2014 Hyundai Sonata Introduction

The four door Hyundai Sonata accommodates five passengers in fine style and more than holds its own with the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion and other mid-size sedans. Sonata delivers excellent quality in all of its iterations, with great manners, fuel efficiency and features, all at a competitive price.

Sonata was completely redesigned for the 2011 model year. The 2013 Sonata got an updated navigation system. Changes are more considerable for the 2014 model year, including exterior design enhancements as well as new safety technologies. New 17-inch wheels are mounted on 2014 models, which get a refined grille, HID (high-intensity-discharge) xenon headlights, and LED taillights. A Driver Selectable Steering Mode is now standard on all versions. So is a tire-specific tire-pressure monitor. A sport-tuned exhaust is newly standard on the SE 2.0T sedan. Blind Spot Detection is optional on SE, standard on Limited. Also standard on Limited are a ventilated driver's seat and fully automated temperature controls. SE models gain standard carbon fiber interior trim for 2014. A redesigned Sonata is being introduced for 2015.

The 2014 Hyundai Sonata comes in four models, including a hybrid that can be driven at highway speeds in full electric mode and an available turbocharged engine that is one of the most powerful in this class but still delivers excellent fuel mileage. Sonata uses front-wheel drive.

Sonata's styling is busy for our taste and not as clean as its corporate sibling, the Kia Optima. Many other critics have praised Sonata's look, however, and if it's confused with any other sedan, it's more likely to be mistaken for a Lexus or some other luxury model than for another mainstream mid-size.

Inside, features, materials and fit and finish are among the best in the class, especially in build quality and tolerances.

The 2014 Hyundai Sonata lineup starts with the GLS, which retails for $21,350 and comes with a full complement of power features, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity and more power than other cars in its class. Another $900 for a Popular Equipment Group adds heated front seats, automatic light control, a rearview camera, power driver's seat, and leatherette upholstery. The mid-range Sonata SE satisfies sporty tastes with a firmer suspension and sharper steering, while the Limited comes nearly loaded, with full leather, dual-zone automatic climate control and audio upgrade, blind-spot detection and a ventilated driver's seat, starting at $26,900.

Sonata's standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder delivers 190 horsepower, or 192 hp with a dual exhaust system in the Sonata SE. It's substantially more powerful than the base engine in competitors, but at 24/35 mpg City/Highway it runs neck and neck in the Environmental Protection Agency's fuel economy estimates. The four-cylinder is matched to a smooth-shifting, well programmed 6-speed automatic transmission.

Hyundai's upgrade engine led a trend in this class, eschewing a larger V6 for a smaller, efficient turbocharged four-cylinder. The 2.0T, as Hyundai calls it, satisfies America's perceived need for performance, with 274 horsepower yielding excellent acceleration on regular-grade gas. Yet it's EPA-rated at 32 mpg Highway. (Early turbo Sonatas were rated 34 mpg Highway, but Hyundai revised some fuel-economy estimates in late 2012.)

First introduced for 2011, the Sonata Hybrid features a full parallel hybrid system, allowing the car to be driven on its 40-hp electric motor at speeds up to 62 miles per hour. While such an occurrence would be rare in the real world, the Hybrid's blended gas-electric operation still improves fuel economy, with higher mileage ratings than similar hybrids from Honda and Toyota. Moreover, while other hybrids in this class have a gearless, continuously variable transmission, the Sonata Hybrid got the same 6-speed automatic as other Sonata models. It drives and sounds like the cars most of us know, with actual upshifts and downshifts.

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