Hyundai updates the car’s styling for ’18, bringing it visually closer to the sixth-generation model that put the brand on U.S. buyers' radar.
'18 Sonata gets more aggressive styling.
shows its refreshed Sonata midsize sedan at the New York auto show, following its February debut in South Korea.
The changes to the car seem to bring it closer to the successful ’11-’14 Sonata. In the U.S., that sixth generation of the Sonata pushed the nameplate’s annual sales above 200,000 and puton a lot of American car-buyers’ lists.
The current seventh-gen Sonata, which debuted in ’15 in the U.S., was seen as plain in comparison and rumored to have been designed to suit Korean, not American tastes.
“This provides the visual excitement and unique identity our customers associate with Sonata,” Chris Chapman, chief designer-Hyundai North American Design Center, says in a statement, noting the refreshed ’18 Sonata was designed “with American aesthetic tastes in mind.”
Chapman calls the car “exciting and expressive” for its thoroughly reworked exterior. Photos show the 4-door now boasts a larger grille and more creases on its hood. Hyundai says the grille has a cascading effect bound for other models.
Near the grille are narrow headlights and vertically oriented daytime running lights; the front fascia is low and wide to give the effect of a longer hood.
In the rear of the car, the license-plate holder is moved to the bumper with a Sonata logo now residing at the center trunk lid and taillights are slimmed down. A larger Hyundai badge on the trunk hides a trunk-release button.
The Sport and 2.0T Sonatas get a unique mesh grille as opposed to the horizontal bars of other grades.
There are new wheel designs throughout the lineup in 16-, 17- and 18-in. sizes.
Inside, the Sonata sees new piano-key style buttons for audio and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning controls, which Hyundai says add depth and a “premium appearance.”
The instrument-cluster dials have been redesigned and there is a new 3-spoke steering wheel.
Several improvements are made to the Sonata’s steering system for ’18. Torsion-bar stiffness within the steering system rises 12% for better response and feel across conditions. Steering also has been recalibrated for better responsiveness and on-center feel.
The rear suspension is updated with 21%-thicker trailing arms. New bushings and new arms allow for more ride compliance, Hyundai says.
As in Korea, the Sonata’s 2.0L turbocharged 4-cyl. now is mated to an 8-speed automatic vs. a 6-speed automatic transmission. “This adds ratio range at both the top and bottom of output speeds (and) allows for extra thrust off-the-line,” Hyundai says of the new 8AT, which also has improved fuel efficiency.
A second-row USB charge port and a bird’s-eye-view map in the car’s navigation system are tech updates for ’18. Further, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard on the midsize sedan, as does a Qi wireless phone-charging pad.
Enhancements to safety technology include standard blindspot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, with Hyundai claiming the Sonata is the only midsize car sold with those features standard.
A new version of lane-departure warning also is available, featuring “enhanced” lane-keep assist.
In the U.S., Sonata sales fell 6.5% in 2016 to 199,416, less than the 10.6% dip in WardsAuto’s Lower Middle segment where the car lives.
However, Sonata sales through March were off 38.4%, a steeper decline than the 21.6% falloff in its sector in Q1 2017.
The refreshed ’18 Sonata goes on sale in the U.S. late in the second quarter or early third quarter, Hyundai says.