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Hyundai returns to flashier design with 2018 Sonata

13 April 2017 - Autoblog

2018 Hyundai Sonata

Compared to the stylistic achievement of the 2009 Hyundai Sonata, many observers viewed the redesigned 2015 Sonata as a step backward.

To right the ship, Hyundai tasked its North American Design Center with restoring some razzle-dazzle to the brand's midsize contender for 2018.

The creative team made changes throughout, the biggest development being the "cascading grille" at the front, cribbed from the Elantra. The Sonata Sport 2.0T grille gets a silver mesh treatment and vertical LED DRLs tucked in the triangular bumper vents at the corners. The other models wear chrome bars inside the grille, with vertical and horizontal LED DRLs at the corners. Slimmer headlights stretch around the front edges, with the hood sporting deeper chiseled surfaces to emphasize the injection of style.

In back, instead of the hint of a spoiler on the current sedan, the 2018 Sonata's deck lid ends in a pronounced flick above a sharp taper into the rear valance. The license-plate holder moves down to the reshaped bumper so that the larger, flatter trunk face can fit much larger badging. The trunk release button hides inside the Flying H emblem, and wedge-shaped taillights glow with the same alien-script pattern familiar from the Elantra. Down below, non-Sport models get a single, trapezoidal exhaust tip, but the Sport 2.0T gets two such exhaust tips, paired with new Michelin tires and a flat-bottomed steering wheel.

Engines don't change, but buyers who choose the 2.0-liter four-cylinder get an eight-speed automatic transmission that adds a cog at the low end and another at the high end. The rest of the lineup sticks with the present six-speed auto. Handling upgrades include 12-percent thicker torsion bars in the steering system and new steering calibration for better on-center feel and responsiveness, plus 21-percent thicker trailing arms and new bushings in the suspension for faster response and more compliance.

Inside, a reworked center console holds steady with a seven-inch touchscreen. Interior designers gave the new HVAC and audio controls a silkier finish and contrasting "piano key" buttons. A second-row USB port serves back-seaters, and the options list will include a Qi wireless charging pad for those in front. The 2018 Sonata introduces a navigation bird's-eye view, free traffic data, standard blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert, and a new lane departure warning system as some of the convenience and safety highlights. In fact, the new Sonata's tech story is so long we devoted another post to it; if the new design doesn't restore sales numbers, perhaps the gadgets will.

The major trim change sees the addition of an SEL model above the entry-level SE. Hyundai PR told Autoblog that the SEL "will feature high-demand features such as Power Driver's Seat, Proximity Key and Heated Front Seats at a very reasonable price walk from the entry trim."

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