Read enough industry reports (what, you don’t read industry reports?) and you’ll likely learn that crossovers are steadily supplanting the midsize sedan as the vehicle of choice for the American family. It seems that nobody bothered to tell Hyundai, though, as last year’s redesigned Sonata sells in greater numbers than both of Hyundai’s crossovers combined. But we’re not surprised. The “A”-rated Sonata is one of our favorite sedans in this class, and improvements to the technology interface and additional standard features make the 2016 Hyundai Sonata an even more attractive proposition.
The 2016 Hyundai Sonata’s design is simple but attractive, with LED lighting accents standard on most trims.
The most significant change for 2016 lies with the Sonata’s base infotainment system. Last year’s smallish 5-inch touchscreen has been replaced by a 7-inch unit that reduces input errors by virtue of its bigger surface area. The new unit adds features already included with the optional 8-inch interface, including Apple CarPlay (late availability) and Android Auto smartphone functionality and the newest version of Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics system. In addition to the lengthy list of features on the first Blue Link system, this new version adds remote ignition, automatic emergency contact notification in the event of an accident and destination search powered by Google (if equipped with navigation).
But the revised infotainment system is just one of the many reasons why the Sonata is so appealing. The cabin is cavernous and comfortable, with loads of room in the backseat for when you need to ferry the kids, kid friends or adult friends. The Sonata also drives confidently, boasting a smooth ride quality paired with enough athleticism so it won’t float around on the highway and feel like your grandpa’s Oldsmoboat. You also get plenty of features for your money. Even if you pick the base SE model you’re not going to feel as if you’re getting the short end of the stick, while the top-line Limited 2.0T has luxury-car levels of equipment.
Of course, the midsize sedan segment is full of strong competitors that should also be considered. The always popular 2016 Honda Accord has been updated this year, receiving a new touchscreen of its own with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Chevrolet’s redesigned 2016 Malibu should be a stronger contender than before, and the well-rounded 2016 Ford Fusion, stylish 2016 Mazda 6, sporty 2016 Nissan Altima and strong-selling Toyota Camry continue to be excellent choices as well. But more so than ever before, the 2016 Sonata is deserving of its continued success.
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Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2016 Hyundai Sonata is available in SE, Sport, Eco, Limited, Sport 2.0T and Limited 2.0T trim levels. The Sonata Hybrid is reviewed separately.
Standard features on the SE include 16-inch alloy wheels, a rear lip spoiler, automatic headlights, air-conditioning, cruise control, full power accessories, heated mirrors, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column and a 60/40-split folding rear seatback. Technology features include a 7-inch touchscreen display, a rearview camera, the Blue Link telematics system (with smartphone integration via Android Auto and Apple CarPlay), Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio, satellite radio, a USB port and an auxiliary audio jack.
The Sport and Eco trims add LED daytime running lights, side mirrors with integrated turn signal indicators, simulated leather cabin trim and an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar). The Eco differs with a special fuel-economy-focused engine, while the Sport gets 17-inch alloy wheels, dual exhausts with chrome tips and unique body styling tweaks.
A Premium package for the Sonata Sport adds keyless entry and ignition, a hands-free remote-opening trunk, partial leather upholstery, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear air vents and blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems. The Tech package builds upon the Premium package with a sunroof, a navigation system, an 8-inch touchscreen display, an upgraded audio system and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.>
The Limited includes the Sport’s features (minus the body styling tweaks) and adds LED taillights, a sunroof, leather upholstery, wood grain trim, a six-way power passenger seat, heated rear seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and all the items from the Premium package.
Leather upholstery is a standard feature on higher-end Sonatas, but seat comfort is very good across the lineup.
Moving up to the Sport 2.0T adds a more powerful engine and includes most of the features of the Limited trim (less the power passenger seat, wood grain trim, heated rear seats and sunroof) along with 18-inch wheels, sport-tuned suspension and steering, a rear diffuser with quad chrome exhaust tips, xenon headlights, sport seats with accent stitching, a flat-bottom sport steering wheel and steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
The range-topping Limited 2.0T includes a panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beam headlight control, rear parking sensors, a lane-departure warning system, an automatic pre-collision braking system, automatic engine stop-start, driver memory settings, a heated steering wheel, rear window sunshades, ventilated front seats, a nine-speaker premium audio system and technology features from the Limited trim and the Sport’s Tech package.
Many of the features from the Limited 2.0T are available as part of options packages on the lower trims.
Powertrains and Performance
All Sonatas are front-wheel drive, and all engines except the Eco’s are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. A 2.4-liter four-cylinder rated at 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque powers the SE, Sport and Limited models. At the Edmunds test track, a Sonata Sport made the sprint from zero to 60 mph in 8.2 seconds, an average showing for this class. The Sonata SE has an EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of 30 mpg combined (25 city/38 highway). The Sport and Limited trims are slightly less at 29 mpg combined (25/36).
