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2021 Hyundai Sonata Pros and Cons Review: Are All of Its Many Flavors Great?

Pros

  • Fun N Line variant
  • Good value
  • Roomy back seats

Cons

  • Unrefined transmission
  • Fishy front-end styling
  • Ride quality

The 2021 Hyundai Sonata makes a compelling case to grab our Golden Calipers this year with bold styling and an expanded lineup, which includes a hybrid and a new N Line model powered by a powerful turbo-four engine. With consumers continuing to gravitate to crossovers, will the revived Sonata be enough to slow the trend? And can it rise above the midsize segment’s juggernauts, the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord?

View Other 2021 Car Of The Year Contenders And Finalists Here

The biggest surprise in the lineup is the new Sonata N Line. Enthusiasts looking for a practical yet fun midsize sedan will likely find a lot to like with this one, including a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder making close to 300 hp. “This is quite a sporty sedan,” MotorTrend en Español managing editor Miguel Cortina said. “The body likes to lean in nicely in the corners. It’s engaging to drive.” These were unexpected but welcomed impressions for a Sonata.

The fuel-sipping Sonata Hybrid is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Its EPA rating of 45/51 mpg city/highway is certainly impressive, but Buyer’s Guide director Zach Gale pointed out that it could be better: “Although efficiency is great compared to the Sonata 1.6T, it is average compared to the Camry and Accord.” Those cars are rated 51/53 and 48/47 mpg, respectively. Gale also wished for a more refined powertrain, a complaint echoed by other judges.

Judges also had the opportunity to evaluate the mass-market Sonata 1.6T, which is what most customers will be buying compared to the aforementioned N Line and hybrid. Our test car rang in at $32,050 and earned high marks in the value criteria. LED headlights, a panoramic sunroof, and a 10.3-inch infotainment screen are just a few items in the long list of features. Owners get three years or 36,000 miles of complimentary maintenance, too. Judges were also pleased with the roomy back seats.

Testing director Kim Reynolds was initially satisfied with the 1.6’s performance on the figure-eight course, where he said it was well behaved and “better controlled than you’d expect … not another sloppy family car.”



















Out in the real world, however, judges were torn, especially with the powertrain. Although Gale thought the 1.6T was plenty strong (with the front tires occasionally chattering under acceleration), some judges noted inconsistencies with the transmission, which features editor Christian Seabaugh said was “wildly uncooperative” and too eager to upshift.

The Sonata was also criticized for ride quality at freeway speeds, where judges hoped for smoother and more buttoned-down body control. “The springs are too soft,” senior features editor Jonny Lieberman said. “It doesn’t handle normal road imperfections as well as any of the other finalists.”

Then there’s the sheetmetal. There’s no arguing that there was a lot of effort put into the design, and most judges seemed to like the rear end and striking taillights. But the grille struggled to garner any fans. “From every angle except the front, this is an extremely attractive car,” Gale said.

So although we liked the fun N Line and smooth hybrid, for the volume models that most customers will buy, it’s difficult to overlook the Sonata’s shortcomings.

POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid (Limited)
DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD
ENGINE TYPE I-4, on-demand Atkinson cycle, alum block/head, plus permanent magnet electric motor
VALVETRAIN DOHC, 4 valves/cyl
DISPLACEMENT 122.0 cu in/1,999 cc
COMPRESSION RATIO 14.0:1
POWER (SAE NET) 150 hp @ 6,000 rpm (gas) + 51 hp (elec); 192 hp (comb)
TORQUE (SAE NET) 139 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm (gas) + 151 lb-ft (elec)
REDLINE NA
WEIGHT TO POWER 17.9 lb/hp
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
AXLE/FINAL-DRIVE RATIO 3.51:1/2.7:1
SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar
STEERING RATIO 13.3:1
TURNS LOCK-TO-LOCK 2.6
BRAKES, F; R 12.0-in vented disc; 11.2-in disc, ABS
WHEELS, F;R 7.0 x 17-in cast aluminum
TIRES, F;R 215/55R17 94V Michelin Primacy A/S (M+S)
DIMENSIONS
WHEELBASE 111.8 in
TRACK, F/R 64.6/64.2 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 192.9 x 73.2 x 56.9 in
TURNING CIRCLE 36.1 ft
CURB WEIGHT 3,445 lb
WEIGHT DIST, F/R 60/40%
SEATING CAPACITY 5
HEADROOM, F/R 40.0/37.8 in
LEGROOM, F/R 46.1/34.8 in
SHOULDER ROOM, F/R 57.9/56.1 in
CARGO VOLUME 16.0 cu ft
TEST DATA
ACCELERATION TO MPH
0-30 2.6 sec
0-40 3.8
0-50 5.7
0-60 7.6
0-70 9.8
0-80 12.6
0-90 15.9
0-100  —
PASSING, 45-65 MPH 4.0
QUARTER MILE 15.8 sec @ 89.5 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 121 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.83 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 27.5 sec @ 0.62 g (avg)
TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH NA
CONSUMER INFO
BASE PRICE $36,295
PRICE AS TESTED $36,750
STABILITY/TRACTION CONTROL Yes/Yes
AIRBAGS 9: Dual front, f/r side, f/r curtain, driver knee
BASIC WARRANTY 5 yrs/60,000 miles
POWERTRAIN WARRANTY 10 yrs/100,000 miles
ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE 5 yrs/Unlimited miles
FUEL/BATTERY CAPACITY 13.2 gal + 1.62 kW-hr Li-Ion battery
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON 45/51/47 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 75/66 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.41 lb/mile
RECOMMENDED FUEL Unleaded regular
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