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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Hyundai Sonata Sport: What’s in a name?

I don’t envy the people who name cars, but I do reserve the right to question their judgment.

When I created this month’s review calendar, I scheduled a pair of midsize family sedans back-to-back. Each wore Sport trim badges, which seemed like a fair point of comparison.

Thus, last week’s tester, the 2015 Honda Accord Sport, and this week’s, the fully made-over 2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport.

Each is a front-drive, five-passenger, four-cylinder sedan. But beyond that, however, my plan was an apples-and-oranges exercise. In Hyundai’s view, <em>sport</em> is an elastic concept. The Sonata Sport is comfortable, roomy and very well-equipped, but sporty it’s not.   

To clarify, there’s more than one Sonata Sport trim. The base Sport ($23,985), which we tested, is powered by a 185-horsepower 2.5-liter four. The other, the 2.0T Sport ($29,385), gets a turbocharged, 245-hp 2.0-liter four and adds a unique power-steering system, a sport-tuned suspension — and those missing paddle shifters.

All 2015 Sonatas are built around a new platform comprising 50 percent lightweight, high-strength steel. Chassis rigidity is up substantially, which allows for more-precise suspension tuning and leads to reductions in noise, vibration and harshness.

Styling is more mature this year, though the Sport trim’s chrome accents undercut that effort. Suspension tuning favors comfort over performance and the Sonata confidently soaks up road-surface imperfections, while passing little of the impact into the cabin.

Body roll is well controlled but, though the Sport holds its own in the corners, it lacks the lively, light-on-its-feet feel of the Honda.

Surprisingly, a new turbocharged, 177-hp Eco trim ($24,085) is both quicker and more frugal than its four-cylinder sibs. It’s the only Sonata to get the company’s new six-speed automated manual transmission. All others get a six-speed automatic. 

Sonata standard gear includes air-conditioning, cruise control, full power accessories and heated mirrors. There’s Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a six-speaker sound system, with CD player, satellite radio, an iPod/USB audio interface and an auxiliary audio jack.

Sport and Eco trims add automatic headlights; a rearview camera; an eight-way power driver seat, with power lumbar; soft-touch door panels; and Hyundai's Blue Link telematics system, with smartphone integration, and a 5-inch touchscreen audio interface.

The Sport gets unique 17-inch alloys, chrome-tipped dual-exhaust pipes and a hands-free “smart trunk” that opens automatically when the key fob is held (it can be inside a pocket or a purse) near the trunk for three seconds. 

Hyundai packs considerable pizzazz into its interiors. Sonata cabin is vibrant and tasteful. A well-organized, easy-to-use control panel includes dedicated buttons for such functions as navigation, phone, radio and media. Sonatas equipped with navigation get an 8-inch touchscreen.

This is one of the segment’s quietest cabins, a calm disturbed only by the buzz of the 2.4-liter four under acceleration.

Sadly, my sport-trim scenario failed to play out as planned. Still, the exercise was useful. In the world of cars, nomenclature is a fluid affair.

Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer. Contact him at

2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport
Vehicle base price: $21,960
Trim level base price: $23,175
As tested: $27,560
Options included blind-spot warning system, with cross-traffic alert; hands-free “smart trunk”; keyless entry and ignition; sport seats; leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob; dual automatic climate control; auto up/down front passenger-side window; navigation; Sirius XM Travel Link; premium audio; HD radio; electroluminescent gauges; auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass and Homelink.
EPA ratings: 28 combined/24 city/35 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified

Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.