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2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco – sauciest Sonata of all!

October 16, 2015
We stopped in San Luis Obispo the first night - Anne Proffit photo

We stopped in San Luis Obispo the first night – Anne Proffit photo

It’s been our good fortune to drive several Hyundai Sonata four-door sedans this summer, including the 2015 Sonata Eco that went from Long Beach to Monterey just a few weeks ago. The occasion was Porsche’s Rennsport Reunion V, a celebration of Porsche at Le Mans, where it won this year’s race with its hybrid 919, beating similar cars from Audi and Toyota.

A 24-hour race is never easy, but neither is a drive up the coast, no matter how pretty it may be. Traffic is always difficult, tourists clog the roads and it’s tedious. Yet the Sonata Eco fit the bill perfectly, with its excellent road manners and its amazing economy: 28/38/32 mpg from the 18.5-gallon tank, using regular unleaded.

The small rear wing adds another dimension - Anne Proffit photo

The small rear wing adds another dimension – Anne Proffit photo

The Hyundai Sonata was redrawn this year and adopts a corporate grille with five bars. This theme is repeated on many other vehicles in the Hyundai lineup and gives the Sonata, in particular, a very upmarket visage. In addition to its muscular looks, this particular Hyundai adds the veracity of its drivetrain, which is far more sporty than even the Sport version of this front-wheel-drive sedan!

While the 1.6-liter twin-scroll inline 4-cylinder is the tiniest in Hyundai’s Sonata lineup and, on paper the least powerful, its 178 horsepower at 5500 rpm is gained at the lowest point (of all models) in the rev range, giving power when it’s needed; torque is 195 lb-ft at 1500-4500 rpm, making it far more usable and higher than either the SE, Sport or Limited Sonatas that use Hyundai’s 2.4-liter normally aspirated 4-cylinder engine. Only the Sport 2.0T and Limited 2.0T are more powerful and they have similar variegated torque levels.

This 1.6-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder is sweet - Anne Proffit photo

This 1.6-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder is sweet – Anne Proffit photo

Transmission of the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco’s usable power comes through a seven-speed EcoShift dual clutch transmission with floor-mounted manual shifting capabilities; this transmission is only available on the Eco. As on every Sonata, one has the ability to change drive modes from Eco to Normal to Sport; we stayed in Eco most of the time because that was the intent, wasn’t it? We wanted to drive economically.

Comfort over the road is excellent with MacPherson strut and multi-link suspensions and the column-mounted motor-driven power steering has very good response. Of course brakes are all-wheel discs and of grand quality. To increase economy, Hyundai gives its Sonata Eco lower rolling resistance tires, one of the first things we’d change on this car; like the base SE model it has 205/65R 16-inch Hankook rubber mounted on twinned five-spoke alloy wheels.

As expected, the Eco is the lightest of the six available Sonata models for 2015 at 3219 pounds; it also feels the most spritely as it gobbles up highway miles and scoots around country roads. As expected, this model gets its best economy results over the road, but we found it plenty amazing to achieve 39+ mpg over the mountain pass returning home to Long Beach as the Grapevine climb is a steep one. With more than 400 miles under the Sonata’s belt at return, there was still better than a quarter-tank reserve remaining.

The gauge cluster is easy to see any time of day or night - Anne Proffit photo

The gauge cluster is easy to see any time of day or night – Anne Proffit photo

Spending a great deal of time in any car allows a driver to get to know what’s good, bad and ugly; there’s very little of the latter two. We love the build quality of Hyundai’s Sonata sedans and this one, too, has great seams and closures.  Electronics, as well are better than the norm as phone pairing is easy peasy, seat heater controls are mounted on the central stack, not where Ms Leah the Hearing Dog might step on them and there’s dual heating, ventilating and air conditioning controls. How about great visibility, good soft-touch materials, gorgeous courtesy lights inside and out, true proximity key, handsome LED running lights and a great navigation system that’s got well-marked streets and excellent directions?

And that’s only the beginning of the goodness! This Hyundai rates five stars from the government for its crash-worthiness in all but a rollover, where it rates four stars. In all probability, none of us will ever find out how this car rolls!

The driver's "office" is exceptionally accessible - Anne Proffit photo

The driver’s “office” is exceptionally accessible – Anne Proffit photo

The cost of this car, $28,310 is quite reasonable when you consider what’s there from the get-go, in terms of build quality and standard features. The optional $4100 tech package features the sole “nanny” I’d try to overcome, which is the blind spot monitoring. It’s so loud and aggressive that it beeps until you’re a good 1/4-mile away from the car you’re trying to merge in front of once you’ve passed. That’s irritating. What’s not is the proximity key, hands-free trunk opener, leather heated seats, steering wheel and shifter, faux leather on the door panels, dual temp controls, auto down/up windows for both front seat occupants, the great navi system, Sirius/XM and HD radio. Carpeted floors mats are the only other option.

This particular 2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco, dressed in Nouveau Blue with beige leather interior was no parking lot princess. She’d been ridden more than 10,000 miles when delivered and we added mightily to that with the trip up the Central Coast. While she looked a wee bit out of place with all the Porsche media loaners at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, she was easily a proper ride. Her rear miniature winglet added some panache to what looked to others like a rental car and having a ride that blended into the landscape allowed a bit more over-the-road fun and mph.

Inside the car is quiet and comfortable on this long trip. Operating the phone and audio on the left side of the steering wheel and cruise control on the right, looking at the very comprehensive trip information (you can ratchet the info system one way or the other) made the boring ride down I-5 a little less numbing. The navigation system gives excellent traffic advisories, going from green to yellow to red (mostly in LA).

There's plenty of space in the rear seat and a 12-volt plug to boot - Anne Proffit photo

There’s plenty of space in the rear seat and a 12-volt plug to boot – Anne Proffit photo

While rear seat passengers have a 12-volt plug, they’ve not been accorded air flow in this vehicle; this is tremendous rear seat room, though, even with the front seats pulled back. The 16.3-cubic-foot trunk can easily be enhanced by releasing the 60/40 rear-seat folds and the total interior volume of this car is 122.4 cubic feet, helped by its rather long 110.4-inch wheelbase on a 191.1-inch overall length.

Of all the Sonata sedans we’ve driven this year, this one has struck the happiest note, thanks to its superb running gear, the Eco’s excellent suspension and superb build quality inside and out. Couple that with Hyundai’s solid value and excellent warranty and this could be the sauciest Sonata of them all.

Words and Photos By Anne Proffit

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