For years after its 1988 debut in the United States, the Hyundai Sonata was relegated to also-ran status, overshadowed by the stalwarts of the midsize sedan segment: the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord. However, by the end of the 2000s, the Sonata had become one of the best choices in this hotly competitive segment. And the 2017 model year continues that winning streak.
The 2017 Hyundai Sonata is the third model year of the nameplate’s seventh production cycle. There are four trim levels: the base-level SE, the fuel efficiency-minded (and thus appropriately named) Eco, the performance-oriented Sport (also appropriately named), and the luxury feature-stuffed Limited. There’s also a “2.0T” variant of the upper-level Sport and Limited trims, so named because of the displacement of their shared engine. The starting MSRP range of the new vehicle is $21,950 to $34,350.
The “2.0T” is a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder (I4) that generates 245 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. That’s the most output out of all engines available on the 2017 Sonata. In accordance with its reduced gasoline consumption, the Eco stands out with the smallest engine of them all: a turbocharged 1.6-liter I4 that produces 178 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. Also, the Eco is the only one to come with a 7-speed EcoShift® dual clutch transmission, which behaves like an automatic manual transmission. Thus, the EcoShift® is better at combining the main advantages of both automatic and manual gearboxes than the 6-speed auto on the other trims.
The rest of the Sonata models—the SE and regular Sport and Limited variants—run on a 2.4-liter I4, which produces 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque. Included with each transmission is a Drive Mode Select button on the center console that allows you to choose between Normal, Eco, and Sport modes in accordance with your driving mood. Fuel economy tops out at 28 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway—that is, if you go with the Eco.
The 2017 Sonata uses a front-engine, front-wheel drive layout. For effectively absorbing turbulence arising from bumps or holes on the road, the sedan is equipped with a MacPherson strut suspension with coil springs at the front and an independent multi-link suspension at the rear. The 2.0T trim level is tuned for a firmer driving feel. Electric motor-driven power steering—so named because the steering has its own power source, rather than borrowing from the engine—is standard on the vehicle for sharp and precise handling. However, while the regular trims have the electric motor mounted on the steering column, the 2.0T Sonata has it mounted on the steering rack for greater steering feel, as well as a quicker and more linear response to your input. Power four-wheel disc brakes ensure that you stop in time as soon as you press the brake pedal, and an anti-lock braking system keeps the wheels from locking up when you do so.
As part of the seventh production cycle, the 2017 Hyundai Sonata uses the Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design language, which is characterized by sharper edges and a more aggressive stance than the previous generation. A rear spoiler and huge alloy wheels—16-inch on the Sport and Eco, 17-inch on the Sport and Limited, and 18-inch on the 2.0T—help give the sedan a sportier look.
The upper-level Sport and Limited trim levels (regular and 2.0T) look even sportier with their more aerodynamic front bumpers, side rocker panels with chrome molding, and chrome-tipped dual or quad exhaust systems. (The 2.0T gets the quad exhaust.)
Projector headlights with automatic on/off capability is standard. The Sport and Limited trim levels are upgraded with the addition of LED daytime running lights. The Limited 2.0T in particular swaps the halogen headlamps with more powerful Xenon High Intensity Discharge ones.
Dual fold-away heated power mirrors flank the Sonata at the front doors; upgrade to at least the regular Sport to get turn-signal indicators on them. Also available is a hands-free smart trunk—provided that you upgrade to the Limited trim level.
Designed as a five-seater, the 2017 Sonata comes with 8-way power adjustability and power lumbar support on the driver’s seat once you upgrade to the Sport. Front-seat heating ability and leather seat trim appear on the Sport 2.0T, and 6-way power adjustability for the front passenger seat is added on the Limited trim level. The Limited 2.0T stands apart with front-seat cooling capability, rear-seat heating capability, and a position memory system for the driver’s seat.
For infotainment, the 2017 Sonata starts off with a six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system. It includes HD Radio™, Android Auto™ and Apple CarPlay™ for smartphone control, SiriusXM® Satellite Radio service, Bluetooth® for hands-free phone calling and audio streaming, controls mounted on the steering wheel, and a 7-inch color touchscreen.
Also on board is Hyundai’s Blue Link® telematics system, which includes car care services like automatic collision notification, SOS emergency assistance, and vehicle service scheduling. On the Limited 2.0T, Hyundai installs a nine-speaker 400-watt Infinity® premium audio system to replace the six-speaker one, and 8-inch touchscreen navigation replaces the 7-inch display. For additional comfort and convenience, the 2.0T Sonata comes with auto dimming on the rearview mirror for taming headlights from behind you, HomeLink® for remote-controlling garage doors, and proximity key entry with push-button engine ignition.
In the event of a crash, the 2017 Hyundai Sonata provides protection with a pair of front impact airbags, a driver’s knee airbag, front seat-mounted dual side impact airbags, and two front and two rear side curtain airbags that flank both rows of seats. Also standard on the sedan are electronic stability control, brake assist, traction control, a rearview camera, a blind spot mirror on the driver’s side, and electronic brake-force distribution.
On the Limited trim, Hyundai upgrades the blind side mirror with a blind spot detection system, which includes rear cross-traffic alert and lane change assist. Added on the Limited 2.0T are lane departure warning, smart cruise control with stop/start capability, rear parking sensors, automatic emergency braking, dynamic bending light, and automatic high beam assist. A remote keyless entry system with engine immobilization and panic alarm constitutes the vehicle’s security mechanism.
With their longevity, name recognition, and well-earned reputation for their all-roundedness and reliability, the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord remain the top dogs in the midsize sedan segment. However, other vehicles—most especially the Hyundai Sonata—have not only caught up in certain aspects, but have also surpassed them in others. For instance, the Sonata has a better fuel economy than the Camry, and it has more cargo space and better crash safety ratings than the Accord.
If there’s one major issue with the 2017 Hyundai Sonata, it’s that you’d need to upgrade to the 2.0T to get satisfactory power. A minor quibble concerns the new exterior design; some drivers and critics have expressed a preference for the sleeker, smoother profile of the previous production cycle. Nevertheless, the 2017 Sonata is emblematic of Hyundai’s continued ascendancy as one of the world’s top automakers. With comfortable ride quality, excellent interior space, and loads of standard features—not to mention being backed by one of the industry’s most generous warranties—the 2017 Sonata is one of the best midsize sedans you can buy this year.