out legroom and scads of infotainment and safety technology for twenty grand.

[Images: Hyundai]

Not every base model has aced it. The ones which have? They help make the automotive landscape a lot better. Any others you can think of, B&B? Let us know in the comments and feel free to eviscerate our selections.

The model above is shown with American options and priced in American Dollars. Your dealer may sell for less.

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35 Comments on “Ace of Base: 2019 Hyundai Sonata SE...”


  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    Local place (upstate NY) has $3500 on the hood of SEs and higher trims discounted down to $20k, with a Limited 2.0T for $27k. But good luck finding a color combo you want; their inventory is now down to maybe 15% sedans and 85% CUVs.

  • avatar
    2drsedanman

    Base model is a lot better than it used to be. I looked at getting a new Toyota pickup in the late 80’s (pre-Tacoma). The prices for the base models were low but they were truly base; no a/c, no p/s, 5-speed manual,steel wheels, and no back bumper. We have come a long way.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    Also, the worst thing about base Sonatas is the horrid plastic steering wheel and hard plastic arm rests. I drove a 2015 Sonata Sport, and it had just enough upmarket touches to be genuinely pleasant to spend time in, but the plastic steering wheels are *really* low rent. Given that the SEL is only about another grand, and gets you that stuff plus a heated steering wheel, automatic climate control, heated power seats, and a bunch of other stuff, I’d be hard pressed to recommend the SE.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      It’s all in the execution to me. I’d rather have a well-executed plastic wheel than a poorly executed leather- or simulated-suede-wrapped wheel.

      I agree that poorly executed plastic wheel is the pits. Few things worse than a plastic wheel that’s become sticky or slimey because it’s made of a bad-quality plastic that’s breaking down.

      OTOH, I’m a frequent borrower of a subcompact whose plastic wheel is in as-new shape a decade into the car’s life. I’ll make a degree of concession on look and feel if it also entails virtually perfect durability.

      • 0 avatar
        PeriSoft

        Featherston, I drove a 2015 Sonata Sport (with leather wheel / shifter) for 60k miles, and the wheel looked nearly new when I turned it in. It had shined up just a small amount at 9 and 3. Aside from that, and some barely visible creasing on the driver’s seat leather, the interior was as-new. I was pretty impressed with the durability. Check perisoft.org/sonata-int.jpg – that’s at ~45k.

        Here’s hoping this posts despite the link.

  • avatar
    gtem

    Consider me a big fan of the base trims of H/K’s midsizers. Oodles of space, well sorted suspension tuning and excellent ride quality on the rationally sized 16 inch alloys with 65 series sidewall. The 2.4+6A gets great highway mpg and doesn’t really have any annoying characteristics, just the usual cold start DI rattle at idle. All that and good quality (recent engine recall notwithstanding) for some very reasonable real world prices.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    The metal/$ content of these is off the chain. They really neutered the styling this generation, though after sitting in the back seat of my last gen Optima this morning and rubbing my 5′ 9″ head on the ceiling I can understand why.

  • avatar
    labelnerd

    It’s hard to recommend a Sonata of any sort based on the 2013 experience, which has had five recalls, a few other non-covered problems, plus the major engine issues. Fortunately our engine hasn’t blow up……..yet. Interior legroom and space is best in class but the mechanicals suck.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    No manual = no way.

    • 0 avatar
      deanst

      What left in this class – Honda Accord and Mazda6?

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Yup that’s it.

        And you can only get the manual on the 6 with the non-turbo. Honda Accord Sport 2.0T with manual would be pretty sweet but it looks like total production is going to be pretty low.

    • 0 avatar
      ect

      “No manual = no way”

      The way things are going, you’d better get used to walking. And I say this as one who prefers a stick.

      • 0 avatar
        The Ghost of Buckshot Jones

        Bingo. Manual gearboxes won’t exist outside of cars sold in the developing/third world within 5 years.

        • 0 avatar
          MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

          And I won’t really miss them. I am keeping my Miatas with their wonderful sticks, and I have a couple other vehicles with them, but at this point they are just kinda “charming”. Modern automatics beat the same car with a stick in a race, and stop & go traffic on the daily drive utterly sucks with a stick. I’ve arrived at work more than once convinced I must need a new clutch just from the idiotic 30 minute drive in, amongst all the other idiots and driving amongst the signals programmed by still more idiots. I like the sticks I have, but I sure don’t want any more.

