2021 Hyundai Sonata Pros and Cons Review: Many Flavors, Not All Good11/13/2020
- Fun N Line variant
- Good value
- Roomy back seats
- 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.
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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.”
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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.
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