2018 Hyundai Sonata: Finally Getting Its Mojo Back

The all-new 2018 Hyundai Sonata was introduced at the 2017 New York International Auto Show. The 2018 Sonata marks a return to the bold styling emphasis that first put Sonata on the map for mid-size sedan buyers.

A Short History Of Hyundai And The Sonata

Originally introduced to the US in 1989, the first Sonatas were mediocre attempts to produce a sedan that was larger than the cheap, bottom-end compact cars that made up the bulk of Hyundai’s sales in this country. Following a near-death experience that resulted from widespread mechanical vehicle failures, the company decided to get its act together. They improved their engineering, brought in designers from prestigious European brands, and added their now-famous 10-year, 100,000-mile mechanical warranty. 

The first solid proof that this strategy could work was the 2011 Sonata, which wowed the critics and the public alike. With its unique and futuristic  “Fluidic Sculpture” design language, it was a big hit in the midsize sedan segment. US Sonata sales exceeded 200,000 per year and stayed there.

But all was not well in the home country. The Sonata’s aerodynamic, leading-edge styling was not well accepted by the very conservative Korean people who are the buyers of this type of car there. Sales did not mirror the American success story. The order went out from the top of the Hyundai tower in Seoul: Tone it down!

And so they did, with a restyle that made the 2015 Sonata more boxy, more conventional – and boring. American sales dropped. For calendar year 2016, sales went below 200,000 for the first time since the 2011 model was introduced. US Hyundai dealers were screaming, and the home office listened. 

Back To The Future

Now a new generation of Sonata has been announced, starting with the 2018 model. It is more engaging, with a new design language that looks much more European and less Asian. The new ‘Cascading Grille’ is set into a resculpted front fascia with narrower headlights and vertical LED daytime running lights. The effect is very upscale, somewhat similar to an Audi.

Hyundai’s European-born designers may have finally hit on the right combination – cars that look like the pricey European brands, but with the long-term reliability and low cost of ownership that the Korean and Japanese brands have offered for many years. What’s not to like about that?

More Than Just A Pretty Face

Hyundai knows that the 2018 Sonata needs more than a great body. They have added many features that make it comparable to mid-size luxury cars, but at a lower price point. The interior features a standard 7” touchscreen display audio system with integrated Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The revised audio and climate controls use piano key buttons for a premium feel.  

Many driver assistance and convenience technologies are available on the 2018 Sonata. Blind spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert is standard across the board. Available features include lane departure warning system with lane keep assist function, Hyundai Blue Link Integration with Amazon Echo and Google Home, and wireless device charging capability.

Mechanical Upgrades – Drivers Wanted

The new Sonata has a more refined chassis with improved ride and handling. Particular attention was paid to the steering, making it more responsive with better feel. The rear suspension has also been upgraded, resulting in a nimble handling and a comfortable ride. The top-of-the–line Sonata 2.0T, with its 245-hp turbocharged engine, gets an eight-speed automatic transmission for improved acceleration and quieter cruising.

The New Sonata Needs To Be Good

Hyundai needs the 2018 Sonata to be a hit, and not just because of the already stiff competition coming from Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, and Nissan Altima. There are already two other competitors sitting right next to it in the Hyundai showroom – the Tucson and Santa Fe SUVs! As more and more sedan buyers move to SUVs, the Sonata will have to earn its place in a shrinking marketplace. 


About The Author

Stephen Fogel

Stephen follows the global automotive industry on a daily basis, including new model announcements, new technologies, sales trends, and the latest in "green" cars.