The 2015 Hyundai Sonata Limited: Take that North Korea

(Hyundai)

(Hyundai)

Much of the attention during the month of December centered on a tiny little country all of us freedom loving Americans hate as much as pharmaceutical advertisements on TV, North Korea. This communist country tucked away in a corner of the world no one wants to visit anyway, has been a tiny thorn in the side of democratic governments since the 1950s. However, for the most part they have always been like the snot nosed kid in elementary school who always tried to be the bully on the playground and failed miserably. Nothing more than an annoyance that can be pushed aside, “Go away kid, you’re bothering us.”

North Korea has been the butt of jokes as much as the US Congress. So when Sony announced the release of a movie making fun of North Korea’s leader no one took much notice. Then came the news that someone hacked into Sony and released a bunch of embarrassing stuff like what the execs eat for lunch and how much they “love” Angelina Jolie. Soon our actual National Security was threatened. The movie “The Interview” if released would cause all manner of hellish plagues to be discharged on Earth the hackers said. Someone at Sony got a bit nervous and the movie release was put on hold. Fingers were wagged at North Korea, who denied responsibility and rightfully so considering that most of their internet is probably still dial-up using those old AOL discs from the 1990s. The truth no doubt is that a group of tech-savvy teens took a break from playing War Craft and decided to kill some time,” Watch this.” Of course it might have worked out better for all of us had the hackers threatened death and destruction if all moviegoers weren’t given free popcorn. That’s something I’m sure we could all rally around.

The entire point is that North Korea and their portly spoiled brat leader got a great deal of attention, and that’s a shame. Because there is another part of Korea that is filled with good freedom loving people who work hard and produce fine things. Fine things like the cars from Hyundai.

In the past few years Hyundai has shown the world that they can produce cars equal to, and in some cases better than, cars from America or Europe.  In the past few months we have had occasion to test two variants of the same model. In both cases we came away impressed.  In November we drove the Sonata Sport 2.0T and really, really, liked it. Then in the first week of December, we were given the Sonata Limited.  We were equally as impressed. In fact, one of our friends was so impressed with the Limited that he was swayed from buying his “sure thing” Camry and now has a 2015 Limited sitting in his driveway.

The 2015 Sonata marks the seventh generation midsize sedan offered by Hyundai. It’s available in SE, Sport, Eco, Limited and Sport 2.0T trim levels. There’s also a Sonata Hybrid.  What’s impressive about the Sonata is the plethora of features both standard and optional, all for under $30,000.  Standard on the SE are 16-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, cruise control, full power accessories, heated mirrors, running lights, tilt-and-telescoping steering, 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). Moving to the Sport and Eco trims adds automatic headlights, a rearview camera, an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar), Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics system (with smartphone integration) and a 5-inch touchscreen audio interface. The Sport has 17-inch alloy wheels, dual exhaust with chrome tips, among other things.

Our Limited had all the Sport’s features except for the body styling tweaks). It also has LED taillights, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, wood grain trim, a six-way power passenger seat, heated rear seats, rear air vents, rear window sunshades, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, an upgraded audio system and our always favorite blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert.  The Sport 2.0T has most all of those features but has 18-inch alloy 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.

This new generation has a more refined look, stiffer body structure, better ride quality, reduced noise, vibration and harshness and advanced safety and convenience features. Some critics have said this new design is a little less appealing than in previous models, however to us this new line gives the Sonata a bit more sophisticated look, it’s more refined and seems to have been the right update.

We thought we would be forced to try and compare the Limited with the Sport 2.0T model. In truth, there is no comparison.  For one the Limited model had the base 2.4L GDI with 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque, the Sport 2.0T on the other hand has a 245-hp 2.0L twin-scroll turbo 4-cylinder engine delivering 260-lb ft of torque.  The designers call the Sport 2.0T’s interior “dynamic”, and there is a bit of difference between that model and the Limited. Both interiors are well laid out, however and it’s clear that those designers kept the occupants in mind.  As in the Sport 2.0T the seating is comfortable, the cabin roomy and the dash easy to read with a center console that is thoughtfully placed.

On the road is where a difference in feel between the Sport and Limited can be found.  The Limited seems a little less stiff, but the smaller engine seems to be able to keep up with just about any demand. Both models had the six-speed automatic transmission that shifted effortlessly. Where the Limited really shined though is when you begin to notice all the features you have available.  The cabin is indeed more sophisticated and less “dynamic” than the Sport.

Overall, our week with the Limited was a very good one.  The Limited can indeed deliver a premium experience for a fraction of the cost.  With a ton of features usually found only in models costing much more, it’s no wonder the Sonata is in the top 20 in sales in America.  When placed against its competitors namely the Camry, Altima, Fusion and Accord, it’s worth a serious look. As we proved during our week, a Camry buyer can be persuaded to change his mind and sign on the dotted line.  Now if we could only persuade that “other” Korea to look to look at their neighbors to the south and quit trying to tell us what movies we can see: “Go away kid, you’re bothering us.”

The 2015 Hyundai Sonata Limited
MSRP: $26,525
MSRP (as tested with Tech and Ultimate packages): $32,510
Engine (as tested):  2.4L GDI 4-cylinder. 185-hp, 178 pound-feet of torque
Transmission: Six-speed SHIFTRONIC® automatic
Mileage (EPA estimated): 24 city, 35 highway, and 28 combined
Mileage (as tested, mixed conditions): 27

Exterior Measurements
Width 6 Ft. 1.4 In. (73.4 In.)
Height 4 Ft. 10.1 In. (58.1 In.)
Length 15 Ft. 11.1 In. (191.1 In.)
Ground Clearance 0 Ft. 5.3 In. (5.3 In.)
Wheel Base 9 Ft. 2.4 In. (110.4 In.)

Interior Measurements
Front Head Room 40.4 In.
Front Hip Room 55.3 In.
Front Leg Room 45.5 In.
Front Shoulder Room 57.9 In.
Rear Hip Room 56.1 In.
Rear Head Room 38.0 In.
Rear Leg Room 35.6 In.
Rear Shoulder Room 56.5 In.

EPA Interior Volume 122.4 Cu.Ft.
Curb Weight 3252 Lbs.
Cargo Capacity, All seats in place 16.3 Cu.Ft.

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Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.

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