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


2021 Hyundai Sonata: All-new 290-horsepower N Line animates midsize sedan lineup

Last year, we welcomed the all-new, eighth-generation Hyundai Sonata.

The remade Sonata, a midsize, front-wheel drive sedan, made a giant leap forward. It carried itself with a low-slung, wide-track swagger. Its roomy cabin was nicely finished, with fresh tech and clever storage solutions. Power came by way of a pair of frugal four-cylinder engines.

In Hyundai fashion, the new Sonata came standard with a laundry list of driver-assist and safety features. 

The eighth-gen Sonata was that rare car that looks good from every angle. Longer and lower than before, it has a sweeping, coupe-like profile, bold character lines and enough drama to draw a second look. 

N Line debuts

This year, Sonata adds a handful of optional features. They include 19-inch wheels and tires, Safe Exit Warning (it helps prevent rear-seat passengers from stepping out of the car when traffic is approaching from the rear) and a 6-way power passenger seat on the top-most Limited trim.

But the big news is the debut of a new performance model. The Sonata N Line ($33,300) targets buyers looking for more oomph and sportier handling. It’s powered by a turbocharged four that makes 290 horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque and is paired with a sophisticated “wet” dual-clutch automated manual transmission.

The new powertrain includes a batch of nifty performance-based features. There are rev-matching downshifts, manual sequential shifting and launch control. 

To handle the N Line’s additional power, Hyundai strengthened the platform. Suspension upgrades include beefier components and adaptive shock dampers.  

All that power driven through the front wheels has the N Line fighting for traction under hard acceleration. Still, it’s capable of running the 0-60 sprint in 5.3 seconds. 

N Line details include a blackened grille, flared side skirts, dual exhaust outlets and a trim black bumper. Inside, the  front sport seats boast adjustable side bolsters and red accent stitching on the seats and steering wheel. 

Lighter, stronger platform

The 2021 Sonata is available in five trims: SE ($23,600), SEL ($25,800), SEL Plus ($28,300), Limited ($33,950) and N Line ($33,300).

A Sonata Hybrid ($25,750) is available. 

Every Sonata is equipped with driver-selectable drive modes; LED headlights, taillights and daytime driving lights; and an 8-inch Display Audio touchscreen, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. 

Upper trims get a 10.2-inch display. A 12-speaker Bose system is available.

Standard safety and driver-assist features include adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, lane-centering assist, and forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking. 

The SE and SEL are powered by a 2.5-liter four (191-hp/181 lb-ft of torque). The SEL Plus and Limited get a turbocharged 1.6-liter four (180/195). Both engines are mated to an 8-speed automatic.

Sonata’s new platform is lighter and more rigid than before. Suspension settings seek to balance ride comfort with engaging dynamics.

Its ride is firm but not punishing. It’s compliant enough to smooth out most potholes and pitted roads.

No corner-carver

The Sonata is settled and stable at speed but undulating and uneven surfaces can cause a momentary case of the jitters. Steering is quick, accurate and more communicative than many modern electrically assisted systems.

Body lean is well controlled but the Sonata isn’t about corner-carving. Others in the class — think Accord and Altima — offer sharper responses and higher levels of driver engagement.

Sonata’s cabin is noteworthy for the clean and efficient simplicity of its design and the soundness of its ergonomics. Extensive noise-suppression measures tame wind and road noise. 

Four six-footers will be comfortable, though the backseats are not sufficiently contoured to be truly comfortable. Despite the sloping roofline, there’s plenty of headroom back there. The trunk is large, well-shaped and nicely finished.

Hyundai’s infotainment system continues to be one of the industry’s most capable and user-friendly. Its high-mounted, high-definition touchscreen lies within easy reach. Menus are logical and uncomplicated.  

Rather than burying oft-used audio and HVAC controls deep in digital menus, Hyundai employs old-school knobs and buttons.

Hyundai excels at such common-sense measures. It’s not good enough yet to eclipse the class leaders, but that day may not be far off.

Questions or comments? Contact Don at

2021 Hyundai Sonata Limited
Vehicle base price: $23,600
Trim level base price: $33,950
As tested: $35,000 (includes destination and handling)
Options: carpeted floor mats
EPA rating: 30 combined/27 city/37 highway
Regular gasoline specified

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