Premium Sedan at a Value Price

Shopping for a new midsize sedan can be a daunting task. There are nearly a dozen options, and they're all good. Yet a few are truly great, and the new-for-2015 Hyundai Sonata is one of them. With every new generation, the Sonata edges closer to rivals Honda Accord and Toyota Camry in terms of style, drivability and function.

We were eager to spend some time behind the wheel of the new Sonata in the Palm Desert, where we could stretch its legs and see how the midsize sedan would fare against its closest rivals. The Sonata we tested was the Sport, the midlevel option in the regular Sonata line, which slots in above the SE and below the Limited. (Hyundai also offers the sportiest Sonata Sport 2.0T and super-frugal Sonata Eco and Hybrid, all of which have different drivetrains from the regular Sonata line.) Regular Sonatas come with the company's trusty 2.4-liter, 185-horsepower 4-cylinder, which was revised for 2015, and is paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission. With this engine, fuel economy is a fairly frugal 24 mpg city, 35 on the highway and 28 mpg combined. Its as-tested fuel economy of 28.4 mpg lines right up with the EPA's numbers, but wasn't as good as the as-tested fuel economy we observed in other sedans in this comparison.

2015 Hyundai Sonata at a Glance
2015 Hyundai Sonata Midsize Sedan Graph

The Sonata's engine offers plenty of power, with good response off the line. The transmission's shifts are smooth and happen right when you want them to. Ride and handling are sporty without being too firm, and steering response was better than in past models. That combination makes the Sonata fun to drive. In our seat-of-the-pants evaluations, the Sonata landed consistently in the top three.

Wrapped around that impressive powertrain is sheet metal with a new design for 2015. The Sonata is a good-looking car, with crisp body lines that are more restrained than on the previous generation. The overall effect is that the car now looks more upscale. The inside has a premium look as well, with an attractive cabin, done in gray leather and cloth, loaded with features including blind-spot and cross-traffic detection, navigation, Hyundai's Blue Link telematics system and heated seats and side mirrors. Whether you're using the large navigation screen or the UVO system, or simply want to adjust the temperature, the controls are very easy to use and within easy reach. The interior is also highly practical, with a roomy rear seat and a trunk that can hold up to 16.3 cubic feet of cargo. Not only is that the biggest trunk of the six in this comparison, but its trunk lid is light and very easy to open and close.

But what may be most impressive about the Sonata is the value it offers. Looking at the as-tested prices, the Sonata was the second-least expensive car of the group, yet felt like it was one of the best equipped of the bunch. That is what makes the Sonata such an appealing choice in a nutshell: good looks, stout yet efficient engine choices, premium amenities and a phenomenal warranty, all at a competitive price. Sales have been very strong for the Sonata -- it's the second-best-selling vehicle within the company -- and are sneaking up on competitors in the segment. We expect that trend will continue.

Here's how the 2015 Hyundai Sonata stacks up against the competition:

Hyundai Sonata vs. Toyota Camry

The Camry arrives on the scene with an angular new look and more attitude than it had last year. The Camry's interior feels fresh, but its infotainment isn't as easy to use as the Sonata's. In addition, the Hyundai was quieter than the Toyota, with the Camry XSE model we tested allowing more road noise into the cabin.

Hyundai Sonata vs. Honda Accord

The Sonata is a compelling alternative to the Accord, but when it comes to steering response and handling, the Accord is tops. But the Sonata is less expensive than the Accord, and has a much more intuitive navigation and audio system.

Hyundai Sonata vs. Chrysler 200

Both sedans show off eye-catching new looks for 2015, plus excellent infotainment systems. However, while the rear seat felt tight in the 200, it was quite spacious in the Sonata. Also, the Hyundai's as-tested price was only $150 more than the Chrysler, but the Hyundai offered more value and amenities.

Hyundai Sonata vs. Mazda6

The Sonata is fun to drive, but the Mazda6 is the closest thing to a sports car in the segment, with fantastic steering, strong throttle response and a sport-tuned suspension. The Sonata's styling is buttoned-up, while the Mazda6 is draped in dramatic curves. The Sonata is practical, and the Mazda6 is emotional.

Hyundai Sonata vs. Subaru Legacy

The Legacy and the Sonata both make strong value plays, but as tested, the Sonata was comparably equipped yet cost thousands less. The Legacy's seats are an excellent balance of supple leather and enough support for long drives. Its cabin is filled with soft-touch materials on the doors, center console and dash, something that isn't as prevalent in the Sonata.

More Midsize Sedans

Build and price your own 2015 Hyundai Sonata, read our full review or check out our Midsize Sedan Buyer's Guide to see more options in the segment.

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