  • avatar
    tallguy130

    Anyone drive the one with the bigger engine? Lot of cash on the hood makes me want to check it out. Well sorted family car with about 250 hp and plenty of space for somewhere in the mid 20k range is interesting.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      It’s not a bigger engine; it’s a smaller, turbocharged engine. For the non-hybrid models, the base engine is a 2.4-liter inline 4-cylinder, while the optional unit is a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Many magazine tests have said that it felt like less than 250 hp however SavageGeese thought the Optima turbo they drove was pretty good for the price.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      The biggest problem with a new Sonata for $25k is a CPO Hyundai Genesis for $25k. Unless fuel mileage and absolute warranty length are prime concerns, it does everything the Sonata does better, with an incomparably better interior, is faster, and has the same or better tech. It’s a pain in the butt to find the right one, but I don’t regret it.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Based on that criteria, a lightly used K-platform Avalon might be worth a look.
      Smooth and powerful 2GR V6 that can still crack 30mpg on the highway with ease
      Brick Sh*thouse reliability, but at “mid $20k” you could easily pop for a CPO car if you insist
      Plenty of interior room although the trunk isn’t usefully larger than a Camry’s (which has a very good sized trunk to be fair).

      Epsilon Impala is another consideration, although I’ve been reading less than flattering things about their reliability from the TTAC commentariat as of late. Hyundai Azera? I’ve heard of timing chain issues on that H/T 3.3 V6, as well as literally have heard my neighbor’s Cadenza make an awful dieseling cacophony on start up.

      • 0 avatar
        cimarron typeR

        +1 on the v6 Avalon, the 3.5 , 6sp auto combo is perfect. We traded our 12 sienna for 18 Sienna and the although it’s more powerful, the 8spd transmission tune is not as crisp at the old 6spd.I personally like the previous Avalon styling, reminds me of a Jag XF from the rear, without the Predator grille on the front.

  • avatar
    labelnerd

    I’ll take my Kia Stinger any day over any Sonata. Way more fun, way more cargo space and looks to kill.

  • avatar
    JMII

    I rent often and when these are available in my row I take them. The interior is straight forward with logical buttons in good locations. Stereo, HVAC, etc are all easy to use and function as expected, there is nothing to decode or figure it. The sport switch firms up the steering and holds rev a touch longer. I just wish it stayed in this mode all the time, but you must select it at each start up. Ride quality is not mush but doesn’t bounce you are either. Recently Toyotas have become too soft, Nissans have the dreaded CVT and Hondas are a button filled mess. Thus I find the Sonata is a perfect “average” car, it does everything in an acceptable manner with no irritating nonsense. My parents had the turbo in the previous generation and that engine was strong plus kind of fun with the paddle shifters. Sadly my mother’s hip cracked forcing them to move into a CUV (Ford Escape Ecoboost) for comfort reasons.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      Are there any cars that will just stay in sport mode after you shut them down? Every car I’ve ever driven with such an option does the same thing.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        If you went back to the 1990s I think some of the cars with “PWR” and “ECON” buttons for the trans had a positive switch that would stay one way or the other…

        But yeah, systems today tend to default when shut down.

        • 0 avatar
          MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

          It’s one button push, not really that much hassle, but my LS400 and previous Lexuses will stay in Power or Snow mode.
          They will also leave the seat heat on.

      • 0 avatar
        mittencuh

        BMWs can be easily coded to do so by the dealer, had it done at no charge on multiple ones (same with the auto stop start BTW)

        • 0 avatar
          JMII

          My C7 will stay in Touring (normal) or Sport Mode. Granted its ‘Vette so “sport” might be considered a default. Track, Weather and Eco modes have to be selected each time. Plus you can override the exhaust and steering mode by locking them in as vehicle preferences. So its really just suspension, throttle response and traction control that must tweaked at start up if desired.

          And yes the ‘Vette has an Eco mode! It allows for cylinder deactivation during steady cruise / light throttle application. Seems silly but I’ve gotten 33 MPG on the highway in 7th gear when driven as a V4.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    You could buy one of these for $17K and change with the regular rebates ( no BS Uber, College, Military, etc) last month. Possibly the best value in new vehicles IMO. Great warranty and resale be dammed you will still be a winner for total cost of ownership at 5 years and 10 years.

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    “Here in the cheap seats” quite literally. I’ve rented a 2016 SE and a 2017 sport, and in each of them the seats destroyed my back for the rest of the day after covering about 300 miles. Easily the least comfortable vehicle I can remember driving.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Meh I’ve had a number of Optimas/Sonatas over the last 3 years for some 3-4 hour drives and have not found them to be better or worse than something like a Camry. Not European comfortable, but perfectly usable and adequate.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Seats are extremely subjective.

        My chiropractor would probably appreciate me finding something with 4 way lumbar for my next ride.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          I’ve mentioned it before, but easily the best seats I’ve experienced for long drives were in a …2012 Civic LX. Nice and wide, with a very pronounced protruding lumbar contour. Knocked down 10 hour drives with ease (well, the NVH was kind of atrocious in retrospect).

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