The 2.0T models come with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, producing 245 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. We recorded 0-60-mph acceleration in 8.3 seconds — an exceptionally poor performance considering this powertrain is meant to compete with V6-powered family sedans that routinely are much quicker.>On the other hand, the Sport 2.0T returns an EPA-estimated 26 mpg combined (23 city/32 highway), and we managed to earn an impressive 28 mpg on our diverse 120-mile evaluation route. The Limited 2.0T is rated at 25 mpg combined (21/31).
The Eco features a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 178 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. A seven-speed automatic transmission is standard (it is technically an automated manual transmission). Oddly, the Eco recorded a highly impressive 7.5-second time for its 0-60-mph run, beating the 2.0T model by almost a full second. The EPA says the Eco will achieve 32 mpg combined (28 city/38 highway), and we validated those figures with our own 32 mpg on the Edmunds evaluation route.
Standard safety features on every 2016 Hyundai Sonata include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag.
All Sonatas also come with a rearview camera and Blue Link, Hyundai’s emergency telematics system (includes roadside assistance, crash response, remote door lock control and monitoring features for parents with teenage drivers that include speed, geo-fencing and curfew limits). Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are standard for the Limited and both 2.0T models and optional on the Sport. Lane departure warning, automatic forward collision emergency braking and rear park assist are optional on the Limited and Limited 2.0T.
In Edmunds’ simulated panic-stop testing from 60 mph, the Sonata Sport 2.0T came to rest in 125 feet, which is an acceptable distance for midsize family sedans. The Eco and Sport models did the job in an impressive 119 feet.
In government crash testing, the 2016 Sonata earned a perfect five-star overall rating, with five stars overall for its performance in frontal- and side-impact crash tests. In crash testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Sonata earned a top “Good” rating in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset impact test and a second-best “Acceptable” in the small-overlap frontal-offset impact test. The Sonata posted a “Good” rating for the remaining side-impact, roof-strength and whiplash protection (seats and head restraints) tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Sonata SE is fairly basic inside, but materials and build quality are improved over those in the base trim level from the last-generation Sonata. With their plusher door trim and additional cabin accents, the higher trim levels compare pretty well to those of segment rivals. Not surprisingly, the Limited trim, with its available two-tone color schemes and convincing wood grain trim, is particularly appealing. The Sport 2.0T features more thickly bolstered sport seats for added lateral support during spirited maneuvers.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay (late availability) come standard on the 2016 Sonata.
While Hyundai hasn’t done anything flashy for interior design, we appreciate how the control layout is straightforward and easy to use, with dedicated buttons for primary functions like navigation, phone, radio and media. The climate controls are simple, and Hyundai’s touchscreen interface is intuitive. The new 7-inch touchscreen requires less hunting and pecking than the 5-inch unit it replaces thanks to the extra real estate. Bound to the navigation system is an attractive 8-inch screen with uncluttered, clearly labeled maps. From their fun fonts to their sharp resolution, these are precisely what touchscreens from the land of Samsung and LG should look like.
As for passenger space, the Sonata has more than ample room for four adults. The front seats are well padded and supportive, perfect for long-distance cruising. The outboard rear seats are spacious and the transmission tunnel impinges only slightly on middle-seat legroom. The Sonata’s sweeping roof line limits rear headroom for taller passengers, but overall this is still a very spacious sedan.
At 16.3 cubic feet, the trunk is a little more generous than average for this segment, and the standard 60/40-split-folding rear seat is at the ready to add more cargo capacity should the need arise. Models equipped with the hands-free “smart” trunk opener automatically pop the trunk if the person with the key fob stands behind the car for more than 3 seconds.
Possibly the most striking characteristic of the 2016 Hyundai Sonata is the hushed way in which it goes about its business. This is a seriously quiet car. Dispatching road irregularities with smooth damping and peaceful confidence is this sedan’s biggest strength. Ride quality, regardless of trim, is well controlled and never harsh.
The 2016 Sonata rides comfortably but is also well-mannered when going down the highway or around turns.
Though the Sonata feels composed around turns, there’s also little that’s involving about the experience. Even the Sport 2.0T trim isn’t very thrilling, and its disappointing engine performance is hard to explain given its respectable power and torque output. There are a few noteworthy features in the Sport 2.0T, however, including handy shift paddles and a flat-bottom steering wheel, which feels better than the round wheel in other trims. Still, Honda’s Accord Sport is more involving, as are the Ford Fusion and Mazda 6.
Strangely enough, it’s the Eco trim that provides the most excitement. With discernibly more punch than the lackluster and overly noisy 2.4-liter engine and quicker acceleration than the underperforming 2.0T, it’s our pick of the trio. What’s more, despite the efficiency-biased tires it wears, its braking ability is better than the base Sonata and neck-and-neck with the 2.0T.