If you’re looking for information on a newer Hyundai Sonata, we’ve published an updated review: 2019 Hyundai Sonata Review
If carmaking was golf, the 2018 Hyundai Sonata would be a mulligan. In golf, it’s a do-over of a muffed shot. Totally against the official rules, a mulligan is an opportunity for a golfer to redeem himself or herself for a bad drive off the tee. Thankfully for Hyundai, a mulligan in carmaking is not only acceptable, it’s encouraged.
When Hyundai launched its seventh-generation Sonata in 2015, the powers that be at the Korean carmaker were quite happy with the car in general. It was widely applauded in the motoring press as a step forward from the generation before it. However, it eventually became apparent that the exterior styling, although fairly elegant, wasn’t wowing the public. Sending the designers back to the drawing board, Hyundai management was determined to add some pizzazz to the exterior lines, tinkering a bit with the suspension in the process.
The fruits of those efforts are found in the 2018 Sonata.
What’s New for 2018
Sweeping changes were made to the front and rear ends of the sedan, a new center stack with updated controls, a new automatic transmission for the 2.0 grade, recalibrated steering, standard blind spot monitoring and some rear-suspension tweaks. See the 2018 Hyundai Sonata models for sale near you
What We Like
Solid fuel economy; up-level cabin; standard blind spot monitoring; quiet ride; user-friendly infotainment system; value price
What We Don’t
Full suite of driver-assist/safety systems not offered on all grades; not as fun to drive as some competitors
Beyond the Sonata Hybrid, a 3-engine lineup provides thrust within the seven normally aspirated Sonata grades. Reserved exclusively for the 2018 Sonata Eco trim, scheduled to arrive later this summer, is a 178-horsepower 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine paired with a 7-speed automatic transmission. A 186-hp 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine mated to a 6-speed automatic tranny powers the SE, SEL, Sport and Limited trims. The Sport 2.0 and Limited 2.0 use a 245-hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine with the new 8-speed automatic transmission.
Leading the pack in fuel economy will be the updated Eco, with a government-estimated 28 miles per gallon in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. Following is the 2.4-liter, with 25 mpg city/36 mpg hwy or, in the upper trims, 35 mpg hwy. Bringing up the rear, but still quite decent, is the 2.0-liter, at 23 mpg city/32 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
The SE ($22,935) anchors the Sonata lineup after Hyundai eliminated the Base trim for 2018. Standard features include 16-inch alloy wheels, dual folding and heated power outboard mirrors, auto headlights, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and lane-change assist, seven airbags, air conditioning, full power accessories, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity, a 7-in color touchscreen, a rearview camera and a 6-speaker audio system with a USB port, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Hyundai offers no factory options for the SE.
The Eco ($23,535) is basically the SE with a more fuel-efficient engine/tranny combination.
New for 2018, the SEL ($24,585) builds on the SE features with 17-in alloy wheels, outboard mirror-mounted turn indicators, LED daytime running lights, a 10-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics system with a 3-year subscription, a second-row USB port and satellite radio capability. Options include an electronic parking brake and the Tech package, with automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, smart cruise control and an electronic parking brake.
The Sport ($26,085) adds to the SEL’s list of standard goodies some exterior appearance enhancements and body cladding, a chrome-tipped dual exhaust, a power sunroof, seats with leather bolsters and cloth inserts, LED cabin lights, aluminum pedals and a flat-bottom leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters. There are no factory options.
The Limited ($28,285) adds to the SEL’s standard equipment a power sunroof, LED taillights, Dynamic Bending Light, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 6-way power front passenger seat, memory for driver’s seat and outboard mirrors, ventilated front seats, leather seating, wood-grain interior accents and auto-dimming rearview mirror. An Ultimate package includes options like the full suite of driver-assist/safety features in the SEL Tech package plus automatic high beams, rear parking sensors, a navigation system with an 8-in touchscreen, an upgraded Infinity audio system, wireless smartphone charging and a heated steering wheel.
The Sport 2.0 ($28,485) basically adds the 2.0-liter engine and 8-speed automatic transmission, an upgraded power-steering system, 18-in alloy wheels and a sport-tuned suspension to the Sport trim’s standard gear.
The Limited 2.0 ($33,335) builds on the Limited’s standard features with the same upgrades as the Sport 2.0 plus all of the gear in the Limited’s Ultimate package, as well as all the appearance enhancements found on the Sport and Sport 2.0.
Huge news in the midsize sedan segment: Blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and lane-change assist is standard in every 2018 Hyundai Sonata. In addition to the usual six airbags found in most vehicles, the Sonata provides a driver’s-knee airbag. Only the top-of-the-line Limited 2.0 gets the full array of driver-assist/safety features (lane-keep assist, smart cruise control and automatic emergency braking) as standard equipment. It also has, as standard, rear-parking sensors and automatic high beams. Both the Limited and Limited 2.0 also provide Hyundai’s Dynamic Bending Light, helping the driver see into a turn. The suite of driver-assist/safety features is available in an option package on the Limited and SEL.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has yet to crash-test the new Sonata, but in government crash tests it received the highest total of five stars for overall safety.
Behind the Wheel
In the end, the Sonata is a midsize sedan. A family car. It does everything it needs to do pretty well. It’s not the quickest in the segment, but the Sport 2.0 and Limited 2.0 can be fairly engaging. At the bell, they get moving with gusto and have plenty of lung capacity to pour it on when highway passing is required. Thanks to its abundance of torque, the 2.4-liter is equally enthusiastic at launch, but can leave you hanging when trying to get around slower traffic at speed. We think most drivers, however, will have no complaint about either powertrain. It is a family sedan!
Hyundai stiffened the rear suspension on some versions and recalibrated the steering across the board. We still wouldn’t call its handling sporty, but it steers and corners without drama.
Inside, it’s comfy and offers decent passenger space front and rear. Pleasingly quiet, it can make you forget you’re in a $25,000 car. Its infotainment system is amazingly simple to use.
Other Cars to Consider
This is a segment crowded with competitors. Here are a few of the others to compare.
2018 Toyota Camry — You simply can’t have a discussion of midsize sedans without including the Camry. Totally reimagined and redesigned for 2018, it is hands-down the best Camry yet.
2017 Honda Accord — Another must-consider challenger in the midsize sedan free-for-all, the Accord is always a top contender. It will arrive totally redesigned for 2018.
2017 Chevrolet Malibu — A wide range of trims fit just about any midsize sedan budget. Particularly worth noting are its spacious cabin, easy-to-use 8-in touchscreen interface and standard Wi-Fi hotspot capability.
2017 Nissan Altima — This sedan remains a strong performer, despite being a little long in the tooth. Its engines deliver enthusiastic performance and impressive fuel economy.
2017 Subaru Legacy — Standard all-wheel drive and outstanding fuel economy highlight this sedan’s many qualities. The exterior styling may be a little boring, but decent performance and affordability keep it in the hunt.
Opting for the $1,000 Tech package with the SEL will land you in Sonata’s sweet spot. You won’t get quite a kick out of driving it as you would one of the 2.0 versions, but all the basics are there, along with better-than-average fuel economy. Oh, and a grand is a bargain for the driver-assist/safety features in the Tech package. Find a Hyundai Sonata for sale