If you haven’t noticed lately, Hyundai and Kia are killing it. Everything from design to performance to tech. Absolutely killing it. We’ve driven a recent Sonata, a 2020 in hybrid guise. So when Hyundai dropped off a 2021 Limited version, I figured it was a great time to see what was what. Even though it wasn’t the new “N-Line” performance-focused version I was excited to spend a week with it.
You can opt for five trims levels for your new Sonata, including SE, SEL, SEL Plus, Limited and the new N Line. So, our Limited test car falls in towards the top of the lineup. Starting at just under $34,000 it’s automatically a good deal even before adding options. Our loaner was sporting the $350 Calypso Red paint job and some floor mats for $169. That’s a total of just under $35,500 with freight and destination.
You get a metric ton of stuff as standard, some highlights include:
- Paddle shifters
- Panoramic Sunroof
- 12.3-inch LCD instrument cluster
- Android Auto™ & Apple CarPlay®
- Hyundai Digital Key
- Navigation system
- 12-speaker premium Bose sound system
- Enhanced adaptive cruise and lane keeping systems
- Equipment from Tech package on the SEL Plus
- Upgraded LED headlights
- 18-inch wheels
- Head-up display
- Heated steering wheel
- Leather upholstery with power-adjustable passenger seat, and ventilated front seats
- Ambient interior lighting
- Rear automatic braking, Blind-spot view monitor, Surround-view monitor, and Hyundai’s Smart Parking Assist (Smaht Paahk).
Here, see for yourself.
Every day I drove the Sonata Limited I discovered something new. Some sort of interesting feature that I hadn’t noticed the day before. I was at a light and decided to capture an quick photo of an interior detail and the traffic pulled away ahead of me. The Sonata was like “hey dummy, go” and pointed out that traffic was moving and I wasn’t. Amazing. Most of these gadgets and tech additions are added for safety, this one was just there to keep me from being a jerk and holding up traffic.
The materials are first rate, any image you have of lower class Hyundai interiors are incredibly dated. The stalks have a detail on them that you might expect in a European luxury car, as cliché as that sounds. The metallic material surrounding the dials is damn near exquisite.
Comfort and ergonomics are first rate. The push button drivetrain takes a little getting used to, but it’s at least as intuitive as the normal dial-based setup.
On the outside, things are pretty solid, though Hyundai made some bold moves with the front and rear. There have been some that describe the front end as a bit “catfishy”, and that’s not totally off. The gaping grille is flanked by flashy LED stirps and a shiny strip that that runs back up the hood. Its very much not derivative of other designs. It was penned by Belgian designer Luc Donckerwolke. Much like Peter Schreyer, who Hyundai/Kia snagged from the VW/Audi Group, Luc was busy designing some impressive European cars. Which ones? How about the Lamborghini Murciélago and Gallardo? He also designed Audis, Škodas, and Bentleys, not a bad resume.
The profile of the latest Sonata is interesting, and I found myself staring at it from our adirondack chairs out front. Maybe it was the booze, but it’s cool how the lines flow from front to back. It’s a bit busy from some angles, but it stands out in a midsize sedan crowd. That much is certain.
The Sonata has a few powertrain options. There is a base 2.5L four-cylinder with a fairly reasonable 191 horsepower. Hybrid versions are powered by a 2.0L inline-four paired with an electric motor and a six-speed automatic putting out 192 horsepower. Uno horsepower por favor! Those looking for max power should check out the 2.5L turbo inline-four putting out 290 horsepower and 311 ft. lbs. of torque through an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic.
Oddly enough this upgraded Sonata Limited has a turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder with…180 horsepower. I feel like I’m back in the early 2000s where Volkswagen 1.8T engines had more power than Audi 1.8T engines. It doesn’t make sense in the brain. Zero to sixty times are in the mid-to-upper seven second range. Not fast, but not slow. I never felt like it was struggling to merge or pass on the highway.
There are a handful of drive modes, including Normal, Smart, Sport, and Custom. Naturally I had to try “Sport” and it generally behaved like most sport modes, which is to say that it artificially bumps up the revs, and that’s about it. However, while it’s not that quick, it’s quite economical. The Sonata Limited has an EPA-Rated fuel economy of 27 mpg city and 37 mpg highway! That’s not bad at all, and most driver’s will care more about MPG than HP.
Also, Hyundai and Kia have the best feature on the market in any car, the side-mirror-camera. When you signal to either direction it pops up in your driver’s info area replacing the tach (which let’s face it, isn’t being used anyway!). I think this should be one of those mandatory features that all cars should have, it could be the next “rear view camera”. Blind spots would be a thing of the past!
Make no mistake, the 2021 Hyundai Sonata Limited is a damn good car. I wish the Limited had a bit more power, but for the average driver, it’s enough. I can’t imagine a better equipped car under $35,000 right now. If you are in the market for a sedan, it should definitely be on your short list.