Time waits for no midsize sedan, not even the sleek, sophisticated 2014 Hyundai Sonata. Still, it’s hard to believe that Hyundai’s game-changing family hauler has already reached midlife. Back when the current-generation Sonata debuted for the 2011 model year, we sized up its revolutionary design and concluded, “Hyundai just might take over the world with this thing.” At first, that’s more or less what happened, but the competition has since awoken from its slumber, and today dealerships are awash in astonishingly good family sedans.
So does that mean that the Hyundai Sonata’s over the hill? Should you wait for its next renaissance before committing your cash? No and no. In fact, thanks in part to the numerous nips and tucks on the 2014 Sonata, Hyundai’s midsizer continues to be a leader, whether you’re talking about fuel economy, power, features or value. This is the car that put Hyundai on the map as a legitimate world-class automaker, and it can still hold its own against anything in the segment. Sure, we still wish Hyundai would carve out additional rear-seat headroom, but if you’re looking for glaring faults, that’s about the best we can do on the otherwise competent Sonata.
With so many excellent midsize sedans to choose from these days, we encourage you to get out there and drive as many as you can. A couple of our favorites are the 2014 Honda Accord and 2014 Nissan Altima, which are very impressive in all aspects. Other appealing choices include the stylish 2014 Ford Fusion, the Sonata’s mechanical twin the Kia Optima, the sporty 2014 Mazda 6 and the European-influenced Volkswagen Passat. Nonetheless, the Sonata’s many strengths make it a solid pick, even in its fourth year of production. Forget about a midlife crisis; we’re not even sure the 2014 Hyundai Sonata is past its prime.
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Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Hyundai Sonata is available in GLS, SE and Limited trim levels. There’s also a Sonata Hybrid, which is reviewed separately.
Standard equipment on the GLS includes 16-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, cruise control, full power accessories, heated mirrors, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, a 60/40-split rear seatback, Hyundai’s BlueLink telematics system, a trip computer, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, an iPod/USB audio interface and an auxiliary audio jack.
The optional GLS Popular Equipment package adds foglights, a driver’s blind-spot mirror, automatic headlights, turn-signal repeaters in the outside mirrors, LED interior lighting, leatherette door-panel inserts, heated front seats, an eight-way power driver seat, HD radio and a 4.3-inch touchscreen audio display with a rearview camera.
The Sonata SE starts with all of the above and adds 18-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, foglights, a dark chrome grille, a rear lip spoiler, dual chrome exhaust tips, keyless ignition/entry, a color LCD trip computer, simulated carbon-fiber interior trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters and leather/cloth upholstery.
Opting for the turbocharged engine (2.0T) for the SE also brings a sport exhaust and dual-zone automatic climate control.
The SE Premium package adds a sunroof, a blind-spot warning system, a 10-speaker Dimension audio system and a navigation system with an 8-inch touchscreen. When added to the non-turbo SE, it also includes dual-zone automatic climate control.
The plush Sonata Limited starts with most of the SE’s standard and optional features, including the Premium package minus navigation (meaning it uses the lesser 4.3-inch touchscreen). However, the Limited substitutes 17-inch alloy wheels and has a softer state of tune for its suspension. It also comes standard with full leather upholstery, a ventilated driver seat, heated rear seats, rear climate vents, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and unique interior accents.
The turbocharged Limited 2.0T variant adds the SE 2.0T’s 18-inch wheels, dual chrome exhaust tips and shift paddles (not available on the regular Limited).
The optional Limited Technology package tops things off with a panoramic sunroof, xenon headlights, LED taillights, the 8-inch touchscreen display with navigation and a 12-speaker Infinity sound system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 Hyundai Sonata GLS is equipped with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 190 horsepower and 179 pound-feet of torque, while the dual-exhaust SE with the same engine makes 192 hp and 181 lb-ft. A six-speed automatic that sends the power to the front wheels is the sole transmission. You can expect a 0-60 mph time of about 8 seconds, which is fairly quick for a base-model family sedan.
Sonatas with the 2.4-liter engine have an EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of 28 mpg combined (24 mpg city/35 mpg highway).
A turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 274 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque is available on SE and Limited models. The “2.0T” sprints to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds, which is about average for midsize sedans with an engine upgrade. The EPA pegs fuel economy at 25 mpg combined (21 mpg city/32 mpg highway).
Standard safety features on every 2014 Hyundai Sonata include antilock disc brakes, traction control, stability control, front seat side-impact airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. Also standard is BlueLink, Hyundai’s emergency telematics system, which offers roadside assistance, crash response, remote door lock control and monitoring features for parents with teenage drivers (speed, geo-fencing and curfew limits). A rearview camera is standard on every Sonata except the base level GLS. Blind-spot monitoring is optional for the SE and standard for the Limited.
In government testing, the Sonata earned a top five-star rating for overall crash protection, with four out of five stars for total front-impact protection and five stars for total side-impact protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the Hyundai Sonata earned a top rating of “Good” for moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength protection. In the IIHS’s new small-overlap frontal-offset impact test, the Sonata was deemed just “Marginal” (second-worst), though in fairness, many vehicles have struggled in this relatively new test.
In Edmunds brake testing, both a Sonata GLS and an SE turbo came to a stop from 60 mph in about 120 feet, which is a smidge better than average for the class.
Interior Design and Special Features
The base Sonata GLS displays some obvious cost-cutting inside, utilizing rough plastic panels for a few too many surfaces, but the higher trim levels compare pretty well to segment rivals. Not surprisingly, the Limited trim, with its available two-tone color schemes and piano-black trim, is particularly appealing. In all Sonatas, the dash and center stack meld together in a seamless flow, while trapezoidal vents and sharp blue backlighting create a modern, upscale environment.
On the infotainment front, the new 4.3-inch touchscreen isn’t very big, but it does provide deeper functionality for Sonatas that lack the optional navigation system. The nav system doesn’t come cheap, but its exclusive 8-inch touchscreen and enhanced interface give the Sonata’s cabin even more of a cutting-edge feel.
As expected in this segment, the Sonata offers ample legroom for four adults on a long trip, and their luggage should fit fine in the 16.4-cubic-foot trunk. However, headroom both front and rear is merely adequate, in our experience, and 6-footers in back may find their heads rubbing the ceiling due to the Sonata’s dramatically sloped roof line.
When equipped with the base 2.4-liter engine, the 2014 Hyundai Sonata provides eager acceleration by segment standards. The optional 2.0-liter turbo engine serves up serious lag-free punch on demand and keeps up with competitors’ V6 engines. Either way, the gearchanges from the six-speed automatic transmission are smooth and prompt.
The GLS and Limited models stake out an agreeable middle ground between comfort and control. The ride quality is relatively firm, but there’s sufficient compliance over rough pavement. We’re less sold on the Sonata SE, which rides harshly at times due to its sport-tuned suspension and 18-inch wheels. For consumers primarily looking for a car to drive to work, this version’s minor handling improvements probably won’t be enough to justify the stiffer ride.