2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T First Test
Don't Believe Everything You Read on a Decklid
Now that Hyundai's designers and engineers have found their mojo and started penning sharp-looking, well-proportioned cars such as this fast-backed "four-door coupe" Sonata, who can blame them for trying to amp up the sport quotient with big horsepower engines, and big, aggressive wheels and fascias? For 2015, the most athletic Sonata money can buy is the Sport 2.0T. (A paper-tiger Sport with the 2.4-liter naturally aspirated engine is also available.)
Fashion-forward car enthusiasts have probably noted that the 2.0-liter, direct-injected turbo four-cylinder seems to be the engine of the future, with practically everyone already offering such a mill or promising one soon. Hyundai's Theta II turbo-GDI engine bristles with variable valve timing that optimizes for low-rpm drivability as well as a small-diameter turbine compressor wheel and twin-scroll housing that help to further reduce turbo lag and fatten the low-end torque feel of the engine. Output is rated at a reasonable 245 hp at 6,000 rpm and 260 lb-ft. at 1,350 rpm, roughly tying the Ford Fusion EcoBoost's 240 hp/270 lb-ft and handily trumping the VW Passat 1.8T's 170 hp/184 lb-ft. Sadly, Hyundai's Theta II now trails the turbo offering in its quasi-sistership, the Kia Optima SX Turbo, which produces 274 hp/269 lb-ft. (Last year's Sonata 2.0T shared that engine specification.) It also trails the GM competition (Chevy Malibu LT/LTZ, Buick Regal T) by a bunch. They kick out 259 hp/295 lb-ft.
The Hyundai Sonata is a 2015 Motor Trend Car of the Year contender - find out in November whether it has what it takes to win.
Not too surprisingly then, the Sonata Sport 2.0T can't be expected to win many drag races against these competitors. We measured a 0-to-60 time of 8.0 seconds, which trailed even the Passat TSI Sport by 0.2 second. The Regal and Malibu did this sprint in 6.1 and 6.3 seconds and the Optima needed 7.2 seconds. Despite the added friction of all-wheel drive, the Fusion was 1.2 seconds quicker at 6.8 seconds. Even naturally aspirated competitors such as the Honda Accord Sport and Mazda6 squeak past the Sonata Sport 2.0T with a half-second and two-tenths to spare, respectively.
So it's not a pink-slips machine, you're thinking, big deal. Nobody's racing family sedans. Does it at least handle well? Hmm. If a slightly flinty ride paired with gobs of nice, super-safe understeer is your definition of good handling, then yep! We give credit to the rack-mounted, electric power-steering assist for improving the steering feel somewhat. (Lesser Sonatae make do with a column-mounted EPS.) And, to heighten the impression of steering sportiness, the bottom of the steering wheel is squared off. But several editors who test-drove the Sport 2.0T on some challenging roads basically agreed that the "Sport" badging may be overselling the driving experience a bit. This car just isn't much fun to hustle, and the suspension's ride penalty is too great to justify its meager handling payoff. Chassis dynamic brilliance is one of the last hurdles Hyundai has yet to clear. Still, the fact that most other areas of automotive design and engineering have been more or less mastered by the company that was building crude ox-cart Ponys as recently as 1990 is nothing short of miraculous.
The 2015 Sonata is a great looking, feature-laden car, especially in its Sport 2.0T trim, and these attributes -- not the vehicle's dynamic performance -- are what should motivate purchase of the Sonata lineup's flagship, which starts at a princely $29,385 and comes with only one major option package, a $4,950 whopper filled with techie gizmos including forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, auto high beams, rear parking assist, BlueLink telematics, heated and cooled seats, a panoramic sunroof, and more. For that money, if rear headroom isn't your chief concern, you could get your 2.0-liter turbo wrapped in a decently equipped Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class. Just sayin'.
|2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$34,460|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||2.0L/245-hp/260-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3605 lb (60/40%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||191.1 x 73.4 x 58.1 in|
|0-60 MPH||8.0 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||16.2 sec @ 88.4 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||120 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.81 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.5 sec @ 0.70 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||23/32/26 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||147/105 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.74 lb/mile|